All posts by Futbolgrad

Gazovik Orenburg – Taking the First National League by Storm

Gazovik Orenburg – Taking the First National League by Storm

Gazovik Orenburg are currently leading Russia’s second division, the Football National League. Twenty games into the season Gazovik is two points ahead of Tom Tomsk and seven points ahead of third place Arsenal Tula. The first two spots guarantee direct promotion to the Russian Football Premier League, whereas the third and fourth placed teams go into a promotion/relegation playoff.

Arsenal Tula were relegated last season, whereas Tom Tomsk narrowly missed promotion after losing their promotion/relegation playoff matchup against Ural Yekaterinburg. Before this season kicked off both clubs were considered as likely promotion candidates for this season. Another candidate was FC Tosno—located in the Leningrad oblast, many journalists and football fans were hoping that the club could finally provide Zenit Saint Petersburg with a local rival—but Tosno has had a tough season so far, and is currently in 17th place, and in the relegation zone to the Professional Football League—Russia’s third division.

But Gazovik Orenburg has taken the FNL by storm so far, and as’s Anton Mikhashenok writes, much of Gazovik’s success comes down to the fact that Orenburg have one of the most “stylish coaches not just in the Football National League, but indeed in all of Russian football” in the former FC KAMAZ Naberezhnye Chelny player Robert Yevdokimov.

The 45-year-old Yevdokimov has Gazovik playing in a tactical formation that switches between 4-3-3 and 4-4-2, and his approach is to set up a game so that in the final stage of the attack the team has several options to score goals. Yevdokimov states that: “my job is to tell players what to do to get inside the penalty box, but inside the penalty box it is up to individual players and their skills to create goals.” Gazovik also avoids the possession game; against Spartak-2 for example Gazovik’s possession was 36%, as the Yevdokimov has its players set up for quick counter attacks.

While Yevdokimov leads the Gazovik revolution that will hopefully result in the club’s promotion in the spring, Gazovik’s management is working hard to bring the club’s infrastructure to the level required to compete in the Russian Premier League. Currently Gazovik are competing in the small but stylish Gazovik Stadium. The stadium has been recently expanded to hold 10,500 fans, and whilst still small it would meet requirements set forth by the Russian Premier League.

Furthermore, Gazovik are owned by Gazprom’s subsidiary company LLC Gazprom-Orenburg, which owns several operations in the Orenburg oblast including Europe’s largest gas refinery, and has made steady investments into the infrastructure of the club with the goal to reach promotion to the Premier League.

Travel times, and logistics make the FNL the world’s toughest football league, and Yevdokimov’s job will now be to stabilize Gazovik’s position, and to hold on to the seven-point lead throughout the spring to secure Orenburg’s promotion to the Russian Premier League. The last two years Gazovik narrowly lost out on the promotion playoffs as the club finished fifth in 2014, and 2015. Back then, however, the Russian Premier League was not part of the club’s expectations as Gazovik still lacked the necessary infrastructure required by the Premier League. But with the recent stadium expansion completed, Gazprom will expect that Yevdokimov can deliver another top division club to the Gazprom family.

By Manuel Veth –

Ukraine – Metalurh Zaporizhya on Life Support

Ukraine – Metalurh Zaporizhya on Life Support

The never-ending saga at Metalurh Zaporizhya continues. In early October Futbolgrad reported that following the decision of the club’s ownership to stop financing the club, the Ukrainian Premier League was reduced to thirteen teams.

These reports proved premature, as despite the lack of financial resources, Metalurh is still taking part in the competition. But players and coaching staff haven’t been paid in months, and for several weeks there was not even any hot water at the training base and the use of electricity was severely restricted, as the club’s president Andriy Shevchuk revealed. Nevertheless, the players continue to train and prepare for matches, even though they’re not even sure if the club currently has any leadership to speak of.

Metalurh’s form since their financing was cut off has been abysmal. They have lost four matches in a row, having conceded thirteen goals and scored just three. Their poor performances have raised suspicions of match fixing, a widespread problem in Ukrainian football. Bookmakers refused to accept bets for Metalurh’s match against Karpaty Lviv, and the head of the international anti-match fixing organization Federbet said that there were suspicious betting patterns observed during their 5-2 defeat to Chornomorets.

These allegations have led to an internal conflict among the players. Ihor Hataullin, a member of the executive committee of the Football Federation of Ukraine, said that some Metalurh players accused defender Vitality Lysytskyi of involvement in match fixing.

Lysytskyi himself later confirmed these reports, telling the television program Profutbol: “At a team meeting the young players led by [midfielder Valerian] Gvilia said that I threw the match against Chornomorets. They explained this by saying that their friends called and told them. I replied that I’m ready to take a lie detector test, but they should pay for it if I’m proved correct. I also want 5-6 young players to take the test, as well as certain coaches.”

Metalurh’s veteran goalkeeper Maksym Startsev has come out in support of Lysytskyi. He told Profutbol: “I’ve known Lysytskyi for a long time. I know his human qualities and I do not believe that he could participate in fixed matches. I’ve made my decision. I support Lysytskyi one hundred percent. If he’s not on the pitch, I also refuse to play for Metalurh.”

The club is being kept alive largely due to the efforts of the local football federation, who have set up a committee dedicated to helping with day-to-day operations, organizing away trips, and handling communications. Clearly the city of Zaporizhya is not indifferent toward the fate of their only club.

The current situation, however, is not sustainable. The vice president of the Zaporizhya football federation has announced that they have enough resources to keep the club operational until December 5, when the Ukrainian Premier League begins its extended break until late February. “The current activities of [the local federation] are an emergency plan that provides hope, but it cannot continue forever,” he told Sport Arena

It appears that Metalurh have been given a lifeline in the form of steel maker Zaporizhstal, who have expressed a willingness to invest in the club. It could be the only way to save Metalurh, but it is important to point out that the company is a subsidiary of Metinvest—one of the holding companies of oligarch and Shakhtar Donetsk owner Rinat Akhmetov.

This is clearly a conflict of interest, but the phenomenon of oligarchs with stakes in multiple clubs in hardly unprecedented in Ukrainian football, and in the post-Soviet sphere as a whole. Illichivets Mariupol, who were relegated last season in controversial circumstances, are also a Metinvest company, and as a result Illichivets had a reputation as a Shakhtar farm team, not unlike the relationship between Hoverla Uzhhorod and Dynamo Kyiv.

Now it seems that Shakhtar are interested in replacing Illichivets with Metalurh, and the fact that the only way to save a struggling, historic club is to turn them into a farm team for a powerful, wealthy one is a sad indictment of the state of Ukrainian football.

By Vadim Furmanov –

Lazar Carević – The Latest Balkan Treasure

Lazar Carević – The Latest Balkan Treasure

Standing at 1.95m, Lazar Carević is an impressive member of his team OFK Grbalj and Montenegro’s U-21 national side.

Another Balkan treasure, Carević, at only 16 years of age, has already alerted many of Europe’s top clubs, who will be keeping a close watch on the Montenegrin during the international break.

Montenegro are taking on Latvia on Friday afternoon in Podgorica and, for this event, Lazar Carević will be one of the youngest stars on coach Radonjić’s team.

Lazar Carević has been a consistent part of his nation’s youth selections, and he was named the best young player in the south region in 2013. Going from strength to strength, this young paragon stepped into the spotlight this season throughout his 11 appearances for the club.

Praised for his ability, Carević is one of the hottest properties in Montenegrin football, and it no wonder that big clubs are already vying for his signature. Not only commanding in his area, Lazar Carević is also excellent in one-on-ones.

He is a highly vigilant shot stopper who likes to be involved in play, much like one of the world’s best—Manuel Neuer.

Carević is being tested across Europe, and has already had trials at Ajax Amsterdam and FC Barcelona respectively, but Bayern Munich also have joined the chase for this highly-rated starlet.

Carević was photographed at Bayern’s training ground by the German media outlet Bild; reports have since suggested that the 16-year-old was offered a trial by none other than Pep Guardiola, who could hold the key to a bright future for the youngster.

The Spanish mastermind is a close friend of Carević’s agent, the former Yugoslav handball international Damir Radoncic, who became friends with Guardiola during his time at Qatari powerhouse Al-Ahli. Pep Guardiola personally visited Montenegro on more than one occasion in order to see the Grbalj sensation in action. Impressed with what he saw, Guardiola invited the young goalkeeper to visit Munich and have a couple of sessions with the Bayern squad.

Lazar Carević was reportedly first spotted in August, during an Under-17 match between Austria and Montenegro. Carević’s team were beaten in the International Youth ToTo Cup, having suffered three defeats to Switzerland (5-0), Austria (1-0) and Russia (5-0), respectively.

Despite the fact his team was unable to make an impression in the tournament, Lazar Carević attracted several suitors who were impressed with his physical and mental abilities.

Although, according to, Barcelona are willing to step up their efforts in their pursuit of the talented keeper, Bayern, however, are believed to have the advantage over all other interested parties.

By Miloš Marković –