Grassroots Football Day held in Russia


On Saturday, May 20, the Russian Football Union together with the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Sport organized the traditional country-wide “Grassroots Football Day” festival. The largest football event of the year occurred in more than 60 regions of our country.


The main celebration of Grassroots Football Day took place on the fields of the “Luzhniki” Olympic Complex in Moscow. Next year the games of the FIFA World Cup, including the opening and final matches, will be played in the big sports arena of this same complex. Pending that event, several artificial turf fields of the “Luzhniki” northern cluster served as the venue for throngs of football fan attendees. From early morning on, several thousand people across the age spectrum were seen knocking the ball around and partaking in various football events. It is heartening to note that amongst them were not just representatives of the stronger sex, but also a fair number of girls as well.

The executive director of the festival was the Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation and President of the RFU, Vitaliy Mutko. Before the opening ceremony, Vitaliy Leontyevich together with other honorary guests of the festival – Russian Federation Minister of Sport Pavel Kolobkov, General Director of the “Russia-2018” Organizing Committee Aleksei Sorokin, Head of the Department of Sports and Tourism of Moscow Nikolai Gulyaev, Vice President of the RFU and President of the Moscow Football Federation Sergei Anohin, RFU General Director Aleksandr Alaev, and Head Russian National team coach Stanislav Cherchessov – toured all the game venues, conversed with numerous football fans, and took the time for the photo opportunity with everybody that wanted to have their pictures taken with him. 

Right after declaring the event open, Vitaliy Mutko awarded prizes to the finalists of the Moscow School Football League tournament, the winners of which were the teams of school nº536 (girls ages 13-14) and of school nº597 (boys ages 16-17). Next, the head of Russian Football took the time to communicate with representatives of mass media who were covering this large-scale event.

“Today, we are enjoying the big celebration of grassroots football and it is my profound honor to congratulate everybody on this occasion! Football is a one of its kind game. It is more than a sport. It is a lifestyle! It’s worth noting that this national celebration of “grassroots football” is geared towards both the 2017 Confederations Cup and the 2018 World Cup. Naturally, we are all eagerly anticipating these events. We will be hosting the best teams from around the world. People who enjoy playing at the amateur level will have the opportunity to partake in the pleasure of witnessing football at the master level and will get a feel for the atmosphere of the utmost football festival. I guess you could say that the grassroots football of today is aiming at the professional football of tomorrow.” – Mutko was quoted saying to the journalists.

Several former Russian national football team players were on hand to help youngster festival participants to master the ABCs of football. An open training session and a master class for the youngsters was conducted by the head coach of the junior Russian national team Evgeniy Bushmanov, RFU inspector for the prevention of racism and discrimination in football Aleksei Smertin, Evgeniy Aldonin, Dmitriy Bulykin, Oleg Kornauhov, and Dmitriy Sennikov. And shortly thereafter an autograph signing session with their participation took place. Throughout the event the participants were able to receive a much-coveted autograph from famous players and have their pictures taken with them.

One of the highlights on the event list of grassroots football day in the capital was the friendly tournament “RFU Trophy” with partners and sponsors of the union taking part. Eight teams were split up into two groups. Group “A” featured the teams “Coca Cola”, “Doctors of Russia”, “Ministry of Sport”, and “Megaphon”. Group “B” included the teams “RFU”, “Adidas”, “State Lotto”, and “NOVATECH”. The tournament structure had each team play round robin in their own groups, whereby the two best teams in the group went on to vie for the top three prize spots, whereas teams placed third and fourth in their groups were locked in playoff games for spots 5-8. Each game was composed of two 10 minute halves.

The President of the RFU and Russian Football Vitaliy Mutko did not contend himself with being merely a spectator, rather, he put on his cleats and took to the field sporting the Russian Football Union colors. Pavel Kolobkov, Nikolai Gulyayev, Sergei Anohin, Aleksandr Alaev, Evgeniy Bushmanov, Aleksei Smertin, head coach of the Russian national beach football team Mikhail Lihachev, and beach football world champion Roman Zaikin – all followed his suit. Stanislav Cherchessov, head coach of the Russian national team, stepped up to the plate to become the team’s manager. And his new lineup did not let him down!

Having won the preliminary round with the maximum of 9 points and an excellent goals-for-and-against differential of 13-0, they advanced to the semi-finals, where they set to play against “Megaphon”, which was the runner up in Group “A”. This game proved to be full of grit and its outcome was only determined in a series of PKs, where lady luck was benevolent towards the RFU team – 1:1, 4:3. In the other semifinal, the “Doctors of Russia” who had not lost a single point in the preliminary stage prevailed over the resistance from “Adidas” – 3:2. In the final, the Russian Football Union looked confident in sailing past the medical fraternity with a 5:1 score. “Megaphon” was placed third by surpassing “Adidas” by a single goal (2:1). In the head-to-head for the 5th place, “Ministry of Sport” came out victorious over “Coca Cola” with a score of 4:2. “NOVATECH” placed 7th after winning against “State Lotto” 3:1. It’s worth nothing that not a single team was left without prizes or souvenirs. Other than that, the organizing committee awarded the prize-winners in individual nominations. Thus, the highest goal-scorer was Aleksandr Alaev (“RFU”), who scored a total of seven goals. Among the recipients of the honors were goalkeeper Tigran Nerssessyan (“Megaphon”), defender Azim Yuldashov (“Adidas”), and forward Mikhail Rudaman (“Doctors of Russia”). MVP of the tournament was Roman Zaikin (“RFU”).

Less than a month remains before Russia hosts the main football event of the year – the FIFA Confederations Cup, the games of which are scheduled to take place between June 17 through July 2 in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan, and Sochi. The organizers of the grassroots football festival could not overlook such a grandiose event among the professionals and dedicated a colorful display commemorating it. All the eight participating national teams of the upcoming “Champions tournament” were featured: (Russia, Australia, Germany, Cameroon, Mexico, New Zealand, Portugal, Chile) along with the information on where tickets to the Confederations Cup games can be purchased. One of the main “stars” of the festival was the mascot of the 2018 FIFA World Cup: the huffer puffer scorer wolf (Zabivaka for Russian). Not just kids, but adults as well, enjoyed interacting and taking pictures with him.

Indeed, the national grassroots football festival sported warm and amicable atmosphere and turned out to be a genuinely mass-participation event; a true manifest to the fact that football is the number one ranked sport in the Russian Federation!