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More than a football game to St. Petersburg?
Date: 06.05.2011

More than a football game to St. Petersburg?

Man Utd-Man City, Everton-Liverpool, Arsenal-Chelsey, Aston Villa-Birmingham, Milan-Inter, Lazio-Roma, Benfica-Sporting, Real-Atlético, Espanyol-Barcelona, Partizan-Crvena Zvezda… The examples of football derbies are numerous. Derbies do happen in Russia, too: CSKA-Spartak, Kuban-Krasnodar, Rostov-SKA, Volga-Nizhny Novgorod. Still, the situation is somewhat strange with Russia’s Northern capital claiming to be a football metropolis with a single premier football club in a 4.6 million city. It is interesting that other top football clubs fail to settle here, in spite of numerous attempts.

The development of football in St. Petersburg correlates amazingly with all-Russia consolidation tendencies in political and economical spheres, with regions merging, enterprises integrating into geographically and industrially distributed clusters, and large industry corporations emerging. Municipal football resources are tailored to a single system named Zenit.

Sport schools for children and youth do not form their independent football teams as they are assimilating gradually with the Zenit Academy, a local monopoly. Even farm clubs are too much for St. Petersburg. Feeble attempts of Smena-Zenit and Zenit-2 projects have been abandoned already.

The Minor Sport Arena of Petrovsky Stadium is now occupied by second division clubs, FC Petrotrest and (temporarily) FC Karelia.

“New” municipal football projects are initiated by the same Zenit executives. The head coach of ambitious FC Piter, founded at the Lesgaft National State University of Physical Education, Sport and Health, is Mark Rubin, a coordinator of the Zenit Academy’s university branch. Sergei Gordeev who manages selection in the Zenit Academy acts as its sport instructor. Alexei Mikhailov is a co-owner and the club’s president and Comlink Telecom is a premium partner.

While municipal football projects continue to appear, local football clubs vanish from the city or downscale to the amateur level. Beginning from 2000, Lokomotiv and Torpedo-Piter have quit professional ranks. FC Dynamo, one of local football grands, was dissolved in 2003.

The turn of the decade brought numerous new football projects but the newcomers have other plans rather than become a strong second or third club in St. Petersburg, capable of a real derby with Zenit. Apart from FC Piter mentioned above, FC Rus was founded in 2011. And FC Petrotrest finally returned its original name.

Like total consolidation, FC Rus represents an actual trend, with a bear as its logo and Russian folk songs at the presentation. According to its managers, this team will become an innovation. Following FC Piter and FC Petrotrest, the club counts on players from St. Petersburg. The idea of FC Rus belongs to Alexander Yakimets. The main partners are Rus Construction Company and R-Industria Corporation. With a transfer agency registered at the club’s official address, its strategic preferences and policies seem rather clear.

FC Petrotrest is a brainchild of Leonid Tsapu, the president of a construction investment holding of the same name. In 2007, the club was granted the right for Dynamo brand. After a disastrous season of 2010, when the team changed four coachers and ended up an outsider of the first division, Dynamo (Pertotrest) decided to return its original name. By now, FC Petrotrest is the second professional club of the city. But certain facts indicate that the process of its integration into Zenit system has already begun:

  • In December 2010, Petrotrest proposed Andrei Nelidov, the governor of Karelia, to found and finance a second division club in Petrozavodsk.
    Starting from 2011, FC Karelia represents the republic in second division of the Russian football championship.
  • • After the club gave up the Dynamo brand in November 2010, Leonid Tsapu was given a badge “For public services in developing physical education and sports in St. Petersburg” and an award from local authorities “For contribution in developing physical education and sports in St. Petersburg”.
  • Businessmen from St. Petersburg are ready to invest in football clubs. Besides the ones mentioned above, Mikhail Kuriev tried to establish FC Discovery on the base of Dynamo facilities in 2004. The club existed for a season and became the third in the cup of Severo-Zapad Interregional Football Association. At present, Kuriev finances FC Karelia-Discovery. It appeared that the club’s statute does not comply with the standards of the Russian Football Union, so during this season the team fights for the cup of Severo-Zapad Association.

    Obviously, there are finances for establishing the second, the third and even the tenth club in St. Petersburg. Sport schools are functioning. Development of physical education and sports is announced one of strategic priorities for the city. Football Federation of St. Petersburg supported by the trade union of players and coaches, local football experts and even certain Zenit players welcomes new strong clubs to the city. And the last but not the least, it is full speed ahead for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. So, why not add another strong club (or even two or three) to the scene?

    The answer is hidden under the brand of Zenit.

    Fan slogans express football-oriented public moods quite vividly. In 2009, Petrovsky Stadium got a banner saying “One city, one club”. The slogan was promoted by fans and at displays to spite Dynamo (Petrotrest). But for decades, the two clubs have been getting along together happily. It is worth noting that in 2009 FC Dynamo was inthe second division while FC Zenit was a premier leagueclub with UEFA and the Russian Championship gold, with a surprise victory over Manchester United in Monako. The clubs were in totally different weight classes. Meanwhile, the absurdity of “One city, one club” slogan represents clearly the strategy of football development in St. Petersburg.

    For years after the USSR had collapsed, Russian ideologists and sociologists were racking their brains over a formula of national idea that could unite the people. St. Petersburg invented its own way to fill in ideological vacuum of urban consumers. It was Zenit as a cult. The idea did not require any theoretical background, bulky philosophical works, or complete destruction. An unconsciousness desire to elevate feelings of self-worth was brought into play, the man’s eagerness for restoring emotional balance.

    Everything is as simple is it could be: Zenit is OUR club and we are uniting to support the players in their rush for the victory. The resources concentrate only at Zenit making it easier to get the desired result. With a strong support in finances, policy, human resources, the club is able to prove our total superiority; to advance its close ranks against Moscow or any European club claiming to be a grand. We aim at the gold of the most prestigious European tournaments. And this is own common superiority as Zenit and St. Petersburg are nearly synonyms, as every fan makes his or her own contribution to the club’s victories (Zenit functionaries stress the fact in every other interview of theirs).

    In St. Petersburg, the union under Zenit’s banners carries out an important function of total social differentiation into two major groups. At the same time, traditional class distinctions and other differentiation methods cease to work. Fan attributes become the basic way to identify the ones who belong here. Dark-skinned and Asian students follow this rule to avoid attacks of race-conscious individuals, car owners to prevent car thefts, and commercial businesses to increase their revenues.

    When becoming a true fan, the person changes his or her priorities. The mind resets, turns from real world perception to virtual, gaming confrontation where every active fan is taking part in a battle. City dwellers got an incredible gift, an opportunity to forget real-world problems, to assert themselves showing off superiority over their rivals, to let off emotional steam in a reality-like “gang war”. If the battler is unaware that this game is a virtual one, he transfers martial laws into his everyday life taking “strangers” for his deadly enemies. And here we get an aggressive individual who has been turned into a zombie and a potential follower for extremists of every sort and kind. In an effort to eliminate such side-effects, recently a fan club of Zenit was introduced, which is meant to unite groups of football fans and supporters.

    A brief summary: the second (and the third, the forth, etc.) strong football club will never appear in St. Petersburg while Zenit system (attention, not the club!) functions here. The one-club city is a necessary condition for maintaining current political, social and economical systems here.

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