We too are under attack. «A Russian sports journalist commented with regret the decision by the Moscow authorities to prohibit major events in the capital, such as in Western Europe, until further notice. Last weekend, thousands of St. Petersburg football fans in the stadium defiantly shouted against the virus in a Zenit home game against Urals Yekaterinburg: “We all die!”
The Russian football association RFS initially reacted cautiously to the changing situation in Moscow and decided to host upcoming games in front of a smaller audience or in other cities with well-developed stadiums. However, given the growing numbers of proven infections, the Premier League set a break until April 10. The same applies to the second and third division. For the time being – nobody knows how to proceed afterwards. A few days earlier, optimists such as the high-ranking sports official Alexei Sorokin pleaded to spontaneously bring the European Football Championship to Russia this summer. There is currently another question in the foreground, namely whether and how the current season can be brought to an end. Only with the western neighbor in Belarus does the soccer world seem halfway okay. At the season opener in the first division, FC Minsk won 3-1 against BATE Borisow on March 19 – without spectator restrictions.
Sergej Semak, coach of Zenit St. Petersburg, the club that leads the table after having played 22 first division matches, wants to prepare his team for the canceled game with CSKA Moscow despite a forced break. At the TV station Match TV, he expressed limited optimism. “I don’t know if that will be possible, but it is very important to me that the championship games be made up for.” He initially sent his players to the home office – the training could also be continued via Skype. Ilya Gerkus, sports manager and former president of Lokomotive Moscow, spoke out clearly in favor of postponing serious decisions and continuing the season after the mandatory break.
Not everyone shares this view. Leonid Fedun, owner of the Spartak Moscow football club, would like to end the season immediately in view of horrendous financial losses. There are contracts with some players for huge sums of money that could not be compensated for due to the loss of income. Sponsors and other sources of money could not be tapped under the given circumstances. Then there is the decline of the ruble and falling oil prices. “I don’t know how the clubs are going to get through this,” Fedun worries. He also called for the rules on financial fair play to be suspended. But: Spartak is eighth in the table and can no longer calculate any chances of a lucrative place in the table anyway.
The well-known football commentator Vasily Utkin referred to Fedun’s background as the main shareholder and vice president of the oil giant Lukoil. He may be interested in keeping the Group’s losses at a low level. Fedun should not make itself very popular with the fans. In any case, his financial argument is not very convincing, since the first division clubs are only partially dependent on ticket income.
Meanwhile, the Russian Ministry of Sports has also rejected all international sporting events planned in the country. Foreign citizens have also been banned from entering the country since Wednesday – initially until early May. The ice hockey league then stopped its play-offs for a week in order to coordinate alternatives with the responsible authorities for the implementation of the second stage of the Gagarin Cup. Even in figure skating, the signs point to storm. A show advertised on March 29 with the stars of the scene under the motto “Forward, Russia!” Was canceled, as was the World Championships in Montreal, where Russian athletes were hoping for gold.
Even if there is a lot of understanding for drastic measures due to the danger of infection in public, some sports giants still find the disruption of familiar processes to be completely exaggerated. “It’s just scaremongering,” was the verdict of figure skating Olympic champion Aleksej Jagudin in an interview with RTVi. “People catch a cold, get sick, die.”
However, Russian sport is not completely put on hold. Whoever is allowed to continue playing. There are restrictions on the upcoming play-offs in volleyball for men and women, but the championships should not be stopped. At least for the allocation of the front seats the current favorites can continue to fight – in front of empty stands or with a limited number of admitted fans. The semi-finals of the Lokomotiv Kaliningrad vs. Ekaterinburg and Dynamo Kazan vs. Dynamo Moscow women’s super leagues are scheduled for Saturday. There will be four qualifying games for men this weekend, including Zenit St. Petersburg against Belogorja from Belgorod. And on March 26, the return leg in the European CEV Cup between St. Petersburg and Lokomotive Novosibirsk will be about to reach the final. The Siberian volleyball team won the first leg 3-1 on Wednesday evening at home in front of empty seats.
The water polo players in Russia also have to make do with running cameras for TV viewers instead of cheering on from the stands. The fifth round of the men’s top division is currently taking place in Volgograd. And almost the youth cross-country skiing championships also took place in Arkhangelsk, half an hour before the first starting shot came out – because of the suspected infection with the corona virus at one of the skiers.