The Socialist Sixties: Crossing Borders in the Second World

By Anne E. Gorsuch; Diane P. Koenker | Go to book overview

11 Playing Catch-Up
Soviet Media and Soccer Hooliganism, 1965–75

Robert Edelman

DURING THE FALL of 1945, in the afterglow of Allied victory, the Dinamo Moscow soccer team traveled to Great Britain for a goodwill tour.1 Dinamo, the newly crowned Soviet champion, funded and run by the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD), was to play the Welsh lower-division side, Cardiff City, the Scottish power Glasgow Rangers, and the famed London clubs Arsenal and Chelsea.2 Both the USSR’s leaders and its ordinary citizens had long wondered how their teams would do against the world’s best. From the outset, diplomatic and political isolation had made the regime and its citizens intensely curious about the outside world and equally concerned about how that outside world perceived them. Between the wars the Soviet press had continually reported on the leagues of capitalist nations, while the library at the Stalin Institute of Physical Culture collected hundreds of training manuals and histories of the game. The USSR’s teams could not compete against the West, but Soviet professionals and fans were far from ignorant of football under capitalism.

Moscow clubs had played Czechoslovakian professionals in 1934 and 1935 and had done well, but a 1937 tour of the USSR by a team of Basque stars drawn from the powerful Spanish league turned out to be a humiliation.3 Now Dinamo, strengthened by four players from other teams, was to take on the very founders of football. Between the wars, the British had disdained international competitions, convinced in their increasingly shabby isolation that teams from the Continent were inferior. Yet the war had not been kind to the British. Formal league schedules had been suspended, and teams from the powerful English league were in disarray.4 By contrast,

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