God Save Spartak

Alexey Dymarskiy visits Tula to celebrate the Moscow football club’s long-awaited championship win.

This season the legendary Spartak club, founded at Moscow in 1922, was crowned champion of the Russian Football Premier League for the first time in 16 years. Here, co-founder and creative director of the Stereotactic agency Alexey Dymarskiy shares his photographic impressions of being at the heart of the storm and discusses his enduring passion for the team through the years.

As to my supporting Spartak – I never had a choice. My grandfather was a well-known sportscaster in the USSR and he was friends with such legends of Soviet sport as, for example, hockey announcer Nikolay Ozerov and Spartak hockey players the Mayorov brothers. In my childhood, they often took me to games and I have been a fan ever since. I still try to go to matches every week with my close friends, even though I am not a hardcore football hooligan or anything like that.

I knew that there would be a massive celebration in Tula – it was the last match of the season against the local club Arsenal, and Spartak had already secured the championship by then. Nobody really cared about the score or the game: as soon as the referee blew the starting whistle, everyone whipped out their flares and started having fun. In the fan section, which looked like a huge cage, everyone felt different – liberated. And maybe this is the reason people, myself included, go to such events. There are usually no police down there and everything happens according to some unwritten code, akin to primeval laws of the jungle. 

But there is something else within these photos, apart from football itself or the hooligan scene. This trip felt like some sort of time travel. Spartak had become champion for the first time since the 1990s, and the game was held in a provincial town’s old stadium, built in Soviet times. I tried to choose scenes and angles so as to avoid signs of the modern age – there are glimpses of timelessness in this series, which I always strive for when taking photos.