sports blog by andy shenk

Lokomotiv-Rubin Preview

In Russian Football on September 13, 2012 at 11:24 AM

Lokomotiv hosts Rubin in Round 8 of the Russian Premier League, the first of two Premier League matches in Moscow this weekend.

The game kicks off Saturday at beleaguered Lokomotiv Stadium in the northeast Moscow neighborhood of Cherkizovo. The game features two of Russia’s top sides: Rubin won the Russian SuperCup this summer and is only 3 weeks removed from an impressive 2-1 win in St. Petersburg against league leaders, Zenit. Lokomotiv, meanwhile, despite missing European competition this season, sits comfortably in 5th, 3 points behind Zenit and co-leader Terek.

Of concern to the home side, however, is the condition of their field during the remainder of the fall season. Two months in, Lokomotiv Stadium has hosted 8 home matches already, with at least 9 more to be played in 2012. In addition to serving as the railroad club’s home pitch, the arena frequently hosts Russian national team matches, as was the case last Friday when Russia kicked off 2014 World Cup qualifying with a 2-0 win over Northern Ireland in Cherkizovo.

                                 Northern Ireland’s Roy Carroll prepares the pitch

While Lokomotiv has shared the field with the national team for years, this year one more guest unexpectedly came knocking. Fellow Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala, banned by UEFA from hosting Europa League matches in Anzhi’s home republic of Dagestan, gained the permission of Lokomotiv president, Olga Smorodskaya, to play at Lokomotiv for the play-off round and group stage of the league. On the eve of its 9th match in 48 days, Lokomotiv pitch is rapidly deteriorating.

During the most recent match, an old-timers friendly between Spartak Moscow and Dinamo Kiev, the wear on the field could be clearly seen: long strips of mud through the center of each penalty box, as well as the heavily soiled uniforms at the end of the match from the pitch’s treacherous and messy condition. The poor conditions have so alarmed Lokomotiv’s latest guests that Aivaz Kaziakhmedov, Anzhi general director, weighed in on the situation in advance of the club’s October 4 match in Moscow with Swiss side Young Boys, “We are talking with Lokomotiv management in order to find out what types of agronomical measures will be taken to repair the field,” stated Kaziakhmedov in a recent Anzhi press conference.

For many Lokomotiv supporters, particularly those who demonstrated publicly against the club’s decision to allow Anzhi to play in their stadium, the blame for the situation lies at the feet of president Olga Smorodskaya, who is viewed as placing higher value on the rent collected from such arena leases rather than the maintenance of a quality field for her own club to compete on in the Russian Premier League.

Lokomotiv will tangle with Rubin on Saturday at Lokomotiv Stadium, no matter the condition of the field. Yet, its embarrassing condition reflects poorly on a club, which holds high ambitions both domestically and in European competition, particularly when its stadium only 10 years and in other aspects the envy of Russia football.

Check back tomorrow for a preview of CSKA-Alania Vladikavkaz.

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