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The Origins Of Dinamo Moscow

Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy - British Council
 This article was generously provided to ClubFootball by the British Council, which operates in China as the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy.

 

An English textile boss who was a Blackburn Rovers fan introduced football to workers in Moscow in 1887 and then his cunning brother gained official permission from the local governor for the game to be played. Ben Lyttleton reports.
 
In 1887, Clement Charnock, the English owner of several textile mills around Moscow, decided he had to do something about his employees' habit of spending their days off drinking themselves into a vodka-induced stupor. The answer, he decided, was football - especially as rugby had been banned in 1886 by Tsarist authorities as 'too violent' after it was introduced to Russia by a Scot called Hopper in the early 1880s.
 
So Charnock gathered a crowd of his workers, and before their amazed eyes, inflated a ball, and kicked it into the air. "When it came down with a thud and bounced high again," the Foreign Office agent Bruce Lockhart reported, "the workers ran away."
 
Charnock, though, persisted: he imported shirts and shorts in the colours of his beloved Blackburn Rovers and had a pitch marked out. The locals, though, remained unsure, and after a year of fruitlessly trying to stimulate their interest, Charnock gave up. Elsewhere, though, the game began to take off. British and German communities formed clubs in St Petersburg in 1894, and three years later Sport, the first Russian club, was founded in the city. The Charnocks, though, weren't finished.
 
Clement may have been disillusioned, but his younger brother Harry made another effort to introduce football and after advertising for British players, their club began to expand - until that is, a local conservative sect of the Orthodox church, known as the Old Believers, decided that football, and the naked knees it entailed, were immoral.
 
So Charnock went to the top and appealed to the Governor of the local provincial capital of Vladimir, for permission to found a club. "What is football?" the Governor asked. "A game played by 22 players, divided equally, to obtain possession of an inflated rubber and leather sphere, and each striving to drive it through posts fixed at the ends of a playing field," Charnock replied.
 
The Governor initially dismissed this as "stupid", until Charnock produced a photograph of the German Crown Prince playing in a game on the Templehof field in Berlin. "As Your Excellency knows," Charnock reportedly said, "he is a cousin of our gracious ruler the Tsar." And so the Orekhovo Sports Club (KSO) was formed.
 
Fielding a mix of Russian and English players - including three Charnock brothers - and still funded by the factory, KSO won the first four Moscow championships. After the Revolution, they would be taken over by the secret police, and renamed Dinamo Moscow.
 
In 1912, the All-Russia Football Union was established, with the aim of standardising rules across the country. In the autumn of that year a national championship was organised involving teams from St Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev, Kharkov and Odessa - none of whom were allowed to field more than three English players.
 
The standard still wasn't great - in 1910 a team of diverse English professional won three tour games, rattling up 31 goals without reply, and four years later a London University XI won three and drew one on a four-game tour - but football was up and running, and, as in so many places, the English were the instigators.

 

 

Ben Lyttleton, March 2004

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