From Shiryaevo Field to Neskuchny Garden: Moscow’s landmark football locations

From Shiryaevo Field to Neskuchny Garden: Moscow’s landmark football locations
Pishcheviki football team. Moscow province, the city of Bogorodsk. 1928. Main Archive Department of Moscow
Where to look for historical football sites in Moscow? What do the mysterious names of the first teams mean? How did the new game win the hearts of the old believers?

After the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Moscow is one of the acclaimed football capitals. There are hundreds of amateur teams and youth schools, departments and sections in the city. But Moscow loved football long before that. Read in article how the world's most popular game came to Russia.

Sokolniki: what do Spartak, Dynamo and CSKA have in common?

As the history testifies, three Moscow rival clubs have something in common, since each of them has their favourite places in Sokolniki.

It was the British who brought football to Moscow. In the late 19th century, the British specialists of the Gopper Plant (later Vladimir Ilyich Electromechanical Plant) were the first to play football. They chased a ball for fun on the plant's grounds in Partiyny Pereulok. But one could hardly call it an official competition.

Soon, a real football pitch was arranged on Shiryaevo Field in Sokolniki (until the 19th century, it was the Royal falconry site), in compliance with all standards. It brought together players, divided into teams (called parties then) to chase a ball for hours.

Moscow was full of talks about the games at Shiryaevo Field. The British Stevens and Thornton learned about them, too. They offered to arrange a match between Russian and British teams. On 22 July 1895, Russkiye Vedomosti newspaper reported that 'the English game of foot-ball is to be played in Sokolniki'. The match was a fail for Moscow players. The British came as a 7-player team to score 8 goals. Defeat dampened them a bit, but did not discourage from playing football. The players decided to train and play more.

The first football clubs were established at the time. In 1905, the Sokolniki Sports Club (SKS) opened. In 1907, the Sokolniki Football Club (KFS) was founded. This club was the Moscow champion in 1919 and 1921. In 1923, one of KFS players started up a football team of Dynamo Sports Association. Shortly after, Dynamo moved from Sokolniki to the field in Orlovo-Davydovsky Pereulok. They even played for some time in the former Sokolniki uniforms — white T-shirts with black collars and black shorts.

In 1912, between the 4th and 5th Luchevoi Proseks, a stadium was built for the football club of the ski sports fans (Oleles, as it was called by contemporaries). It would become the core of the Central House of the Red Army’s team (CDKA), later renamed CSKA.

In 1935, Spartak Sports Association settled on Shiryaevo Field, with children's and youth football school opened nearby to conduct classes. Later, renowned Spartak's children's and youth tennis school (Shiryaevka) opened on the field's site. The football club moved to Maly Oleny Pereulok. Fyodor Cherenkov Spartak Academy opened on the site, next to the place where Russian football was born in the early 20th century.

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Officially, Spartak club foundation date is 18 April 1922, the date of the first football match of MKS team (Moscow Sports Club of Krasnopresnensky district), later renamed Spartak.

MKS team in 1922

ZKS, MKL, Union, Morozovtsy: what does it mean?

Contemporaries recall that the most popular clubs of those times were Zamoskvoretsky Sports Club (ZKS), which built Vorovsky Stadium, the largest in Moscow, in Bolshaya Kaluzhskaya Street, opposite Neskuchny Garden; Union German club's branch in Samarsky Pereulok, which built a sports ground with a football pitch and tennis courts. The Moscow Skiers Club settled in Petrovsky Park, with Sokolniki Skiers Park opened in Stromynka. Dacha villages, Novogireyevo and Izmailovo, had their own football teams, too. It was the Novogireyevo team that won the match with the so-called 'Moscow menace', the invincible team of Morozovtsy from Orekhovo-Zuyevo. Four years in a row, they became Moscow Champions — in 1910, 1911, 1912 and 1913.

They were called Morozovtsy in honour of the famous merchant family, since the Orekhovo Sports Club originated at the Morozovs textile factory. The Russian manufacturer recruited employees, having advertised in British newspapers that the Nikolskaya Manufactory in Orekhovo-Zuyevo invites engineers, mechanics and employees who could play football.

In September 1909, Russky Sport magazine wrote about the meeting of Morozovtsy and British Sports Club: 'For about three hours, the trams No. 14 got absolutely packed on Lubyankaya Square to release their load at the Nevsky Stearin Plant. Up to 700 people gathered to watch the game of a real British team and a semi-British club of the Vikula Morozov Factory’.

How did football win the hearts of the old believers?

The only thing that made players sad that the audience's attitude was not always friendly. 'Kicking', 'extremely rough sport', these were the expressions characterising new game. A renowned physician spoke of football as a game that could lead to fractures and lung diseases. The old believers considered it a sinful occupation. Players' parents were confused by athletes' look, as they had to play in shorts with bare legs.

It was difficult for new things to set in. Football uniforms for the first players were ordered from the Great Britain. These included football jerkins, jerseys, sweaters and boots. But the shirts were the players' concern only. Every player was provided fabric with instructions on how to make up shorts. But it was a complete fail, as all their uniform shorts reached ankles. Before the match, annoyed captain took scissors and a measuring rod and cut up each player's trousers to the required length.

But gradually football was winning people’s hearts. In 1910, the Moscow Football League was established in the city. Hundreds of football grounds had already been set up in Moscow and its suburbs. Each sports club had its own field. The entrance fee to the stadium made up 40 kopecks for adults and 20 kopecks for children. As a rule, players tended pitches on their own.

The first football team of a separate tank regiment. 11 September 1925. Main Archive Department of Moscow

Soon, there were thousands of football fans. In 1911, the old believers, who had previously shunned football, established their own club to participate in competitions. The football players of the Moscow Theological Seminary won the match with the second team of the Odessa Vega Club scoring 4:1 and lost to the first team with 1:6 score.

When the first women's team appeared, it became obvious that football won. As Russky Sport magazine wrote on 17 July 1911, 'in Pushkino dacha village, along Yaroslavl railway, there is a football pitch of Okulovskaya Gora, where two ladies' football teams, made up exclusively of girl students and senior schoolgirls, play football’. There were women's teams on Presnya and Semyonovskaya Zastava.

On 3 August, the match between ladies from Pushkino and Petrovsko-Razumovsky took place in Petrovsko-Razumovsky under a pouring rain, to end with 5:1 score. A football player Zhurina made a quadruple (four scored balls).

Dynamo Stadium: from 5,000 to 26,319 spectators

It was not Petrovsky Park to house Dynamo Moscow. The new club's stadium was located next to the Rizhsky railway station, in Orlovo-Davydovsky Pereulok. The officials of St. Olga's Children's Hospital located nearby allowed the use of a large vacant lot to start the stadium’s construction.

It was finished in 1923. At first, the stadium looked unpretentious, as there was no grass on the field, three rows of benches were installed around it, with small locker rooms arranged in a wooden house. But nevertheless, sports life was in full swing here from morning till night. The following year, the athletes had a hot-water shower, and by 1926, the stadium could accommodate 5,000 spectators.

There was a need for more space, so it was decided to build a new stadium in Petrovsky Park, at the intersection of Moskovskaya and Teatralnaya lanes. Young Muscovites helped in its construction, with picks and shovels as their basic tools.

Before the All-Union Spartakiad of 1928, three stands (each as high as a four-storey building), a complex of fields, spacious locker rooms, a medical care centre, acrobatic and gymnastics halls, and an athletics sector were completed. The former largest stadium in Moscow (Vorovsky) could hardly accommodate 15,000 spectators. After Dynamo's construction, 45,000 - 50,000 sports fans could enjoy competitions. Soviet newsreels told: 'All Moscow rushed to sports arenas. It wasn't easy. To get to Petrovsky Park to the Dynamo Stadium, one had to travel first to Sokolniki, Preobrazhenskaya Square. And there, at the final stop, people bum-rushed trams or buses No.6'.

In big game days 'the entire Moscow seemed to die out'. Newspapers wrote, that Muscovites were 'all gone to watch football game'. In the 1950s, there was a popular song with lyrics by Lev Oshanin: '...the entire Moscow rushes to Dynamo Stadium, not caring about the rain'.

Last year, the Stadium turned 90. The legendary arena named after the renowned goalkeeper Lev Yashin, has been renovated to celebrate its anniversary. Today, it is a state-of-the-art sports complex accommodating 26,319 spectators.

Dynamo Stadium on Leningradskoye Highway. 1930-ies. Main Archive Department of Moscow