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Official Review by Danny Armstrong, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The Universal Sport Complex (Универсальный Спортивный Комплекс "Подмосковье") in the greater Moscow region plays host to MFK Dinamo Moskva home games, the champion futsal team in Russia. The futsal team form part of the larger Dynamo Moscow sport club, which includes teams competing in basketball, water polo, ice hockey and association football, or ‘big football’ to those within the Russian futsal sphere.
The complex is situated around 40 km from Red Square, or a train ride from Moscow Yaroslavsky station to Shchyolkovo in the Moscow region. A 164 ruble ($2.44) return ticket can be bought on Komsomolskaya square just outside Komsomolskaya metro station (on the brown line of the metro, signposted at the exit).
Futsal was founded in 1930 by a Uruguayan teacher so students - who wanted to emulate their 1930 World Cup winning heroes - could play the game indoors. Today it is a hugely popular sport worldwide and not least in Russia, where it is known also as mini-football and whose men’s team are ranked third in the world behind Brazil and then Spain as of June 2016. Ironically there are a total of four Brazilians who have taken on Russian citizenship to represent the Russian national side.
Dinamo are the best team in Russia, having won a total of nine Russian Mini-Football League titles, nine Russian Mini-Football Cups and the UEFA European Mini-Football Cup in 2007. They have attracted top overseas talent who have turned out for Russia including eccentric goalkeeper Gustavo, captain Cirilo, and the legendary striker Pula.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There is a coffee machine that sells small cups of cappuccino for 50 rubles (76 cents) next to a cold drinks machine where you can grab a Fanta or Coke for 55 rubles (84 cents). Otherwise there aren't any facilities that sell food in the complex.
You will want to make sure you stop at the stalls near the station, that sell Shawarma - a tasty, toasted chicken wrap that is a traditional and filling fast food choice - for 120 rubles ($1.80) or groceries from one of the stores near the train station. If not, you'll almost certainly go hungry. You can, however, take your own food to the game. The metal detectors and security at the entrance to the complex only serve to detect undesirable items.
The atmosphere is intense despite being slightly claustrophobic - as you'd expect from an indoor arena. The fans occupy one stand of the court and cheer voraciously throughout the game. The court, or 'ploshadka' (площадка), is made of wood and glossed and the lighting is harsh and bright. Whenever play is stopped, tunes from James Bond to covers of the the Village People's YMCA with lyrics in support of the team are played irritatingly loud.
Dinamo has one lone 'ultra,' a man aged around 60 sitting in the top left hand corner of the stand clad in a white Dinamo shirt incongruously venting a chant of 'Vpiriyod Dinamo!' (Forward Dinamo!) while incessantly beating a drum. He often has young children seated by him following his lead and revelling in his quintessentially Russian fan style. He represents one of the more characteristic Russian supporters at the complex.
The complex is located in a typically sleepy regional town of Shchyolkovo - an 82 ruble ($1.23) train ride northeast from Moscow's Yaroslavsky station in the city centre. Other than moody scrap yards and long dusty roads, the complex provides probably the centrepiece of the town's simple infrastructure.
Your opinion of Shchyolkovo may well depend on the weather: trudge through two feet of February snow and you quickly tire of your surroundings, but amble through the Moscow outback in the summer sun and the region's remoteness and greenery has a charm to it. There's also something distinctly alluring about being in a place so isolated but still in Europe's biggest city.
Supporting your favourite sports team is a way of life in Russia and futsal is no different. From the children in full blue kits who clamber onto the court before and after the game to kick a ball around with their friends or cling to the shirt of a player to the smattering of seasoned elderly spectators, futsal is open to all and attracts a varied crowd to games.
Groups of teens convene at matches and treat it as a social event, the more serious, stat-checking young men see it more as a hobby to be meticulously and religiously followed.
The one thing that they all share is a love for Dinamo which they show through their vocal support and team colours in the shape of scarves and shirts. They lap up every flamboyant flash of skill, every fizzing shot and piece of trickery the players produce, not to mention get involved in the many petulant spats when one of their heroes is on the wrong end of a hard tackle.
Access to the Universal Sport Complex is quite straightforward once you figure out the route to the ground, which is just a 10-15 minute walk from the station. It will take you through some of the more desolate dwellings of Moscow's regional towns but that's all part of the fun.
The great thing about futsal is it's free entry! But this doesn't mean that just any passerby passively stands on the touchline to make up the numbers. Futsal is just as fervently a supported sport as any in Russia and Dinamo regularly pull in crowds of around 2,000 people, which is about as many as a lesser-fancied fourth tier English professional soccer team. When you consider the sports hall has only one stand which is mostly full capacity that is quite an impressive achievement.
It is free, family friendly entertainment, even if the music is loud and the players are somewhat argumentative.
There is a football pitch located just next to the complex complete with a running track. The ground holds numerous sporting events and recently hosted a junior female international tournament that welcomed teams as far afield as Nigeria and New Zealand.
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