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Official Review by Danny Armstrong, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Lokomotiv Stadium is one of the prettier and more impressive sports facilities in the Russian Premier League. The ground itself consists of four stands with an oval exterior with four tall poles supported by two shorter poles standing on each corner outside the complex. The ground’s metallic structure gives the effect of a spider web from a bird’s eye view and the outside of the ground is subtly but handsomely coloured in the team colours of green and red.
To enter the ground, each fan must pass through an outer ring of gates to a charming leafy forecourt where a real L-3526 locomotive train produced at the Voroshilovgrad Steam Locomotive Plant stands and upon which supporters scramble to have their picture taken with scarves and flags of their club, region, or country.
Each Moscow club is steeped in history that gives way to histories entwined with politics and conflict. Lokomotiv, as the name suggests, has its roots in rail travel. Founded in 1922 as Kazanka, the club sought the best players from the railway roads of Moscow and during Soviet rule the club was owned by the Soviet Transport Ministry. But it wasn’t until 1936 - the year they won their first silverware in the form of the USSR Cup - that the club gained its eponymous title.
The current Lokomotiv Stadium has a capacity of 28,800 and was opened in 2002. But like most things associated with Russian sport, the stadium’s history is drenched in blue-collar charm and stretches much further back than the turn of the century. Originally, a group of electricians built a stadium named ‘Stalinets’ (Сталинец) that held 30,000 people on the site of the current ground in 1935. In 1966 the ground in its current form opened. Its capacity was reduced by 6,000 to 24,000 when wooden benches were replaced in favour of plastic seats. The capacity has since been increased.
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".
In the ground, you can find a selection of buffet-style food and drinks to choose from including the popular Georgian cheese-filled bread Khachapuri, mini hot dogs and pizzas, coffee served from a packet, tea and a selection of drinks including flavoured ice tea.
In my parched, ravenous state I was quite pleased to see a satisfying selection of finger food so began to fill up. It was only when I had to pay that it turned sour as the price was nothing short of extortionate. Individually the snacks cost 100-150 ($1.50-$2.27) which made an unpleasant accumulative impact on my wallet given the size of the snacks, which also cannot be bought in any kind of combo deal.
Generally, the atmosphere at Lokomotiv Stadium suffers from rather poor crowds. The average attendance for a Loko game is just 8,707 (figures given Dec. 2015) and an ordinary match in the Russian Premier League just doesn't draw enough bums on seats to create a significant atmosphere to suit a stadium as big as Lokomotiv Stadium.
The visits of Spartak Moscow, however, harbours a distinct derby feel. It is an atmosphere only achievable from the intense rivalry between two teams from Europe's biggest city. Spartak are the biggest and best supported team in Moscow and bring wild support.
Inside the ground, Loko fans remind the players of their mission. On a big banner unfurled during the game is a picture of a player holding a key and standing in front of a vault. On the vault there were keyholes with the last five Lokomotiv fixtures for the season: Spartak Moscow, FC Rostov, Kuban Krasnodar, Zenit St. Petersburg and Mordovia Saransk. The message is clear: the key to winning the league title is to win the final five games.
At the beginning of the game, as is customary at all games, firecrackers spell out the letters for the word "LOKO" and are lit to welcome the players onto the field. Throughout the game green, red and bright white firecrackers and flares emblazon the fans sector and make a melody of pops and bangs. Each section of home and away support is vocal throughout and not wanting to be outdone by their neighbours. When there are matches like this the atmosphere is an exception not only in Russia but in world football. It is a shame it happens rarely.
The ground is situated on Bolshaya Cherkizovskaya ulitsa 125 in the historically rich Preobrazhenskoye District in eastern Moscow.
Peter the Great spent his formative years in the village of Preobrazhensky, which is known locally as "the cradle of the Imperial Russian Navy" and from where he launched his famous botik, a miniature restored antique warship. It was also the site of Peter's toy army - consisting of friends and which he used to school himself in the art of modern war.
The walk from the metro station to the ground takes you past a shopping centre with small stalls, newsstands and fast food joints.
The hardcore supporters stand in the fans sector, located behind the goal in the south stand. It is also where former players - including ex-Loko winger Ruslan Pimenov and defender Dmitri Sennikov for a 2016 Spartak game - can sometimes be found mingling with fans.
The hardcore of Lokomotiv fans are extremely vocal and pleasing on the eye. But despite the coruscating colour, regimented organisation, incessant noise, clouds of smoke and inventive banners projected from one small segment behind the goal, the aesthetic and atmosphere they create is somewhat suffocated by the lack of fans in the rest of the ground, which is a shame.
The ground is located on Bolshaya Cherkizovskaya ulitsa, seconds away from Cherkizovskaya metro stop on the Red (1) line of the Moscow Metro. Tickets for the metro can be bought from any kassa at any station. You can get a return ticket to anywhere in the city for 100 rubles ($1.50) or, if you are planning on staying in the city for a little longer, a day pass can be bought for 210 rubles ($3.18). The walk from the metro to the ground takes you past a shopping centre with small stalls, newsstands and fast food joints.
The sheer beauty of the stadium and artistry of its hardcore supporters goes a long way to redeeming the price of food and the lack of fans at most games. The ground itself, for its charm alone, is well worth a visit, especially when a particular rival team visits.
The official matchday programme 'Nash Loko' (Наш Локо - 'Our Loko') is one of the sleekest around. The neat, stylish, thin A3 paper programme also has a good level of content, and is also worth a read for those familiar with the Russian language. For those who aren't, the pictures, including a middle spread poster pullout, are entertaining too.
Although impressive, Lokomotiv Stadium will surprisingly not be one of the grounds used for the 2018 World Cup. Instead Spartak Moscow's Otkrytie Arena and Luzhniki Stadium make up the only two stadiums from the capital used at the tournament.
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