Football at CSKA, Moscow
Olya Sokolov reports on the opening of Arena CSKA in Moscow, Russia
CSKA have played against the giants of European football in four different stadiums. The biggest, Luzhniki, is really impressive when full, but even 35,000 spectators at the game against Inter looked a little bit poor there.
Arena Khimki, on the contrary, was too small for the club, as CSKA could easily attract more than 18,500 people for the game against Manchester United. In addition, Dynamo Moscow also played at this stadium, so that the pitch often looked awful. One day it was so bad that CSKA were forced to play with Victoria Plzen… in St Petersburg.
Lokomotiv had the only stadium appropriate for Champions League games. It is not surprising that CSKA built a similar arena with the same capacity (30,000). But the main difference lies in the fact that Arena CSKA is probably the first stadium in Moscow which is integrated into the city and is adjacent to houses. All the other stadiums in the Russian capital are located in the middle of nowhere.
I became interested in the first truly ‘European’ arena in the city and decided to attend the opening game.
I arrived to the wrong stand, and suddenly it turned out that this is not an easy job to move around the stadium. It took me 15 minutes to reach the neighbor sector! The truth is that the stadium is only partially located on the street, so if you make a mistake, you will have to get around the territory, which is twice the arena itself.
When I finally found the door I needed, the pre-match event was coming to an end. Horses, which are symbols of CSKA, had already left the field. A spectacular fireworks display was followed by a Russian anthem performed by a daughter of Ukrainian goalkeeper Sergey Perkhun, who tragically died in 2001 after a head-to-head collision during the Russian Premier League game. Perkhun, despite playing very few games for CSKA, has graffiti on the stadium dedicated to him — Valery Gazzaev, who coached a UEFA Cup winning team, does not.
Lassina Traore, loaned from Monaco, made the game between CSKA and Terek boring by scoring two goals in the first half. Both teams didn’t try hard to revive the excitement in the second half. Alpo, who is also known as Carlos Strandberg, added another goal, while Terek’s Andrey Semenov was shown a red card.
Arena CSKA opening game
But the atmosphere made this game worth watching. While playing at Arena Khimki, CSKA usually had very low attendance, despite having the second largest fan base in Moscow. It was understandable, as Muscovites didn’t want to spend two hours just to get to the stadium.
Of course, Arena CSKA was full at the opening game. The stands, divided by for stands in the corners, hug the pitch closely. It helped the acoustics and for the moment I though that I was in Salzburg, as everything looked and sounded like in Western Europe.
Unfortunately, I knew the context. CSKA plan to make its stadium profitable, but it is hard to imagine such a thing in Russia. Only Champions League games and matches against Moscow teams will pack out this arena.
I managed to get to the fan shop just before it closed. Of course, Spartak have a far wider range of products, and even some smaller European clubs offer a better choice of items. However, I would recommend going to this shop at least to look at the masks with players’ faces. Igor Akinfeev looks ridiculous, Vasili Berezutski is too serious, but Pontus Wernbloom is definitely worth spending $4. I bought one for my wife, who is a CSKA fan.
Before the game I went to the stadium through the park, so I didn’t actually have a chance to see it. Three stands are hidden behind different objects surrounding the arena: the park, a parking lot and the area behind the fence I had to bypass.
Arena CSKA by night
Only in front of the north stand can you get an idea about the stadium. At first it reminded me of some random office buildings. I could hardly recognised it as a sporting facility, but maybe the thing is that, like every Russian, I am used to oval stadiums.
However, in the dark Arena CSKA didn’t look so boring. The night lights adorn the stadium, and it really becomes ‘European’. But it would take ages to make Russian football European too. When the club builds a stadium but does nothing to make it profitable, when Champions League tickets can’t be bought online, it’s not great.
Yet that doesn’t matter for CSKA fans. For many years they had to consider the stadiums of their rivals their home. Now they have their own. Before the game I saw people who looked at the Arena CSKA with tears of happiness. And a father, who said to his son: “We are at home, you know? We are at home”. This little boy will attend this stadium for the rest of his life, and this is why we can forget about all the shortcomings.
Getting to Arena CSKA
The nearest metro stations to the arena are CSKA/Khodynka, Polezhaevskaya and Sokol, all around a mile away. From Sokol metro station you can take trolley buses 43, 6, and 86 to the stadium. From Polezhaevskaya take bus 48.