This Is Russian Football Life…
By FirstDown PlayBook on Oct 3, 2018

Recently, we met Anton Voronin. Anton is a FirstDown PlayBook member and he contacted us with some questions about his playbook.

Anton is just like you and us. He is passionate about the game of football and he is still playing the game into his 30’s. The biggest difference? Anton plays football for the Tula Tarantula football team in Russia.

When we heard this we were totally intrigued and asked if Anton if he would sit down with us for a little Q&A session so that we could learn and share with you a little bit about football life in Russia. He graciously said yes and you will enjoy his passion and perspective as he explains Russian Football Life. FirstDown PlayBook has lightly modified some of the answers for translation purposes only.

FDPB: Football in Russia? Really? We don’t normally think about American football being a part of Russia.

ANTON: Yeah… tell me about it. 

The first thing you have to know – there is no professional football in Russia. No one is getting paid. We all play because we love it. No team has donations from the government (unless the team members are governmental people, but I only know of one case), there are no school or varsity teams\leagues. There are no basics. 

Government has a budget for sports development but they would not give us much as they prioritize Olympics sports first. They don’t really care if we want to give up bad habits, spend more time practicing…no one really needs it. They wouldn’t give us a football field inside the city to have our games (not even talking about practicing). So we pay our own money to rent the field to be able to play.

One thing we had from the Tula region government so far is free of charge time on a wooden floor basketball court 3 times a week for practice. We start Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 10 pm. I come back home at about 1 am and still have to wake up for work the very same morning…

Second, we always call it American Football, as people here would call soccer, football. This is too bad because of the current situation between our countries, the extra mentioning of America in social life doesn’t help much. 

For example, we once went out posting posters all around the city to get as many recruits as possible and one of the main targets was Pedagogical University in Tula. They said we can’t put a poster on the wall because it contained THE word American before football… 

Really???

FDPB: Please explain how your team and league started.

ANTON: The team was started 3 years ago in September 2015.

Although I’m a short guy, I was playing basketball all my life (non-pro). Thank God my father told me to stop dreaming of sports and do more studies. So after graduating from Moscow Law School, I went to France to study economics. Sports always helped me find new friends and was my way of socializing in the new environment. I played on both my RU and FR universities basketball teams. Although this is nothing like in the US, believe me. 

ANTON: Our League…

We knew there are teams in Russia but we didn’t know much about championships. Now we know there is a Russian Championship and Russian Cup Championship (like in soccer). But we are too green to enroll. These championships have their own problems, starting from the money (every team chips into play) and ending with the quality level and cultural aspects. 

In 2018 we took part in the BlackBowl open league for the first time. There were 4 teams in our group. 

We had about 26-27 people on the team when we started. We lost some to injury down the road,   including myself (starting QB) and we didn’t have any backup QB. This was a tough season ending for us. 

FDPB: What is it about American football that first attracted you coaches and players to the game?

ANTON: The first thing I liked is that you just can’t make any mistakes. It’s like an orchestra. Your team has to sound fine to get results. If one person is lagging – there is no gain. Chess on the field. 

Second – It’s a rough and tough sport. That’s why I’m here. I mean I’m not the strongest and the fastest person at my 33 years of age but I know some things. I have some skills and due to the fact that there is no any football school and all of the players come to all of the teams literally from anywhere, (including even if they never played any sport) you can be a rather good performing player compared to them.

FDPB: Who started this? You?

ANTON: So I’ve only seen football games couple of times on TV and when I became bored of playing basketball with people arguing if there was a foul or not, even on outdoor playgrounds, that’s when I decided that I wanted to do something tougher. You always need to speak your desires as God led me to a gym where I saw a poster announcing that there was a football team recruiting players. (with Brady’s picture on it….)

At that time it was me and 2 other guys who didn’t know shit about football. I was 30 years old when I started it. You can say I was one of the team founders and so far I am the Tarantula captain. 

Anton And His Teammates Must Overcome Many Obstacles To Even Practice The Game They Love

FDPB: Who are your coaches?

ANTON: To be honest we don’t really have one constant coach. For Russian teams, having a dedicated coach is a luxury. Remember, no one is paid. 

We do currently have a coach  – a Ukrainian refugee once came to see our practice. Coach Valeriy Bystrov is our coach ever since and he is playing MLB. (Apparently, Ukraine is a rather well-developed country football wise). But again. our coach is on the field and when we have games he can’t really contribute from the coaching point of view. 

This year we started using a coach consultant from Moscow Patriots. This team is rather famous in Russia. They are 13 times Ru champions. So, coach Alexey Skibin, ex-patriot, now occasionally (when not tied up with work) visits our practices and games to coach. 

FDPB: Do you have crowds that follow your games?

ANTON: No. Last home game there were about 40 people max. I’ve been to the Russian championship finals 4 weeks ago – it was about 200-300 people overall. 

FDPB: What offense do you run? Whose offense do you try to replicate? 

ANTON: We don’t really. Our playbook has a couple of run plays from the Eagles 80’s playbook mixed with a couple of plays from FirstDown PlayBook. This was just a starting point. The first season showed that we need to completely revisit it. 

We need to develop plays based on personnel. We currently have 33 players. I don’t know who’s going to be the TE next year. I don’t know if our backup QB, who has just started on this position (as I think I’m not going to QB this year due to elbow arthritis) will be good enough. I will move to WR position and cover that position. We first need to understand what our personnel can do and then we will be able to understand what to do.

FDPB: What defense do you run? Whose defense do you try to replicate? 

ANTON: Same situation on defense as I explained about offense.

FDPB: What American football do you watch?

ANTON: Me personally – I don’t have time to watch everything I want so when I have time (on a business travel mostly) I may watch the Carolina Panthers and different NCAA condensed games. 

As a team, we prefer to watch NCAA games as well.  

FDPB: Do you know how long ago people started playing football in Russia? Any idea about the rate that it is growing?

ANTON: I think first football game happened in the 80’s. I’ve read about it somewhere. I think Americans brought it and taught Russians. 

FDPB: Do you compete entirely inside of Russia or do you compete internationally?

ANTON: We can enroll for both anytime but again, right now we are too green to do it. Right now we are just interregional. 

FDPB: How did you find FirstDown PlayBook?

ANTON: Due to the fact that I’m using my English and interested in reading about football. I was scanning through playbook development tools. Just googled it. 

FDPB: How has it helped you and your team?

ANTON: FDPB is a very good tool. But even if you do have different complexity levels it’s a bit too mature for us. We just can’t pick ANY play and run it yet.

Although we had a chance to run Jet Sweep Z. We added to it and we now run the play Jet Sweep Z fake L34. We have had some very nice runs!

FDPB: Do you see this as a possible Olympic sport competition down the road?

ANTON: One day… So far it’s really hard to be a football player in Russia. And I’m not talking about just the physical aspect. We don’t even have equipment stores. We use second-hand helmets and \ or pads. Or someone will occasionally bring this from Europe or overseas. 

Then again – everyone has work/studies, families, obligations. 

My biggest headache is to gather people for practice. We often practice with 8-10 people overall…. How can you play football 8 people overall?? But I can’t do anything about it because players are not paid and I can’t tell them what to do…

Myself? I have shit loads of consulting work to do now and I’m always on the move. So even for me, the most dedicated person in this team – it’s always a challenge. 

This is Russian football life…

 

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