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Knights of the Vine RUSSIA


From Journalist to Footballist
Text by Nick Rees

Usually journalists like to look scruffy, untidy, unkempt and undernourished and their team made sure that tradition was kept with, in its entirety. Whilst normally a team would have one strip and one color, The Moscow Times team looks as colorful as a rainbow seen through the eyes of an LSD addict.

Lundbeck United in their sparkling new kit

As with most things in life, if you look good and feel good, the results are usually not so bad! The Moscow Times team lost a lot more than they won.

Kit sponsorship eventually came via Antal International whose name they carried for a few years. A game against “Antal” would usually be a mixed one – they were strong, physical, organized and full of hope but there was always one ingredient missing.

The founding father of the team is a very pleasant American called Patrick Henry. Being a Brit myself, we normally laugh when American’s talk about “soccer” but Patrick can give as good as he gets. Without wanting to embarrass him (well, that’s not quite true), he really is a gentleman of his word and as the league managers got to know him, he grew on us like E.coli on a chunk of room-temperature Canadian beef.

As Patrick started to recruit more and more players and got new sponsorship from Lundbeck (a Scandinavian pharmaceutical company with operations in Moscow), their results started to improve. Patrick’s organizational skills, leadership and popularity eventually paid off as they brought in players like Umut Ala who’s one of the leading goal scorers in the league’s history. He does squeal a bit when anyone even pretends to tackle him but he’s a great guy and smiles like a grinning dog eating peanut butter off a wire brush.

Scoring goals helps win games but not if your opposition scores more than you and that, for many years, was their Achilles heel. Lundbeck often scored many goals but couldn’t keep the back door closed for long enough to win a game.

Scoring against them was a bit like the popular American tradition of fathers chasing kids around with power tools – everyone knows it’s wrong to do it but it just seems to happen.

Things started to improve dramatically when Patrick was joined in defense by the greatest goalkeeper to have ever come out of Canada – Mike McKinney. Mike’s a great keeper, always happy to have a good laugh but don’t try to mess with him when he’s got his keeper’s gloves on! Many men have tried and failed – if you’re going to run with the big dogs, you’d better learn how to pee in the tall grass.

Also in defense is the player with the least American name in the team – Sasha Gorlov. Ask any striker which player has got the sharpest elbows and they will give you the name of one person! Sasha’s now a good organizer of his defense and has turned them into a difficult team to beat. The previous team was probably as sharp as a bowling ball – now they are a ruthless, efficient and very effective unit and much credit must go to the perseverance of Patrick, Sasha and Mike.

Up front, Umut continued as the one man goal-scoring machine and was recently aided by the signing of a huge German-Brazilian (yes, imagine the combination!) called Andreas Toscano. To give him credit, he’s a real handful to try and stop and uses his 3 meter height to win everything in the air. He leaps like a salmon on cocaine and hangs in the air in much the same way that bricks don’t!

What was missing from their team for a long time was a quick midfield and Jens Hoyer’s addition more than made up for it. He’s faster than a record-breaking greyhound with a bee up his rear! His speed with the ball at his feet is a joy to watch and he’s had many a defender as confused as a moth on the Las Vegas Strip at midnight!

Andy Lewis, a fellow Welshman, adds the “fight” to the midfield and his main hobby is collecting yellow cards and leaving stud-marks on the back of the opposition’s legs. He’s good at it too! Alfonso Matta is a decent defender who also likes a good battle.

John Vandaele and Martin Olafsson are the creative box-tobox midfielders that seem to go on and on like Duracell Bunnies. Both are good with the ball at their feet and are unsung heroes for Lundbeck but, like typical Scandinavians, they hate to get their hair wet or kit dirty.

Alan McGregor used to be a regular but he’s broken three ankles and has the handicap of a Range Rover car tire strapped to his belly.

To date, Lundbeck are probably the best team never to have won anything in the league but if they continue to improve as they do, they will surely win something soon.

The league title is still in the balance but the Moscow Bhoys are on another great run. The Bhoys are 6 points ahead of the Cloggs and Lundbeck 9 behind. The rest need a miracle!

If you’re a reasonable expat footballer, interested in joining the league, aged 28 or over, please go to www.moscowfootball. com and click on the link. We have a new, 10th team starting up so there are opportunities for all!

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