Arena Khimki

Khimki is a dormitory suburb north of Moscow, known for airport-bound traffic snarl-ups and Russia’s first IKEA megastore. In the early 2000s, the local authorities decided to transform it into a sporting hub, investing heavily in the local basketball and football teams.

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Arena Khimki/Andy Potts

Part of that plan revolved around the construction of the 20,000-seater Arena Khimki, intended as Premier League venue for local team FC Khimki.

The stadium opened in 2008, just in time to catch Khimki’s fall from top-flight grace. The suburban team had punched above its weight for a while, but in a Moscow overspill community where most locals already followed one of the big-city teams, they always struggled for support. FC Khimki bade farewell to the Premier League with a home game against Siberian strugglers FC Tom Tomsk, in front of a miserable crowd of 419 in the shiny new stadium.

Help was at hand, though. Dynamo Moscow moved out of its traditional stadium in 2008, promising to return by 2012. In early 2015, their new arena was still a building site. Khimki was happy to host, and then added CSKA to its tenants when the Army Men decided to abandon the vast expanses of the national Luzhniki – except for Champions League games.

In August 2016, after years of delays, CSKA opened their own Arena, leaving only Dynamo as regular tenants.

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Arena Khimki/András Fekete

Groundhoppers keen to tick off the Arena Khimki on the cheap might also look out for Russian under-21 internationals, often played here and usually free to get into.

FC Khimki themselves play on, usually holding Division 2 (West) games at the picturesque Rodina Stadium, dominated by the dome of a nearby church. The club website or for the Russian Professional Football League should provide basic fixture information the day before the match.

Unlike most Russian stadiums, there’s no running track here – it has the compact feel of an English league ground belonging to an ambitious Championship team, and views of the pitch are generally decent from any section.

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Khimki transport/András Fekete

Transport

The easiest route is from Moscow’s Leningradsky station (Komsomolskaya metro) or Petrovsko-Razumovskaya (same metro station) to Khimki. The ride takes 25-40min, singles 52.50r. There are ticket machines, in Cyrillic script. Don’t discard the flimsy-looking piece of paper – you’ll need to scan the barcode at the turnstiles. See yandex.ru for the schedule – copy Москва-Химкирасписаниеэлектричекinto the search bar for upcoming scheduled departures.

The train is a run-of-the-mill commuter service, with hard seats and a whiff of stale beer and tobacco at each doorway. On matchdays, carriages are generally busy with fans, but on quieter trains you can expect to hear a busker serenade your journey, while itinerant vendors hawk an astonishing range of plastic tat.

From Khimki station, the stadium isn’t hard to find. For Moscow derbies, or when Zenit come to town, home and away fans are segregated. Usually, though, just head into the square outside, follow Moskovskaya ulitsa that leads directly from the station and turn left when you reach the inevitable statue of Lenin by the park. Devotees of synth-rock might like the ‘Depech Mode’ (sic) beauty salon; next door the new generation of Cold Warriors tones up in the CCCP Fitness Club.

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Arena Khimki tickets/Andy Potts

Tickets & shop

With CSKA moved out and Dynamo in the second flight for 2016-17, availability is not an issue.

The cheapest tickets are in the Aktivnaya Podderzhka (‘Active Support’) zones behind the goals (sector D for Dynamo). As the name suggests, these are home to the Ultras. European visitors will probably be greeted with curiosity rather than malice; visible ethnic minorities might think twice about heading here – the country’s reputation for racist fans is sadly not without justification.

The most expensive seats are in the main stand (sector A), which houses the press box and VIP facilities. Sector C opposite usually offers the best combination of good views and cheaper seats. Prices vary according to opposition – outside of the subsidised Ultra sections, you might pay 400r-800r ($6-$12) for Dynamo.

On matchdays, stalls set up on the concourse at main stand, selling hats, scarves and badges plus – at Dynamo games – blue-and-white ‘Order of Lenin’ flags. Dynamo also have outlets elsewhere.

See the Dynamo section for full details.

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Porky's Bar/Andy Potts

Bars

In Russia beer and football don’t really mix and it’s not unusual to find large dry zones around stadiums. In particular, local shops are barred from selling booze for a couple of hours before and after games.

In Khimki there is hope – sort of. The Citrus shopping centre opposite the station has a Porky’s Bar on its top floor that sells beer and shows NTV ‘Nash Futbol’, a cable channel devoted exclusively to the Russian League. That’s the good news. The bad news is that a pint of Guinness is 430r rubles (€7), probably explaining why the bar can be mysteriously deserted before kick-off. There’s a ’50s-style American diner in the same building, but weekends here fill with kids’ parties, helium balloons and cartoon characters, rather than football fans.

On the other side of the rail tracks from Khimki station – use the tunnel from the platform and turn right – is a Sport Bar of sorts, with unreliable opening hours.


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