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.
If you want to read the other stories you can find them here.
Today’s post comes from myself and covers the story of the in(famous) stadium of CSKA Aransk
Welcome to The Prison
That’s exactly what the sign says “welcoming” away teams out onto the pitch of the massive home stadium of CSKA Aransk. Or at least that’s what the sign originally said. In Bordavian Russian. Nowadays the sign is so full of grafitti and smudge that only one word can be read with ease. Tyur’ma.
A strange name for a stadium you might think, but strange is the normal in Bordavia. The arena was called something completely different from the beginning, probably named after a general, but no one remembers or even cares nowadays.
The area around the arena was once built in a misguided attempt to replicate a futuristic city, but today it looks more like the scene from a post apocalyptic computer game. “Birds fly over Tyur’ma upside down simply to avoid looking at it” is a saying that probably holds more truth than one would think.
If you weren’t aware of the fact that football is national sport in Bordavia, you would think that it was brutalist architecture. This is where Tyur’ma got its name. It actually looks like a huge hideous concrete prison.
The CSKA Aransk fans – and they are many – actually love their 70000 capacity stadium. For better or worse, it looks pretty much exactly as it did when it was built in 1970. That’s one upside of building in concrete. Another one is that it would probably survive a nuclear war. Away fans – and players alike – absolutely hate it. The mere sight of the arena from the player bus has sent chills down the spine of more than one seasoned veteran. It’s the brutalist architecture that makes the structure imposing on the verge of scary for first time visitors. However, it’s the knowledge of what awaits them that makes players returning to the stadium go to the toilet an extra time.
After getting dressed in the sparsely decorated away dressing room it’s time for a walk that every player can recall in detail after their first time. It’s time to walk “the tunnel of death”. Another lovely nickname, isn’t it?
The tunnel system connecting the dressing rooms with the pitch were originally part of a secret underground system of tunnels from the first World War, but today it serves as a way to separate boys from men. Many players entering the tunnel for the first time are surprised by the lack of light. It’s just as dark as at the bottom of a well, and many describe a feeling of being trapped. The tunnel with its slight upwards incline is narrow at first. So narrow that players have to spread out along the tunnel while waiting for permission to start their walk. “I felt as if I was deliberately separated from my loved ones” a young Svoboda Aransk player describes his experience as. Once the leader of the heavily armed police gives his nod of approval to start the walk you can discern a faint light at the end of the 150 yard long tunnel. As you start walking the light at the end of the tunnel grows stronger and stronger. This gives a relieving feeling of getting closer to the end of this hellish walk, but it also offers enough light for you to be able to read the graffiti on the walls. Explicit insults involving animal names and body parts are mixed with gruesome stories of death and war. It’s usually when players pass the rows of walled in children’s skulls that the irresistible urge to start running sets in. And it’s at exactly this moment your ears start hurting. You are only halfway through the tunnel, but the complete silence grows stronger and stronger. The sound of your increasing heartbeat in your ears becomes painful, but you cannot run past the line of policemen in front of you. And you cannot turn back, because there’s another line of policemen driving you forward. You’re trapped. In a prison.
When you reach the end of the tunnel, there’s a sharp turn leading into a new one. The light that you had so desperately hoped were floodlights turn out to be something completely different. They are flares.
As you leave the first tunnel you enter a much bigger one. The sound of complete silence is now replaced by that of chaos. For the last 20 yard walk out onto the pitch you share tunnel with the home fans on their way up to the stands. The metal fence separating the tunnel in two prevents the home ultras from throwing their flares at you, but it doesn’t stop neither the smoke nor the filthy screams of humiliations from reaching you. “Aren’t the policemen slowing down their pace even more?” is a common final though just before you see the blood stained smudged sign above your head, just before you enter the pitch.
The feeling that you’ve lost even before the game has started is almost unbearable. The crowd noise reaches levels you’ve never experienced before as you leave the tunnel and enter the pitch. You can’t determine what’s worse. The fierce look in the faces of the CSKA Aransk players or the smirk from General Ivan on the big screen. You feel completely trapped and must do everything in your power to suppress the urge to succumb to the feeling of hopelessness. You will be free again, or as free as you’ll ever be in Bordavia. Your sentence is only 90 minutes long.
“Welcome to the Prison”
This was the twelfth “Tale from Bordavia” giving you small glimpses of Bordavian life and lore. 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!?
I stream my “Building Bordavia” creation process on Twitch on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Come hang out and say hi!
I also upload episodes about the creation process to my YouTube channel. Make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss any content!