American Football’s Moscow Spartans


Artemii Rogovoy

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of a ‘Russian Sport?’ Probably, hockey. That’s fair — Russian hockey stars are world famous, they play in the best teams in Russia and the NHL (U.S. National Hockey League), are high achievers, and so on. What else? Soccer. As a member of the European Football Association, the Russian national team and premier league clubs have been performing well since the Soviet Union era and soccer is the main team sport for amateurs — you will always find sport grounds with dozens of Russians of all ages kicking footballs around. But have you ever considered that Russian spirit and sport passion could find itself best in… American football? Sounds ridiculous, but in the early 90’s, when everything American was so popular here, American football came to Russia and quickly grew to a semi-professional league with numerous teams, the most famous of which being — the legendary Moscow Bears. Further development wouldn’t have happened without help of Harry Gamble — the former general manager and president of Philadelphia Eagles, who did a lot of work to bring Russian coaches and youth teams to United States for educational programs. As a result, the Russian national youth team won the European championship in 2002.

Today the Russian (American) football league has 5 divisions and about 20 teams, mainly from Moscow and the European part of Russia. All clubs are amateur — in an economic crisis it’s impossible to get any resources for non-Olympic sports. The lack of money is overcome by participants’ enthusiasm: they take football really seriously. All teams have coaching staff. Some of the teams have even managed to bring American football professionals to the country. For example, the Moscow Patriots brought ex-Green Bay Packers fullback Bobby Rome as quarterback in 2013 and Moscow Black Storm acquired Tony Allen (former head of NFL Europe) for head coach position in 2015.

Moscow Spartans is one of the youngest teams in the league. However, it has shown amazing progress during the last few years. Founded in 2011, the team spent 3 years in ELAF (the Eastern League of American Football — amateur league for young Russian an Belarus teams) with a 5-12 score record. In 2015, the Spartans decided to join the Russian national championship and reached the semi-finals, where they lost to the future champions — the Saint Petersburg Griffins. Spartans showed great skills and character in both offense & defence and were proudly honoured with bronze medals.

Currently Spartans are preparing for the 2016 season and have already made various personnel changes, mainly in coaching crew. One of them, Keary Larussi, a young American enthusiast from a football family, incarnates his vision of the game as an offensive line coach. He already had some experience as a head coach assistant with Ural Lightings — a team from Ekaterinburg, that has won local division in Ural region. Another is Sergey Ivanov — the only Russian with NFL experience. Sergey played safety in Tampa Bay Buccaneers and currently shares his experience with Spartans secondaries. The players’ roster also has some fresh blood — for example, Denis Krasnov, one of the best Russian running backs. Together with quarterback Ivan Goloveshkin, wide receivers Alexander Scherbakov and Alexander Yatsunenko, Spartans are going to be a notable power in the upcoming football season in Russia.

Despite of its ambitions and amount of work already done, Moscow Spartans still lack genuine American football experience and are open for any kind of cooperation.

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