Russia: The dark side!

At the Olympics in Pyeongchang, Russia won gold medals in ice hockey. In summer, major Russian cities will host the 2018 World Cup, and all the people will talk about football. Field hockey in our country does not receive a hundredth attention as at least one of these sports does. Today I want to talk about the dark side of Russian field hockey.

Throughout the history of our country there were two periods that have influenced the development of many sports, including hockey. The USSR and the Russian Federation. During the Soviet Period in the national championship there were incredibly many teams. Clubs from Russia travelled to Azerbaijan, Armenia, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan and vice versa. At the time all of them were republics of one huge state. Each match was a spectacle, every championship was a completely new story full of intrigue.
Field hockey was closely connected with bandy and the same people were engaged in two disciplines at the same time.
The USSR national team participated twice in the Olympic Games – in 1980 and 1988, taking bronze at the home Olympics in 1980. And there was 10th place of the Russian Unified Team of 1992 in Barcelona. It’s a little bit like Olympic athletes from Russia, but the reason was that the country was no more, yet people still played together.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, field hockey began to change. It is unclear what exactly has gone wrong, but for 26 years, Russia has not participated in the Olympic Games in field hockey. Our country will miss the next Olympics in Tokyo as well. Qualification to the next round of the World League slipped though our fingers in shootouts against the United States. In the European Championships, we did not manage to step even into division A, remaining a step lower.

There are two divisions in Russian Hockey Championship. Six teams of the Super League are represented by Ekaterinburg, Kazan, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Elektrostal and Azov. The first division is a tournament of second teams and teams of those cities and regions where there are no Super League teams. The number of participants each year is unfixed and does not smell like positive.
To cover all the facets of the dark side of Russian field hockey, we list the most controversial situations that can amuse the hockey functionaries from other countries:

Araik Margaryan is a man who made the Russian club Dinamo-Kazan which has become a fifteen-time Champion of Russia last year. His team dominates the country and performs annually in the EHL. In 2013 his students team of Russia, won the World University Games in Kazan.

Over the past few years he has openly been willing to lead the main national field hockey team. Russian field hockey Federation(FHTR) allows management of the team to anyone but Margaryan. Reference to the plan for the Olympic training cycle for Tokyo-2020 could be an excuse, but if it was, it definitely failed. Why don’t give Margaryan a chance? In this situation, he is like a ghost who can’t be seen by the governing body of the Federation
• In our championship there is a team that does not have all the necessary infrastructure – watering of the field, dressing rooms, good quality field (it looks more like a potato field). Nevertheless, the games of the Russian Championship are allowed to be held there. The results of these games are unpredictable. And the health of the players in this city always goes through a crash test.

• Hockey matches are held on weekdays at any time, but only not in the evening. The game can take place on Wednesday at 16-00. Or maybe on Friday at 10-00. Initiatives of some clubs to organize games on weekends, FHTR does not accept.
• FHTR does not think about the climatic conditions of the country. The season starts in late April, when temperature in our country the can vary from -5 to +15 and it can snow a lot. It ends in October, when the indicators of the thermometer are like those in April. In July, the Championship takes a break, when the temperature in most cities is definite +20 or more.

• FHTR hardly use modern technologies – there is no Instagram, they selectively publish news in Vkontakte and Facebook. Conversation with the audience is conducted in the language of the Paleolithic times. The media content offered by the FHTR corresponds to the level of undergraduate television projects.
• The Federation does not have clear sponsorship agreements with anyone. You could not see any logo of a partner at web-site of organisation.
• Only 3 out of the 6 Super League teams are broadcasting their home matches. One of this teams provide the picture in SD. And without that the very few fans can’t enjoy the games of their favorite teams.
• Only 3 of the 6 Super League teams have their groups in social networks. Some of them do it selectively.
• No one knows the composition of the FHTR media department. Nobody is ready to take responsibility for the look and image of Russian hockey. Bilateral relations with the media are not built, although in our country, television and Internet publications have a serious weight in the eyes of a mass audience.
• There is no school of judges, a system for pumping their skills and bringing them to a new level.

• Women’s field hockey exists, but less is said about it than about men’s. Although the Russian National Team and some clubs successfully perform in the international arena. For example, last year hockey players in the squad went to the division A of the European Championships.
• Initiatives are ignored, and one person manages all the processes. And this is not the president. He only puts his signature. Never contacts people directly. His deputy is in charge of everything.
It’s just a small part of troubles in our hockey. I can say about it like the one who loves this sport and has been watching it for four years. These are no secret facts, but those things that everyone can see, by simply looking a little more deeply into the realities of Russian field hockey.

Indoor hockey

Today in indoor hockey, Russia is more successful than in outdoor. This is a very important discipline taking into account the climatic conditions of Russia, where in the overwhelming majority of cities it is cold from May to October.

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The main success – the victory of the Russian national team over the Germany (!) In 2008 at the home European Championship. At other championships there were also several bronze medals. At the World Cups, Russia is a serious contender that sometimes has no luck. Russian clubs in the Euro Hockey Indoor Cup are always considered favorites of the tournament. This is evidenced by a placer of silver and bronze medals of the teams “Dinamo-Stroitel” and “Dinamo-Elektrostal”.
Unfortunately, only these two clubs play in the Russian championship. The tournament is diluted by these teams from these cities, and sometimes by younger youth teams.
Many years ago even more clubs played in the national championship, but over time they abandoned this idea. This year already they do not dare enter the hall in the framework of the national tournament. Of course, given the small number of games and the lack of competition, we are prone to stagnation, but this situation does not prevent both clubs from being successful in Europe.
The roots of the problem are again growing in the FHTR, which categorically refuses to support indoor hockey. You will not see news about Russian indoor Championship and the European competition on the official FHTR web-page or in social networks. Participation of the Russian national hockey team in European championships and World Cups also got past the Federation’s attention.

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In addition, the president of the club “Dinamo-Stroitel” – Evgeniy Gorenburg – was to look for the financial aid for the participation of the national team at the World Cup 2018, because the FHTR distanced itself from the problems and stated that nothing can be done about it, there was no money for the national team in the budget. And the Federation, I wish to remind you, does not want to look sponsors.
Inefficient governance and hatred of indoor hockey were concentrated at the top of the pyramid of Russian hockey Federation. And this wasp’s nest has no indomitable drive to work something out.

You may think that things are bad in Russian hockey. This is indeed so. Listening to the stories of veterans and honorable coaches about the hockey of their time, I realize that now we have not just stopped moving forward, but literally scattered in the opposite direction, moving on full reverse. It is especially embarrassing to see when you realize that there are people who play this sport and live the sport, who cannot imagine themselves without their sticks, balls and teams. These people are the main source of treasure and the silver lining, which does not allow us to lose hope for a brighter future.

Next time, we shall talk about the bright side of hockey teams, players, training young hockey players and the development of media content.

Sergey Sivoplyas

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