For my main series “Totalitarian football” I’m going to be managing the made up club CSKA Aransk in the made up post-Soviet totalitarian Communist nation of Bordavia. I have covered the creation process in a series called “Creating Club and Country”:
The idea from the beginning was for CSKA Aransk to get invited into the Russian league system, where most of the adventure would take place. I was going to create a Bordavian league, but only the top tier, as a backdrop. However, after a literal hurricane of interest in getting involved in this adventure the idea took a turn into something completely different. Over 60 people have reached out and contributed with ideas for towns and clubs and stories. Bordavia has turned into a mystic but rather grim nation, full of quirks, stories and lore. I fell in love with both the commitment shown by you and the nation of Bordavia, which has lead to the creation process of an entire Bordavian database. This has been a real team effort, which I have enjoyed massively, but it has also meant that I haven’t had much time to write blog posts or record YT videos. Therefore I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone, by sharing stories from the nation of Bordavia up until the db release around Christmas.
The first post is written by myself and covers Bordavian football in general and the infamous season of 2003/2004 in particular.
The transition from Soviet to Bordavian football
Since the Soviet Union crumbled and fell apart in 1991, Bordavia has led a secluded and isolated existence. The society has in many ways stood still as a result of the isolationist policies of feared dictator/beloved father of the people General Ivan. The nation relies heavily on mining and agriculture and the people are poor. One of the few areas where resources seem nearly endless is the football. The football in Bordavia is more than a pastime. It’s religion in a nation where conventional religion is forbidden. This has lead to a well functioning and vibrant Bordavian league system. The teams that used to play in the Soviet Union were divided into national and regional divisions and new teams have been founded along the way. One thing has remained constant though. And that is that CSKA Aransk lift the “General Ivan Trophy” as league winners every May. Since the inaugural 1991/92 season of the “Bordavianskiy Premyer Liga” CSKA Aransk have won it every year.
Being the army club and General Ivan’s favourite club, this has very much been according to plan. Through almost endless financial backing and the privilege of recruiting Bordavian 18-year-olds to do their military service with the club, CSKA Aransk have more than a slight advantage compared to the other teams. Many seasons, like in the famous “Glourious 1998/99 season” CSKA have won the title with a margin of over 20 points. Some seasons, the race to the title has been much tighter, but CSKA Aransk have always managed to run away with it.
The massive success have made CSKA Aransk the most popular and heavily supported club in Bordavia or at least in the capital city Aransk. They always pack their 70k capacity stadium Tyur’ma (this translates into “The Prison” in English and I’ll get back to the reason of this in another post) and the streets are always packed with people, cars, donkeys and rifles in celebration of every title. The privileges given to the club have also made it the most disliked, but it’s one particular incident that sent the club from disliked to forever hated in the eyes of many of the people.
The “May scandal” of 2004
As April turned into May in the year 2004, CSKA Aransk found themselves in an uncomfortable and highly unusal position. With 5 games to go they were sitting in 3rd place in the table, 9 points behind league leaders and fierce rivals Svoboda Aransk. The difference had been bigger three games ago, but since Oleg Kraytsev had come in as new manager after sacked Sasha Mostovoi, the team had won three straight games, reducing the difference by 3 points. Things still looked grim and the word on the street was that Bordavia was going to get a new league winner for the first time ever.
Then a highly unlikely, or very suspicious depending on who you asked, series of events started to unravel. Nobody raised their eyebrows after the first event. The Bordavian railroad not functioning properly happened more often than not, and in this case it affected Svoboda Aransk. They were stuck in the remote town of Fontan Molodsti after an away game and since the road tunnel was closed for repair work, railroad was the only way out. When there were reports of broken mountain tracks the trains came to a halt and the Svoboda squad was unable to get back to Aransk for their home derby against Dynamo Aransk. Of course an appeal to postpone the game was sent and of course it was denied by the Bordavian FA. The game was to be played on schedule and Svoboda would need to field their U19s team. Even though the Svoboda youth team played their best game ever, they couldn’t prevent the men from Dynamo from winning 3-0. CSKA won their game in comfortable fashion. The difference was down to 6 points with four games to play.
The slaughter in Dolgoretsk
As soon as the referee blew the final whistle in the Aransk derby the faulty tracks were reported as replaced and the Svoboda Aransk squad could travel to their next game, this time against army club SKA Dolgoretsk, sister club of CSKA Aransk. This game is from this day forward known as the “slaughter in Dolgoretsk”. The same SKA team that had been looking very lacklustre and uninterested since their mid table position had been secured, came out to this game as fighting lions. Each player had a fire burning in his eyes, rescembling that of a mad man and several children in the stands cried at the very sight of the players. They played with a ferocity and violence never seen before and rumours quickly spread that they had been given large doses of questionable substances beforehand. There were also rumours that the referee had been given a thing or two before the game, since he completely looked away as the SKA players kicked the living shit out of the Svoboda players.
Several punches were thrown, two players were kicked in the head lying down and all went by without more than a yellow card in total. The worst was yet to come though. As Svoboda star striker and Bordavian international Pavel Krykov celebrated his 2-1 goal in the 89th minute he was unaware of the two SKA players creeping up on him from behind. As he stood kneeling with his fists pumping in the air he was jumped from two directions in a way that made the spectators unanimously grasp from fear. The scream was horrid, but the sight following the assault was even worse. Young Krykov lying there with both of his legs bent in very unnatural ways with the two SKA players walking away smiling. The referee had no choice but to send both of them off, but that was a small price to pay for their career ending acts of violence.
The Svoboda team won the game but they had lost their leader and goalscorer. Without him, Svoboda struggled to score, and only won one of the two following games. The difference in points between them and CSKA going into the final game was now down to three. Two strange sending offs in the penultimate game leading to the suspension of the two best Svoboda players would have been a real source of concern if it wasn’t for the goal difference. Svoboda had a better goal difference by 20 goals compared to CSKA, which meant that most people had already proclaimed Svoboda as title winners. Sure, CSKA were playing sister team SKA Dolgoretsk in the final game, but not even a completely lacklustre performance from them would see them lose by such a large margin!?
The infamous Bordavian TV blackout
Without their three best players, Svoboda didn’t stand a chance against 3rd place finishers Spartak Ozyorovska. Being two goals behind at half time didn’t cause that much concern in the Svoboda team, since the TV in the locker room showed that CSKA Aransk were “only” leading 3-0 at half time as well. This meant that the goal difference was still 15 goals and more than one player celebrated with a double shot of vodka at half time. They had just left the room for the second half as the TV screen went blank.
As the Svoboda team came back into the locker room after the second half, they didn’t care about the 0-3 loss or the fact that the TV showed a “no signal” screen. Just like with the railroads it was more common than not that the Bordavian national television struggled with consistency. No, they only cared about celebrating their league title with vodka and women. It wasn’t until the locker room celebrations had escalated from singing and spraying champagne into a full-blown vodka party with bear wrestling and all that the TV broadcast came back on. The images of massive celebrations in the streets of Aransk were first met with laughter and joy. “Look at them celebrating the true team of the people”, one of the players said and others cheered along. But when the image zoomed in on the celebrations the locker room fell silent. The people in the streets were wearing the black colours of CSKA and not the light blue of Svoboda. What was this? Were they running images from last year’s celebration while fixing the real broadcast? They tried to get the party started again as Yuri, the team doctor, came running into the room crying. “They’ve done it again, the filthy pigs. I hope that the vodka they drink out of the trophy will taste like piss and that their children will be born with three arms. I hate these sons of whores”.
When the final whistle of the CSKA game had sounded, the CSKA supporters flooded the streets. As the TV images and the news spread across the nation the contempt knew no boundaries. Black shirts were burned and loads of children born 9 months later were naved Pavel, as an homage to the injured Svoboda striker. CSKA Aransk had beaten their sister team SKA Dolgoretsk by 17-0. At the time of the end of the Svoboda game CSKA had been up by 12 goals, but after the longest extra time in Bordavian history the end result was 17-0, just enough to secure yet another CKSA Aransk league title. Some claim that the extra time was only 8 minutes long, while other claim it lasted for 21! There are no official records, since the arena clock broke down at the same time as the television broadcast. CSKA Aransk were champions again. Just as loved by some, but hated by many.
This was the first “Tale from Bordavia”. There will be a new one every day leading up to Christmas. I hope you’ll enjoy these little stories and that they will spark an interest large enough to follow my main series “Totalitarian Football” and maybe even try the database when it comes out!?