Russia Sport Football History of Russian Football

History of Russian Football

In the late nineteenth century, Scottish and English workers living in St Petersburg formed their own football teams. Gradually, the sport gained a foothold in the capital of the Russian Empire, winning popularity among local enthusiasts. Teams began to emerge in which the majority of players were Russians.

On 24 October 1897, the parade ground of the First Military Academy was the scene for the first-ever match in the history of Russian football to be covered in the press, between the St Petersburg Circle of Lovers of Sport (“Sport”) and the Vasilyevsky Island Football Society. This date is commonly regarded as the birthday of Russian football.

In 1901, the St Petersburg Football League (SPFL) was established, later becoming one of the founding members of the All-Russian Football Association. In 1912, the All-Russian Football Association joined FIFA. The first football championships of St Petersburg were played in 1901. The first national championships of the Russian Empire were held in 1912, with victory going to the team from St Petersburg.

The development of Russian football was temporarily halted by the First World War and the revolution. Many famous players were killed at the front or later emigrated.

In the mid-1920s, the pre-revolutionary football clubs were disbanded. Competitions began to be held at all levels between squads representing various factories or government departments. This period saw the emergence of such modern-day teams as Spartak, Zenit, Dynamo and CSKA.

The 1950s and 1960s saw a gifted crop of players come out of Russia. Lev Yashin, Igor Netto, Valentin Ivanov and Victor Ponedelnik propelled the Soviet Union to glory in 1960, when the national team won the inaugural European Championships. This period is rightfully regarded as the Golden Age of Soviet Football.

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