Roman Pavlyuchenko – Russian Non-League’s Main Attraction

Roman before his debut for Znamya |

If a Moscow Oblast dweller wants to attend some attractive football, he will definitely travel to the capital. However, I did absolutely the “wrong” thing. I took a train from my home plot and turned to Noginsk. Where? Besides, I had almost no money in my pocket.

It was free entry to see Roman Pavlyuchenko – Russia national team legend, memorable Spartak Moscow and Tottenham Hotspur player.

He agreed to play four autumn matches for an amateur club, which is situated to the east from Moscow. This is the fourth Russian division and the first non-league. Moscow Oblast League, Group A.

EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Roman Pavlyuchenko – “I rejected Tottenham twice before I joined them”

The Avtomoblist Stadium in Noginsk | Dmitry Podrubniy/RFN

Roman played with no contract and was unpaid. He said that his professional career is over, and played just for fans, the community and his love of football. Of course, the club has received benefits: attention from locals, some agreement with the service provider, Pavlyuchenko shirts and other such merchandise.

FC Znamya is one of the oldest clubs in Russia. Founded in 1911 as Krasnoe Znamya (Red Flag). Semi-finalists of the Soviet Cup in 1936 (that season was inaugural for the Cup). Grigory Fedotov, the first Soviet player who scored 100 goals in the Premier Division, started as an amateur at Znamya. The 16-year-old forward made his debut for the senior team as a spectator – he was summoned from the stands. The old pitch is still in use in Glukhovo (a part of Noginsk).

The club spent many professional seasons as FC Avtomobilist and Spartak Moscow played there in the Russian Cup in 1997. Unfortunately, there was one of the biggest unlawful clashes between fans and police in Russia. Spartak won by scoring the only goal.

Tragic day for Spartak away fans, wich consisted mostly of teenagers |

Znamya hosted Titan from Klin on October 20th. And it won’t bother anyone that the game changes nothing. Both teams remained in the middle of the table before and after. I went out to catch maybe the last goal in all Pav’s career.

Firstly, I find the rather clean and rather historical town. Before Noginsk you can see some unpleasant views with ironworks and Russian dachas right under the power supply line. However, places around the railway station were affordable to contemplate.

Fire station, war memorials, 19th-Century houses, a historic square, church, Klyazma River, local Arbat Street. One hour was enough to explore the central part of the town.

Old houses look good in Noginsk | Dmitry Podrubniy/RFN

Viktor Nogin is a famous hero of the USSR (he worked there). And this is a little shame for the town with the lovely former name – Bogorodsk (Bog – God, rod – bloodline).

I had no time to find the first ever monument of Lenin because of it’s distant location. But found the ways of the first ever tram in Moscow Oblast. Unfortunately, it was closed last summer.

Town Square | Dmitry Podrubniy/RFN

Avtomobilist Stadium is easy for unpunctual groundhoppers. Near 150 metres from the station – visible from the above-ground crossing.

Entrance to the Avtomobilist Stadium | Dmitry Podrubniy/RFN

The ground is surrounded by the village houses – old and new. It’s more of a village team, to be honest. Police protected places around the stadium. I approached the gates and found an old and little drunken man with homemade match programmes. He gave me a lot of these gems when I told about some Englishmen who want it.

Organization of the game was great for Russian non-league football: food and drinks, a club shop with Pav’s shirts and autographs, free official programmes and professional photographer. The club would not be out of place in English or German non-league.

Good grab for Russian non-league | Dmitry Podrubniy/RFN

Roman went to the main stand after pre-match training and started to give autographs. It was incredible to see him up close because my love for football arose after Russia’s superb campaign at Euro 2008. And it is astonishing that kids between the ages of 6-10 loved him in Noginsk too. They didn’t even see him in the peak of his powers, but such is the pull of his name alone.

Session with Pav before kick-off | Dmitry Podrubniy/RFN

Roman scored a super goal at the 19th minute. And what can you wait from Super Pav? He went through two defenders and curled the ball into the left-hand corner. He was naturally slow-moving, but his superior quality was still there for all to see.

Action during the first half | Dmitry Podrubniy/RFN

In the second half, he was substituted for a Noginsk crowd favourite. Ilyas Zaziy, with a unique Caucasian name, with gloves, fur cap and pants. Spectators asked him for a goal many times and he duly responded with a late goal at the death.

Titan players had a solid defence, but they need some understanding between each other and gave into the home side’s mounting pressure. 550 visited the Avtomobilist Stadium. Cold temperature reduced the figures somewhat as over 1000 had attended each of his prior games here. Nevertheless, it is still a fantastic attendance for a Russian non-league game.

Pav substituted with full attention from fans | Dmitry Podrubniy/RFN

Old men behind me said that it’s more useful to attend such game than to watch Ural vs Krylia Sovetov on free TV. True enough. This is real football, with a real legend as the star.

Roman played a few pre-season matches for FC Ararat – a newly reborn club of Armenians who live in Moscow, and maybe Roman will continue his new non-league career but for now, this still stands as the last competitive goal of his career.

Irregardless, we can say with all confidence – he is still Super Pav!


Author: Dmitriy Podrubniy

I write about English non-league in Russian and about Russian non-league in English. Histon FC fan from Russia. Spartak Moscow fan. Geography/ecology student.

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