From Russia With Love...

Date: Wednesday 2nd November 2005

Trotting Home

Tangodancer, the spy formerly known as Meatpieandchips(ki), visits the land which brought us Anna Kournikova and Vodka...

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2nd September 2005

A pre-glimpse of our opponents from the land of the onion domes and snow, deep deep snow. As a precaution against the dreaded "snapanackeroff" disease and in the likely event of Bolton fans doing a return visit to the home of it, I donned my leather greatcoat, thermal undies, snow goggles, fur hat and lambswool lined wellies and decided to take a sneak preview of the life and times of the vodka guzzlers due on our fair turf this week. Get a Russian interpreter in there and we’ll have more languages than Encyclopaedia Britannica. Anyway, get this, they were once (long-ago) called "The Stalinets" (get this crazy mental picture of a line of footballers dressed in cheerleader outfits with twirly pop-poms all doing a Cossack dance in the warm up while the band plays "Song of the Volga Boatmen"). Ah, well.....maybe not. The name, "Zenit St Petersburg" , in the land of samovars (that's tea urns in Howfen) ill-fitting suits, fur hats, shades and everybody with their heads on back to front as they watch out for KGB spies, immediately makes one shiver and think of mad Rasputin-like characters all dressed up like Eskimos, clutching bottles of Smirnoff (yeah, I know it's brewed in Warrington) and whipping seven bells out of a bunch of sleigh reindeers as they career over the snow drifts on their way to the Reebok. (Well, on their way to the airport, on their way to the Reebok, that is,) A scene a bit like Darwen Moors in winter) I'm assuming the reindeer won't be coming although not 100 percent sure.... To work then.... Originally established at the "Leningrad Metal Works" in 1925 and waiting until 1936 for the prestigious? "Stalinets" title, Zenit, in 1940 put away the pom-poms and became the team we know (don't know?) today. We jump to the 1970's as, prior to this they broke no proverbial pots and most of you weren't born for their early years in the snow and hail leagues. In 1980 they won their first National Bronze (sort of runners up medal in the pub league) but by 1984 had become a skilled enough outfit to become USSR Champions (not bad when you consider they played the likes of Spartak and Moscow Dynamo.) In 1999 they won the Russian Cup. In 2004 Zenit qualified for and took part in the UEFA, getting through a couple of rounds. Their Stadium goes under the grand title of "The Stadium of the Petrovsky Sports Centre" and has a 21, 725 capacity. My command of Russian absolutely forbids any attempts at pronouncing names of players, (not that I've ever heard of any of them) officials or locations, and my camera was confiscated as I tried to take a picture of the floodlights just as a MIG jet fighter passed overhead. They let me go after three days of flashing my "Who shot Campo" T-shirt at them and desperately trying to explain Bolton humour and that we weren't conducting an investigation. My video "Secret Tactics of Zenit Football Club" was confiscated at the airport along with an advance copy of "Legend of Zorro" and half a million of what passes for cigarettes over there. But they did give me a few (thousand) do's and don'ts for foreign football fans to take home. These are as follows: On games days outlets are allowed to sell soft drinks, hot dogs, snacks and ice cream (I kid you not). No mentions are made of meat pies, chips or pizza. Fans are allowed to bring and use the following objects to the stadium: Flags, no bigger then 80cm x 100cm on a plastic hollow staff up to 100cm long. Drums up to 60cm in diameter and 40cm tall. Cigarettes and lighters. You also have to get police permission to set up banners and flags at vacant stalls and track lanes. C'mon, this is RUSSIA. I'm not quite sure if Lofty the Lion will be allowed in there because of strict quarantine laws. This is also why we don't have sled dog racing in Bolton. It is "FORBIDDEN" ; To come to the stadium in a state of intoxication (that's half of our lot who may as well stay home) and a load of other don’ts I ain’t repeating as the list is too damn long. Zenit it seems, at least in Russia, are a team to be wary of. The best thing is that our own European inexperience makes us unafraid of much and we will still play Bolton style whoever the opposition. This comrades, is the Reebok. We'll worry about the exchange visit later. Let's go play Russian Roulette. The odds are slightly in our favour. Bring ‘em on!

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