Cage football and the search for Russian football culture

Why is it that Russia are so bad at football? Is something wrong with soccer itself
or is it wrong with the system, which gets people into soccer? The good thing about this World Cup
is that a lot of foreign people will come to Russia and they will come and see it isn’t bears
on the streets drinking vodka. Do people think that? This kind of joke. You wonder why the Russian
football team is not doing so well at the moment? Maybe that’s it, ok? The eyes of the world are again falling on Russia, but this time for an entirely different reason. The 2018 FIFA World Cup. I headed to Moscow to see whether
the criticism in advance of the tournament is fair, what the expectations are on the streets,
and to ask if the world’s biggest country even has a footballing culture. Korobka is a box
so we just come in to the box to play. All over Russia when you say korobka,
everybody will know you are talking about street soccer field. This one of the new korobkas in Moscow
because of the World Cup. How big a deal do you
think football is in Russia? Our national team is not so good,
at international level. In the street soccer scene,
I think it’s one of the biggest communities in Russia. Because we have all types of korobkas,
all type of fields in the hood. And there is a lot of people who just play
every day. Victor and his friend Vadim,
are members of Street Madness, an urban freestyle collective formed
in the korobkas of Central Moscow. Like my apartments in this sprawling city,
Vadim’s flat overlooks a football pitch. How long have you lived here, Vadim? I live here about 15 years. 15 years? Sometimes I can see my friends playing right
here, or what kind of ball they use. I can be called the ball collector. I just wonder whether the types of headlines
that we get ring true. We’ve got, ‘Russian hooligans issue ‘death threats’
to England fans going to the World Cup this summer.’ ‘World Cup 2018: Russians learn Kung Fu
to target Three Lions fans.’ Kiddy Fight club, Russian football hooligan
gangs are training teams of kids as young as 13.’ This is what you’re doing, right? Yeah, because we are Street Madness. Is there any truth to it, though? Because we get a lot of stories
about Russian Hooliganism. I think this is overrated so much. You know, in Russia we’ve also
heard about England Hooligans. Yeah! Did you? We were scared too. Oh really? With the world’s eyes on Russia
for the World Cup, what do you think
the international audience will see? There is good people
and I think the World Cup can help stabilize the World situation
about Cold War part two. Do you think Russia will do well? Not the national team,
but the whole country will do well. If they get out of the group basically?
That’s a successful campaign. Yeah. I think the same of England. England’s fans are always disappointed
in their national team as Russian fans are. Do you think we have a lot in common? Yes. Underachieving? Should do better? You’re the biggest country in the world,
right? Yeah. You should do better. We invented the game,
we should do better. We’re in the same boat,
there’s a lot in common, right? With our new found affinity confirmed,
Victor and Vadim invited me on a tour of Moscow’s korobkas, with some of the Street Madness crew. Pasha, what options are there for young
people in Moscow to play football? It all depends on your social status. If your family is kind of rich,
you can get in some soccer school, and you can get like this professional soccer
education, but if you are a very casual member of the
society, you just get to play on street places, maybe in school,
but mostly on the streets. Korobka, this is the most popular thing
for the youngsters that are playing football. They’ve been renovated a bit in time for the
World Cup, and this one must have got to be missed out,
I think, because it doesn’t look great. This one doesn’t look great at all. This is one of Stalin’s seven skyscrapers,
this should be quite well looked after. What’s going on? I don’t know if I’m supposed to say that
but, Moscow is being renovated for the World Cup
now, however not all the parts of Moscow, only those which are close
to the stadiums for the World Cup, and others are left behind as you can see. I’d like to be wrong but I feel like it is. What do you think of what they have done with
the Graffiti here? It’s not good. It looks like they kind of tried to kill the culture. There is a name of one of Moscow clubs… Dynamo? All the Graffiti was here, still. You know that this pitch had history. And now it’s just gone. They’re trying to rub out history? Yes, but we all know that there will be new
history. Because all these places
are under the pressure of street artists. Illegal Graffiti is frequently painted over
in Moscow, but as the World Cup draws near, this buffing process has increased dramatically. I caught up with renowned street artist, Misha Most, at his local korobka. Why do you think it is that korobkas
really attract Graffiti? It’s like street life, street culture,
you speaking out to the surrounding people, to your friends, to your subculture,
to people on the streets. There is a parallel between street football
and street art. Street art can become big art, you know,
like contemporary art or like big murals, and soccer can become like official football
team. You can get chosen, from starting like this,
you can become a big major player. The start is on the streets,
you know for me, street art and graffiti is a sport, just a street sport. Do you think that any of the money that’s
being spent will trickle down to guys like these and the korobkas? If you were here two years ago,
it was totally different. Ten years ago,
there would be no light. And like the metal net was just like
rusting off. How could you come and play football here? Your heritage isn’t Russian, right? You’re Vietnamese, Uzbek, Azerbaijani… Is Russia really welcoming to people from
different backgrounds? In korobkas, you don’t have nationality. Yeah, we’re all people. Street football is our second home. I left the Street Madness crew, in the centre
of town, to visit one of Moscow’s residential suburbs. Alexi has been playing football in this neighbourhood,
since Soviet times. Did he feel the same egalitarian enthusiasm
for the korobka? Do you have enough people to play? Only six. Three to three. This is Alexi, this is Igor and this is Artem. Hi. How long have you been playing football? 50 years. Have you always played in the korobka? Yes, only. In big field, no. Why not? No. Why? You’re about to prove yourself wrong here, you know? It’s a special way. Our country, Russia, is not a football country,
our football schools are not good. Right. Let me talk about legacy in Britain,
what happens after the World Cup. I think our football will grow up
due to it. I think – I hope. And do you think the korobkas will improve? No, no, no. The people who live in these tower blocks,
play here. No interest, no interest. Young people don’t play. Do you think that will change any time soon? No, no, no. How can you expect Russian football
to improve if no one is playing it? These are amateurs. For a long time, our people liked football,
not in the professional system, not to win, not to score,
only to play from heart. The winning doesn’t matter, it’s all about the playing. Yes, yes. I think that might be
when you’re getting wrong as a country. Hi! We made it! Back in central Moscow, I reunited with Victor,
who in spite of the weather had organised a tournament for local kids. Hey! How you’re doing? So, can you explain to me how you set up these
tournaments? We have a big reach in social media,
like Russian social media VK, and Instagram,
we had a lot of followers. Do you put these tournaments on every week
or…? We try to do that. Today there’s not a lot of people because
of the rain. You’ll never become a world
power of football if a little bit of rain puts you off. And you do all of this for free? Yeah. I want to do better opponents for me,
because when I’m playing with better opponents, I am better too, you know? So who’s up first? These guys look ready. See who the next generation of Street Madness people might be. Yeah, Street Madness Young. Korobka is the centre of your social life. And you don’t need to be the greatest player
of all time to just be in this community. I don’t see myself without this life. Football in Moscow might not quite be the
ballet of the masses but it’s beating heart lies a long way
from the global game’s flagship competition. In these courtyard korobkas where amateurs
of all ages and backgrounds come to express themselves.

10 thoughts on “Cage football and the search for Russian football culture

  1. Do the big pro Russian clubs have academies for kids? How successful are they at getting youngsters from the academies into the first teams? From what I've seen of Russian teams in the Champions League there looks to be a lot of foreign imports but not many homegrown stars.

  2. Shoutout from the Philippines! ?? we have a similar street football culture but it's more costly because available pitches are turf and owned by private corporations. Korobka in Russia : Turf in the Philippines

  3. I think weather is probably the biggest reasonfor Russia's miseries in football. They tend to be good in indoor sports (volleyball, basketball, handball, ice hockey).

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