In Russia: why on earth doesn’t America seem to like soccer?

Posted by Dominic on Saturday, January 28th, 2006

We had a long flight out of London on Wednesday night. We changed planes in Moscow and headed out in our 1960’s era Russian jet about 1000 kilometers east to the city of Samara. As most of you know it’s really, really cold here in Russia at the moment. There were all kinds of records set last week but it has warmed slightly today (a relative term!) We had our first spin around town today and a mandatory stop was buying some long johns. I also picked up a sim card and established our local phone number here in Samara. For those who don’t know about it, if you have a GSM type cell phone you can by a SIM card and prepaid minutes in most places on earth these days. This means that for about 150 rubles or 5 dollars you can have a local phone number attached to the cell phone I brought from home. It sure is handy when I can put the cell into a taxi drivers hands and have our translator give driving instructions over the phone.

Samara is a bit far off the beaten path and until the early 90’s it was a closed city because the sensitive rocket and missile technology being developed here. It still produces many of Russia’s rockets that are used commercially by many countries including the US to send satellites and other goods into space. This city sits on the Volga river, one of the largest in Russia (maybe the largest?) It sure looks pretty but at the moment it’s solid ice, the summer must be nice here.

We had our first interviews tonight. We spoke with a Russian Orthodox priest and 4 young priests in training at the seminary. It was fascinating to hear about the changes in religions role in Russian society, from being banned to its current resurgence in prominence. We talked at length about the changes they’ve seen here, the McDonalds, the Nike store, etc. The older priest seemed concerned about the impact of “mass culture” (as he called it) on the future of Russia. He feels many traditional cultures face the same challenge of preserving their roots as societies become more homogeneous. One thing they felt very strongly about was why on earth doesn’t America really seem to like soccer that much???

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