Insights into St Petersburg

Broadcast from the City of the Dead

May 31, 1942. Dynamo stadium. Dynamo play against N-sky factory, 6:0
Dynamo players: V. Nabutov, M. Atyushin, V. Fedorov, A. Alov, K. Sazonov, V. Ivanov, B. Oreshkin E. Ulitin, A. Fedorov, A. Viktorov, G. Moskovtsev.
N-sky factory team: I. Kurenkov, A. Fesenko, G. Medvedev, A. Mishchuk, A. Zyablikov, A. Lebedev, N. Gorelkin, N. Smirnov, I. Smirnov, P. Gorbachev, V. Losev.
National category referee: P. Pavlov.

Greetings, my dear football aficionados!

In a recent broadcast, Berlin radio mentioned that "the city lives on borrowed time and is about to fall at our feet like an over-ripe fruit". Well, here is a message for the Nazi Germans, "a broadcast from Leningrad on air".

Today is 31st May, Sunday. The day is unusually warm and pleasant: streets and avenues of the city on the Neva are all in sunlight. Young people are spending their time walking in the parks and squares. We can see the first cyclists; trams welcome them by ringing the bell. On Krestovsky island, Baltic sailors are having a lifeboat race. Today is the first day of the Leningrad Spartakiada Games.

Our microphone is set at the edge of the field of one of the city's stadiums, where the Dynamo sports team is having a friendly football game against the team of one of the city factories.

00:00The teams are coming out on the field. The factory team is missing some players, we can only see ten. Among them there is no regular goalkeeper, but there is a bandy player Nikholay Gorelkin. Dynamo lends their second goalkeeper Ivan Smirnov to the rivals. Will he become a Trojan horse? Meanwhile, Nikolay Kurenkov will keep the goal for Dynamo. Balance of power is not in favour of the factory team for sure. However, I would not hurry to assume the militia team, Dynamo, will win. Some games have surprising outcomes ... In the meantime, the audience welcomes their favourite Dynamo players including goalkeeper Viktor Nabutov, midfielder Valentin Fedorov, and a forward, Arcady Alov. Referee Pavlov blows the whistle and the game begins!
03:00We mostly see short balls, but the situation on the field gradually becomes more intense. The first attempts to score come from the factory team. They skillfully keep the ball away from the Dynamo players, and now we see the first dangerous situation for the militia team. Wow! Who would have thought? The factory team players, worn down from the 12-hour shifts, are actually very energetic. Nabutov catches the ball.
06:30The factory workers continue to attack, Nabutov keeps up the resistance by the skin of his teeth.
08:00GOAL! ALOV! What a well-placed shot! Dynamo scores first, 1:0. What can I say? Class and training of the militia team definitely shows.
09:00Dynamo gets the upper hand; attack after attack hits on the goal posts of the opponents. Players of both teams suffer from muscle cramps: they stop and massage their calves and feet, but no one leaves the field. Dynamo continues its attempts to score another goal. A corner kick to the goal? of the factory team will follow. Anatoly Mishchuk takes the ball on his head, but the ball ... the ball knocks him down. Whistle! .. Mishchuk cannot get up. "Go get some rest!" his teammates urge him, but Mishchuk stands up on his own, he will not leave the field. So determined, even though it has only been two days since he was discharged from the hospital where he was placed with a diagnosis of acute dystrophy.
12:15GOAL! IT’S ALOV AGAIN! Alov demonstrates a perfect game and scores a double. By the way, the factory team plays in the Dynamo uniform. In the blockaded city you cannot get any new uniform anywhere.
15:403:0!
16.00The referee, Pavlov, gives a verbal warning to the player who sends the ball out. Potatoes are planted around the stadium, there is high risk of damage to the crops.
21.30GOAL! SAZANOV! Right winger Konstantin Sazanov scores the fourth into the goal of the factory team. Dynamo weave their famous "Neva lace": thanks to their technical passes the militia team dominates the field almost completely and leaves little chance for the opponents to win the ball. Fans start to go wild.
30:00The first half lasts only thirty minutes: anyone who knows the situation in the city, understands what these thirty minutes are like for the players. Referee Pavlov offers to take a break, but both teams would rather continue. The match will be continued any minute now. I should say that today’s game takes place on the reserve field. A bombshell recently fell on the Dynamo home stadium and the other stadiums are now used for growing vegetables.
31:00In the second half, Dynamo continues to attack. And it looks like the factory team has nothing to fight back with. Dynamo midfielder Valentin Fedorov messes up a perfect moment: the ball misses the goal. “What a muff!” shouts a girl in the military uniform, probably from antiaircraft troops. Not so many fans today, about a few dozen, but the intensity of emotion makes it seem like the whole of Leningrad is here. Only the city of the three revolutions can produce such an emotionally charged atmosphere!
34:00Sirens! An air raid! German air raid! Referee Pavlov blows the whistle; the game must be stopped at once. "Take cover!" urges the referee. But neither the players, nor the fans leave the field. "We are not going anywhere," say the players. The referee blows the whistle to resume the match. Flashes from exploding shells can be seen just a hundred metres from the stadium, but no one pays any attention. The game continues literally on the firing line.
37:00It seems the players of the factory team finally see how the land lies. Dynamo find it harder to go on in their attacks: the ball gets stuck with the defense of the rival team. Defenders Zyablikov and Medvedev play tough, very dynamic.
42:305:0. Dynamo puts the squeeze on the rivals. The first game of the season, and such intensity!
54:00GOAL! 6:0. Dynamo players are the true masters of the ball. By the way, the militia team players are smoothly shaved and trimmed. Dynamo sticks to the rule that a game that is like a celebration, when everyone must look their best.
57:30Red Army commanders walk past the stadium. Demonstration fights just ended, I am told. Spartakiada already had the competitions in running, javelin throw, and high jump. Spartacus volleyball team held their first practice.
60:00There goes the whistle! Game over! A little shaky, the players return to the locker room. They walk arm in arm: everyone rushes to support a comrade. No substitutions took place. Players struggled to the end. Today we have a sports holiday in Leningrad! See you next time, my friends. Remember, the enemy will be defeated, victory will be ours!

“Grass, this is what was most outstanding for me. No matter what happens in the world, nature follows its way. So do people. Here we are, playing football, as usual ... in May, only the ball seemed much heavier. Kicking it was not as easy as before, and the distance it covered was significantly less. After the game I was slightly limping, muscles hurt like hell, but it meant nothing compared to what we all felt. We understood that there is something more to the game than we used to think before. We were taken away from the front line. We left our units rifles, guns, and daggers, but now it seemed we had a new weapon. This very ball, an old ball that shows the real character of a Leningrad citizen and his contempt for the enemy." An abstract from a documentary story by A. Kiknadze "The half that lasted so long".”
From the interview with Boris Oreshkin, a Dynamo midfielder

According to historians, no live broadcast of the match could be made during the siege. Live broadcasts of sports events were not characteristic of those times in the first place. Secondly, such broadcasts could have put the lives of players and the audience in danger by giving the Germans information on a crowded place to bomb. The coverage about the game was broadcast on Leningrad radio by German Austrian Communist Fritz Fuchs who worked for the Leningrad radio. Short notes about the match appeared in the newspaper Smena on 3rd June, Leningradskaya Pravda on 2nd June, and Komsomolskaya Pravda also on 2nd June. A photograph of a TASS correspondent Boris Vasiutynski was published with the notes. This photo was later reproduced on the monument to the besieged footballers, erected at the Dynamo stadium in 2012. Newspaper reports said that the match was held between the teams Dynamo made up of the militia and NKVD officers, and a team of "N-sky factory", an acronym which, according to martial law, encrypts the name of Leningrad Metal Plant named after Stalin, and which later was known as LMZ and today is the branch of the OJSC Power Machines. Before the war, the factory produced hydraulic turbines, and during the siege made shells, mines, and spare parts for tanks. By the way, the LMZ team Stalinets in 1936 became the famous Zenit. Not surprisingly, most players on the factory team in the game were those that played on the Zenit team. Two of the players, Ivan Kurenkov and Nikolay Smirnov, won the USSR Cup in 1944, the first major trophy in Zenit history.

The return game was played on 7th June 1942 and ended in a draw, 2:2. In 1943, Leningrad hosted the football championship. The first two games during the siege showed the world that Soviet Russia could repulse the enemy not only on the battlefield, but also in the ideological war: information on the match held in the city that had just survived the terrible winter of 1942 became a loaded answer to Hitler's propaganda which sought to demoralize the Red Army and the civilian population of the USSR.