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Football in Russia. Football clubs and league system.

Russia women's national football team. Popularity of football in Russia.

Russian girl with a soccer ball

Traditions and achievements of Russian football.

Among other sports football enjoys big popularity is Russia even though its history is not that long in the country. The national football association was formed in 1912 and recently celebrated its 100-years anniversary. Same year Russian Empire became part of the FIFA community. In the USSR football became a truly national sport. After the WWII the country became a member of FIFA and UEFA. The Soviet Union national team won twice the Olympic gold medals, won the European Nations’ Cup in 1960 and became European vice-champions in 1964, 1972 and 1988.

Soviet Top League, which was once considered to be one of the strongest and was able to compete with those of England and Italy. Out of 16 soviet republics Russia and Ukraine had the strongest teams on club level. FC Dynamo Kyiv won the USSR championship title 13 times, more than any other club.

Besides, foot ball is very universal and has many admirers. It is the obsession of a great proportion of Russian men. Children play it regularly. Almost Russian school has been designed with a stadium and a football pitch. Almost every city is Russia has a local football club. Women also join men when it comes to the national team. Russia women's national football team exists since 1992 and represents Russia in international women's football. Vera Pauw replaced Igor Shalimov as coach of the team in April 2011. In September 2011 she was replaced by Farid Benstiti, who is the head coach of the team at the moment. Captain of the team is Tatiana Skotnikova.

After the collapse of the USSR national teams and the clubs became private enterprises. There are 111 professional football clubs in Russia with at least 6 ones having high rating and considered best national clubs. The fans consider Zenit St. Petersburg, CSKA, Moscow, Rubin Kazan, Spartak Moscow, Lokomotiv, Moscow, Dynamo, Moscow to be the top ones. According to the International Federation of Football History and Statistics the rankings of the top clubs of 2010 is as follows: Zenit St. Petersburg, CSKA Moscow (Russia), Rubin Kazan (Russia), Spartak Moscow (Russia). Zenit St. Petersburg also holds the 13th place in Best Football Clubs of 2011 international ranking.

Russia has four leagues in the national league system. Russian Premier League includes 16-clubs. Below it are the First Division and Second Division, administered by the Professional Football League. The next level of football is the Amateur Football League.

A number of Russian football clubs enjoy rich finances due to generous sponsorship: Zenit (Saint Petersburg) is financed by Gazprom; Spartak (Moscow) has backing from Leonid Fedun, a businessman owning part of Russian top private oil company Lukoil; Rubin (Kazan) is financed by Tatarstan government; Lokomotiv (Moscow) – by Russian Railroads state-owned company. Zenit (Saint Petersburg), Spartak (Moscow) and CSKA (Moscow) raise significant funds due to commercial activities. While many other clubs have severe problems with fundraising.

The players of one of the Russia’s major women’s football teams FC Rossiyanka took part in an improvised match in June 2011, wearing nothing but bikinis. Thus the club tried to attract the attention of the public to the club and women’s football in general.

The main cup competition in Russia is the Russian Cup. Only professional clubs take part in it. Citizens of Russia are interested mostly in the national team that gets to compete in the World Cup and the European Championship, and in the Premier league, where clubs from different cities look to become champions of Russia.

Since the Soviet times the interest of the fans declined. The average attendance of national football matches during the last years is as follows: 12,5 thousand fans in Russia as opposed to 35 thousand fans in Britain and 16,5 in the USA. Russia is ranked 10th in the list of countries with most football stadiums attendance.

The number of football viewers became less as well. Russian Cup 2010 attracted 5 million Russia’s citizens as opposed to up to 20 million football viewers in the 1980th.

Football is being popularized in Russia. The Russian Football Union is facing important tasks related with the children's and youth sports and the promotion of the healthy lifestyle among young people. The improvement of the training system of football players for national teams of the country is being prioritized so that the national team shows a worthy play at the FIFA World Cup in Russia in 2018 that it is going to host.

On December 2, 2010 Russia was chosen as the host country for the 2018 FIFA World Cup having defeated bids from co-bidders Spain-Portugal and Holland-Belgium and England. This will be the first time Russia has hosted the tournament, as well as being the first World Cup in Eastern Europe as well as 21st FIFA World Cup. Russia has proposed the following host cities: Kaliningrad, Kazan, Krasnodar, Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov-on-Don, Saint Petersburg, Samara, Saransk, Sochi, Volgograd, Yaroslavl and Yekaterinburg. According to the bid, 16 stadiums in 13 Russian cities arranged in 4 clusters will be the hosting arenas for the championship.

All the host cities are in the European region of the country and Russia's Prime Minister has promised that fans will be able to travel on public transport for free during the event. Moreover Russia scrapped visas for fans for 2018 World Cup.

$10 bln will be invested on the preparations for 2018 World Cup. The reconstruction and construction of the new stadiums, roads, hotels, airports and public transport adjustment is in full scope in the country. Watch the amazing football stadiums that Russia will lift the World Cup 2018.

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