Like a steam train – Lokomotiv Moscow

There is a story that Paul Gascoigne was approached by a number of Moscow clubs during his career – most notably the short lived FC Moscow. One of the tales goes that he flew to Russia to meet the representatives of one such club only to be refused entry at Shermetyevo airport as he had not realized that you needed a visa for entry into Russia.

Yes its different in Russia but that is part of the attraction of the place – culturally its a crossroads between east and west. The Soviet era has left in place a melting pot of people and out of the restrictions of the communist era a new sense of identity.

Russia is one of those places that every football fan should venture into at least once.

However, many people take the easy option and head to Germany, Spain or England instead such is the ease of travel across near western Europe nowadays.

Moscow is, of course, the center point of Russian football. This is the home of Soviet football although some associated with Zenit in St. Petersburg would argue otherwise.

Kiev was the home of the Soviet Union’s most successful club – Dynamo Kiev but it is in Moscow where most of modern Russian football is centered.

It is Moscow that will be the centre point of FIFA World Cup 2018.

If CSKA were the army team and Dinamo Moscow the club of the KGB, then Lokomotiv were the railway workers team.

Any doubts about this are confirmed via a glance at the club logo which shows a locomotive train powering down the railway line.

During the Soviet era the club were the weakest of the Moscow sides and lurked some way behind the now struggling Torpedo in terms of success.  Today, Torpedo are a club that Lokomotiv dwarfs in terms of infrastructure and ‘new Russia’ playing success.

Lokomotiv were run by the Soviet Ministry of Transportation during the communist era. 

Success during Soviet times was thin on the ground with only two USSR cups to the club’s name. At various points the club fell on hard times bouncing between the first and second divisions and losing numerous players to the more powerful Dinamo and Spartak.

Very few players from Lokomotiv made it into World Cup finals squads in the 1960’s and 1980’s.

This is a club of decline and resurgence a fact only indicated further by the level of success enjoyed since 2000.

Twice they have broken the dominance of Spartak and CSKA by capturing the Russian title and the Russian Cup. Moreover, they have also appeared in the group stages of both the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League.

In 2002 the new Lokomotiv stadium was opened making it, at the time, the most modern and efficient stadium in Russia.

Many great players in Russian football are remembered at every club but it’s often administrators who have placed themselves to the forefront of club histories.  At Moscow Dynamo it was the head of the KGB, whilst at Spartak it is Nikolai Starotsin.

The great early names in Lokomotiv history were Boris Beschev and Yevgeniy Lyadin.

Beschev had been the USSR Transport Minister for nearly three decades and helped establish the club as a sporting force often against a sea of ideological and political pressure from the powerful Dynamo and CSKA Moscow.

Yevgeniy Lyadin played eight seasons at Lokomotiv between 1948 and 1956. 

He would later go on to play a role in the national team heading up the USSR U-18, U-21 and Olympic football sides.

Lokomotiv are known for red and green shirts and these colours have always dominated the sports club.

Red of course is noted for its association with the Soviet Union.  

It is said green as opposed to white was chosen as the second color as it was never possible for Spartak and Lokomotiv to have a color clash.  

Such is the importance of the historical connections with the railways that in 2006 – when the Lokomotiv Sports Community turned 70 years old – the Russian Railways presented the club with a real and disused L-3526 locomotive that had been produced at the Voroshilovgrad Steam Locomotive Plant.

This engine now sits outside the stadium and often serves as a meeting point on matchday for the fans.

Whether the club are on the right tracks currently remains to be seen but while many Russian clubs have tried to forget past historical associations the role the transport ministry played at Lokomotiv has never been forgotten.

One final word on the Lokomotiv Stadium.

Out in the distant north eastern suburbs of Preobrazhensky this is a unique stadium in that next door sits another full size stadium the ‘Minor Sports Lokomotiv’ Stadium. But the true uniqueness of the main stadium is in its construction.

Four ferroconcrete pylons (each of which resembles the Russian lеtter «Л») hold up the roof structure.

Inside the tribunes are divided on 4 sides: Nord, South, Ost and West.  

In addition there are VIP boxes between the top and lower circles but crowds still remain low with the club only averaging about 7,500 for each home game.

Archways, solid and grand pillars this is a welcoming if relatively small outpost in footballing Moscow. Its effectively a football estate at Lokomotiv – training pitches, offices, stadiums and club logos all pulled together in one place to create something very symbolic.

Train of thought left me thinking this is one of the most modern stadia in the whole of Russia yet its smaller than anything Spartak and Dynamo have. They are a club probably on the right tracks although occasionally derailed from regular success thanks to the all pervasive presence of bigger neighbors.

Name: FC Lokomotiv Moskva “Локомоти́в” Москва́’.

Nicknames: Loko Parovozy (The Steam Locomotives), Krasno-Zelyonyye (Red and Greens), Zheleznodorozhniki (Railroaders).


Stadium: Lokomotiv Stadium (Previously Stalinec)

Capacity: 28,800

Images of the Lokomotiv football complex can be seen here.