Strangers on a train | On metro, Spartak adopts ‘lazy fare’ approach to team travel

Moscow Metro sign

Moscow | The city’s metro stations have been dubbed “people’s palaces,” an architectural blend of art deco and socialist-realist influence that creates an ornate underground habitat for 8.2 million daily passengers.

But despite its reputation as the “people’s team”—with origins in the trade-union movement, independent of other enclaves of state power—Spartak Moscow until Oct 31 had not availed itself of the 173 miles of subway service on 12 lines. Ground to a halt in traffic en route to Luzhniki Olympic stadium before a Champions League match versus Inter Milan, Spartak were forced to use subterranean transport.

Defender Martin Stranzl told Reuters he was shocked by the crowds, having admitted that he had never used the metro system before. As an Austrian international, perhaps Stranzl has an excuse. But native Yegor Titov, Spartak captain, said he had not been on board in at least a decade, since the time when perestroika could still stir conversation.

Sovietsky sport ran with the headline, “Metro Shows Spartak the Exit.”

Traffic-light failures, a profusion of accidents and visiting dignitaries such as Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos contributed to gridlock on the Garden Ring, a circular avenue in the center city. (See video footage on Russia’s TV1.) The Spartak footballers ran a mile to the nearest station, according to the AP account, with coach Vladimir Fedotov serving as soccer mom by checking whether all members were accounted for: “In the subway, I gathered our team in one car and yelled: ‘Are the defenders all here? The attackers?’ ”

Police escorted the team, and transport authorities waived the 15-ruble (approximately 56 cents) fares. Fedotov was grateful but said the crowds made the train “a bit too hot.”

It is not clear how well the side absorbed the team talk on board. Inter’s Julio Cruz scored in the first minute, and the goal saw Inter through, 1–0.

Ukrainian midfielder Maxym Kalynychenko (nicknamed “Kalina,” meaning “snowball tree”) joins the straphangers’ club. More photos available at sovsport.ru.

Update: Bloggers and Moscow TV stations have had fun chronicling the story of Spartak’s time as “Metro stars,” according to UEFA.com (Paul Saffer, “Spartak Going Underground,” 3 Nov 06). “RAULina,” posting at fclegion.borda.ru, writes breathlessly of the rush-hour journey and supplies several blurry photos of players looking out of place:

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