In Local Courtyards, a Glimpse of Russian Football

In a courtyard in Balashikha, a town near Moscow, the rules are strict: Show up late to the game, and you’ll have to watch from the sidelines.

In a courtyard in Balashikha, a town near Moscow, the rules are strict: Show up late to the game, and you’ll have to watch from the sidelines.

Pavel Zelenkov / MT

The leader of the game can ask his friends to do almost everything he wants and it will be done – even if he asks them to tie his shoelaces.

The leader of the game can ask his friends to do almost everything he wants and it will be done – even if he asks them to tie his shoelaces.

Pavel Zelenkov / MT

In the winter, many courtyard football pitches are turned into ice rinks. But now, with temperatures nearing 30 degrees Celsius, players are looking to stay cool.

In the winter, many courtyard football pitches are turned into ice rinks. But now, with temperatures nearing 30 degrees Celsius, players are looking to stay cool.

Pavel Zelenkov / MT

Despite the summer heat, these players in the neighborhood between the Aeroport and Dynamo metro stations prefer to play the game in their blue jeans.

Despite the summer heat, these players in the neighborhood between the Aeroport and Dynamo metro stations prefer to play the game in their blue jeans.

Pavel Zelenkov / MT

Even the goalkeeper doesn’t wear special gear in this courtyard near the Aeroport Metro.

Even the goalkeeper doesn’t wear special gear in this courtyard near the Aeroport Metro.

Pavel Zelenkov / MT

A group of boys abandon a football that’s been kicked around a few too many times.

A group of boys abandon a football that’s been kicked around a few too many times.

Pavel Zelenkov / MT

Young students scrimmage in the schoolyard while taking in the midsummer sun on a football pitch between the Tyoply Stan and Konkovo metros.

Young students scrimmage in the schoolyard while taking in the midsummer sun on a football pitch between the Tyoply Stan and Konkovo metros.

Pavel Zelenkov / MT

Some younger boys want to be professional football players when they grow up. Let’s see where they land in twenty years.

Some younger boys want to be professional football players when they grow up. Let’s see where they land in twenty years.

Pavel Zelenkov / MT

An apartment block looms between the Tyoply Stan and Konkovo metros at the edges of the city, a vivid remnant of Soviet construction.

An apartment block looms between the Tyoply Stan and Konkovo metros at the edges of the city, a vivid remnant of Soviet construction.

Pavel Zelenkov / MT

Some people play football even in the city center, near Metro Novokuznetskaya. Sometimes, adults need to rest after a long game.

Some people play football even in the city center, near Metro Novokuznetskaya. Sometimes, adults need to rest after a long game.

Pavel Zelenkov / MT

A boy walks away from his friends in a courtyard near Metro Dynamo after a squabble over who can take the football home after the game.

A boy walks away from his friends in a courtyard near Metro Dynamo after a squabble over who can take the football home after the game.

Pavel Zelenkov / MT

themoscowtimes.com