There are no tickets available at this time.
Official Review by Andrew Flint, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
CSKA Moscow are one of the iconic soccer teams in Russia having become the nation's first side to win a European trophy after the break up of the Soviet Union in 1991. The club are well on course to claim another Russian Premier League title in the 2015-2016 season, which would be their 13th league championship.
However, they have been sharing a ground with Dinamo Moscow at the Khimki Arena in the capital's suburb while their brand new stadium in the city centre is being built. Officially the construction work began on the new stadium way back in 2007, but a series of construction problems have caused huge delays while the team played home games at the enormous Luzhniki Stadium that is due to host the World Cup final in 2018.
Ironically, the move to the much smaller ground has coincided with the demise of the eponymous tenants, who have sunk to lowest tier of professional Russian football and can no longer afford to continue to occupy the venue that still carries their branding and insignia. Although they are primed for promotion from the Second Division, they have fallen from the Premier League and are unlikely to return for some time. The cavernous environment of the Luzhniki wasn't conducive to CSKA domestic matches that often drew no more than 15% of the capacity, so the intimate setting of Khimki Arena has made a much more natural atmosphere.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
All of the standard branded chocolate and crisps are available for reasonable prices, but the standout attraction is the piping hot sweet corn stalls under the main stand. For $3 you get two cobs and lashings of melted butter, which is delectable on a freezing winter's day, and certainly offers a more imaginative option than pre packaged mass-produced fodder. Cans of soda are just over a dollar, while tea and coffee are around 80 cents.
Popcorn is available at various sizes for younger fans, but the bags are pre packed and covered in an excessive level of sweet coating. For those who prefer savoury options, there are small meat and potato pies and individual pizza slices, both of which can be microwaved on request. The highly residential area outside the stadium means there isn't a thriving business in food sales outside the ground, so the internal refreshment outlets do a roaring trade.
The main problem is the horrendous organisation of the concourse areas. Initially the ground was designed for a less popular team, but the capacity and the resources to cater for them are completely out of synch. There are only six counters to serve the entire main stand of about 7,000 spectators, and the area is not very deep, meaning you are literally shoulder to shoulder as you negotiate a path from the seating area to the concession stands.
Four separate stands squeeze tightly to the pitch to make a compact atmosphere without the distraction of an athletics track, much in the style of a classic English stadium like Villa Park. One major problem with many Russian stadiums is that they are almost never filled, with a league average attendance of just over 10,000, but an average capacity of over 25,000, so although the Khimki Arena is one of the smaller grounds, it often creates a more electric atmosphere. For major derbies or glamorous Champions League nights against Europe's elite the packed stands reverberate with energy.
Two main fan groups congregate behind the goals, and they have a strong repertoire of chants which they hurl at each other good naturedly. The noise begins long before kickoff, however; the vast majority of fans approach the stadium on foot from the nearest bus stop, and the pilgrimage is a testosterone-fueled affair. Even in freezing temperatures, a core group of fans remove their tops and raise the volume further, although for matches against sides from outside Moscow there are not normally large numbers of visiting fans to create a balance of home and away support.
Each stand is raised above pitch level at the front by about two metres, which does distance the fans from the action a bit, but the steep incline of the stands compensates for this, even creating a gladiatorial arena feel to the proceedings. Supporters are well organised, with plenty of banners in recognition of current club captain and goalkeeping legend Igor Akinfeev among others, and for special occasions whole stands can be taken over by displays. Police presence and security on the gate is solid, so flares rarely make it through.
The stadium name tells you a little about the area; Khimki Arena is named after the surrounding suburb that was designed to become a centre of chemical research and development, but it is not filled with industrial plants and factories. Far from it; the government research buildings are attractive structures, surrounded by hundreds of fir trees, and the rest of the area is largely residential. There is a BMW dealership nearby that many fans trudge past on their way to the ground from the main road, but not many major chain stores spoiling the view.
Being far out of the centre, there aren't any hotels nearby, so if you plan to visit for a match you are best off basing yourself near a main metro station. Kievskiy Voksal is about as central as it gets, with connections to three lines and the destination of the direct train from Vnukovo Airport. For an affordable option, there is the Belgrad Hotel a 10-minute stroll across the river, which can be as little as €20 a night and has a 24-hour bar.
CSKA are at the forefront of the movement to combat racism in Russian football, and their behaviour has improved dramatically since the sterling work of @WeAreCSKA11 fan group. Before the Champions League tie, the UEFA video 'No To Racism' played in full four times before kickoff as if to make a point, but it was misdirected. The visit of Anzhi Makhachkala in August 2015, for example, saw both sets of fans abuse each other, but within moments of the offensive chants beginning they were shut down by those around them.
They are passionate fans who are used to success, and are well coordinated. There are clear areas where different social groups watch the games; families and calmer supporters congregate in the main stand, while the more vocal fans take up their place behind the goals. There is a comfortable atmosphere for most people to enjoy matches comfortably, while there is a clear identity of the fans that has migrated away from the loyal followers of the Red Army to a more inclusive atmosphere. They are seen as an alternative to the more widely followed Spartak, and revel in this individuality.
Khimki has been a poor joke amongst CSKA fans as a location for the majority of a decade, being relatively out in the sticks for one of the top teams in the country. The transport links are very poor, with the nearest option being a dreaded marshrutka minibus service that drops you off about a 10 minutes' walk away. These forms of public transport are effectively communal taxis that can be rammed full, especially at peak times like early evening kick offs, and have a unique charm that must be experienced at least once, but on a regular basis for fans, it is not comfortable.
There is a bus service that runs nearer the ground itself, but not directly from the very centre, while the updated 'elektrichka' local train service is certainly more comfortable and appealing than the marshrutkas. From the nearest station, there is a 20-minute walk to the ground past some of the more attractive parts of area, and it does build the character of the pre-match atmosphere, but is not the most convenient on the return journey. For Champions League matches, for example, matches end near midnight when public transport has already stopped running, leaving fans scrambling to make their way home.
The most marketable European fixtures are priced at less than $20 for adults - $10 for children - in the most expensive sectors of the stadium in the main stand, which is about a quarter of the price of most of their continental rivals. Considering the comparable level of performance to giants such as Manchester United and the opportunity for success, this is an absolute bargain. The excellent views from the seats is a major bonus for the direct matchday experience, with no obscured views due to pillars or a poor degree of incline like there was at the old Wembley Stadium in London.
It isn't a modern facility, but the structure is reasonably well organised, with enough space outside for mingling, and it is well-policed to ensure a safe environment. In fact, the fact that the ground is not simply an identikit soulless copy is a positive factor in creating more than just a plastic seat to view football from.
Merchandise is most easily available from the multiple stalls set out along the roads leading to the stadium that can range wildly in prices. There is no official store at the ground as it is not CSKA's permanent home, and the stalls themselves are run by individuals on behalf of the club itself with a good range of simple hats, scarves and other products bearing the insignia. The prices of the products can rival the price of the matchday tickets themselves; in other words, they are more in line with western European prices.
A better option is to access the online store, which is much more convenient and offers a much more comprehensive selection. In terms of entertainment outside the ground, there isn't any culture of pre-game shows or tailgating, with most people preferring to gather en masse and discuss the game together. Following football here is less about the stage-managed entertainment surrounding the event, but more about the sport itself.
There are no crowd reviews yet. Be the first and help us build with your expertise!
There are no local food and drink entries. Help us build with your expertise!
There are no local entertainment entries. Help us build with your expertise!
There are no local lodging entries. Help us build with your expertise!