Football (soccer) is the most popular sport in Uralica on the whole, and the most popular sport in all but two Uralican counties. (It comes second to Nordic skiing in Nenetsia-North Uralica and third behind Nordic skiing and bandy in Sapmi.)
Football has had a foothold in the southern half of Uralica since the days of the Russian Empire. Larger cities such as Yekaterinburg, Perm', Cherepovets, and Vologda, have had clubs participating professionally for decades. Although football in Russia dates back to the days of the Russian Empire, though, the oldest teams in Uralica, such as Dinamo Kirov (founded as Dinamo Vyatka in 1923) and Dinamo Vologda (founded in 1926), date back to the beginning of the Communist Era.
Uralica-Area Clubs In USSR, 1936-1991 Edit
The first team from the region now making up Uralica to reach the highest level of Soviet football, the Vysshaya Liga, was ODO Sverdlovsk (that is, Yekaterinburg) in 1956, although they went right back down, and there were no teams from that region to be seen until another Yekaterinburg team went up to the VL in 1969 - it actually changed its name from UralMash Sverdlovsk to FC Ural Sverdlovsk Oblast (they still exist as Ural Yekaterinburg). They too were a one-season wonder. No future Uralican team would ever play in the Soviet Vysshaya Liga again, although UralMash Yekaterinburg would have had the league continued the following season, having finished third in the final installment of the Pervaya Liga.
It was in the third level of Russian football, the Vtoraya Liga, that most teams in the region that would become Uralica would cut their trade. The most noteworthy teams from that group were UralMash/FC Ural (won in 1973 and 1990), Zvezda Perm' (who dissolved in 1997 in the Russian system after winning in 1978 and 1987), and Dinamo Kirov (who won in 1981).
The Russian System, 1992-1997 Edit
Of course, even though UralMash did not enter the Soviet Vysshaya Liga, they did get the opportunity to enter the first installation of the Russian Premier League in 1992, finishing ninth, and being a constant presence in the league until their relegation until 1996.
But it was in this new Russian system that the groundwork for the Uralican system would begin to be laid. Even in the Pervaya Liga, one began to see teams that would eventually become household names in the Uralic state. In 1992, in spite of Dinamo Kirov crashing out with a last-place finish in their zones, Zvezda Perm', Dinamo Vologda, Uralets Nizhny Tagil, Druzhba Yoshkar-Ola, and Svetotekhnika Saransk all competed and stayed afloat.
However, the Russian system underwent a restructuring after the 1993 season, which proved to be a killjoy for many of these teams, particularly Zenit Izhevsk, who finished dead last in their zone. In 1994, Zvezda Perm' was relegated, leaving UralMash to carry the torch in the upper levels.
Enter Gazovik-GazProm Izhevsk. Surging from the ranks of the amateur, they won the Vtoraya Liga Centre Group in only their second season in the league (1995), having debuted as a pro team in 1991. They very nearly went right up off promotion, missing the Premier League by three points.
In 1997, football fans in Russia got their first glimpses of Amkar Perm' (founded in 1993), and (to less fanfare) Energiya Chaykovsky. The upper levels weren't quite so good for future Uralicans, though, as GG Izhevsk finished a disappointing twelfth and UralMash was relegated.
The Russian System, 1998-2005 Edit
In 1998, the Russian football system underwent another significant change, expanding its Second division to five groups. Gazovik-GazProm stubbornly stuck in the First Division, finishing a slightly-improved ninth. Sadly, many teams in the region, including Zvezda Perm', were dissolved in these years. But a group of rising upstart teams from the area would jump into their place, starting with Amkar Perm' in 1999, who finished 6th place in the Pervaya Liga, then repeated in 2000. Severstal Cherepovets was promoted into the Pervaya the same season but backed out for financial reasons, while Svetotekhnika made an unsuccessful playoff bid. In 2001, Svetotekhnika and UralMash both reached the promotion playoffs, but were unsuccessful. But the 2002 changes to the league system would see Svetotekhnika promoted to the First Division, where they would change their name to Lisma-Mordovia Saransk. (Sound familiar? More on that later.) UralMash went up as well and changed their name to Ural Yekaterinburg.
2003 was a year of victory and downfall for teams in the area. Amkar Perm' won a heated end-of-season rush to make the Russian Premier League by a single point. On the flip side, though, Gazovik GazProm barely survived, finishing seventeenth, and Ural went back down to the Vtoraya. Speaking of the Vtoraya, Dinamo Vologda finished second in its group, 20 points back of first, but still, its best finish in the Russian years.
2004 saw both Gazovik-GazProm and Lisma-Mordovia drop out of the Pervaya, however Ural Yekaterinburg went back up. In 2005, Amkar (in the RPL) and Ural (in the Vtoraya) both stayed up, and Lisma-Mordovia merged with a smaller team (Biokhimik-Mordovia) to form Mordovia Saransk.
2006-Early 2008: The Dark Ages Edit
The Cataclysm threw a wrench in everything, forcing many of the world's great football clubs to start from scratch. But for some clubs, this was a blessing in disguise. Karelia Petrozavodsk (as it was then known) was now able to go toe-to-toe with some of the area's giants, most notably Zenit Peterburg, without fear of humiliation.
After the dust settled, and the Robertian Era came about, many clubs reverted to playing in regional leagues. For teams like Mordovia Saransk and Soyuz-Gazprom Izhevsk, this meant a very full trophy case. Others, like Dinamo Vologda and Sheksna Cherepovets, or Dinamo Kirov and Spartak Yoshkar-Ola, struck up epic rivalries.
But not a whole lot is known about this period, except that it was in this time that football clubs began springing up all over the previously footy-desolate North Ural region.
Foundation of the UPL and UJPL Edit
The foundation and growth of Uralica necessitated a football organisation, according to sport-crazy Jarkko Salomäki and proud uncle Ovdey Shlomov, whose nephew Khavkuk was an up-and-comer within Dinamo Kirov's academy.
On 20 March 2008, Salomäki, Hungarian football pundit Attila Farkas, and the board members of six clubs (only Dinamo Kirov existed before 2007, with the other five being Sikkivukarin Palloseura, FK Syktyvkar, Telekom Pazhga, FK Kotlas, and Mashinostroitel Kirov) met and ratified the charter of the Uralikan Palloliitto.
The number of teams was 36 by the beginning of May, ranging all over the board in terms of skill. After three weeks of debate, they organised a simple three-tier league. Called the Uralikan Jalkapalloliiga, it was originally going to have the levels named the Mestariliiga, Ykkönen, and Kakkonen. However, Sheldomar Bolak's retirement from the office of CCC Chancellor after a year of service, and the subsequent renaming of the country's largest company into Bolak Corp., meant that the name would eventually become the Bolakliiga.
Unfortunately, in 2008, only the Bolakliiga actually played, because of Uralica's shocking expansion coaxing more clubs into the fold. "The Original Twelve" included only two pre-existing teams (Dinamo Kirov and then little-known Zavod Ural Solikamsk) and ten teams that had formed either from nothing or out of mergers.
National Team and UJPL Expansions Edit
See also: Uralican men's national football team
Uralica fielded its first national team against Neo-British nation IGP Warriors on their home pitch in July of 2008, winning quite comfortably. However, the big break for the national team was making it all the way to the semifinals of the 2009 FIFOB Alliance Cup, where they lost a heartbreaker against Transvaal in a penalty shootout. Uralica's women's team debuted against Irlande in a 3-3 draw in early 2009, with their first win (2-1) coming later that year against Elisabethan.
Because of Uralica's rapid growth, the UJPL had to expand quickly as well, which started by making the Kakkonen a 2-division league in 2009, then adding a Kolmonen and Nelonen in 2010. Since Uralica has maxed out, it has added all the teams in the area from the old Russian system that still existed, and has purposely seeded new clubs as well. Probably the biggest success story outside of SiPS in this regard is Telekom Pazhga.
More Recent Developments Edit
Uralica is considered a power in world football because of its activeness. It has yet to have fallen out of the World Top 100 in football, with its lowest rank being 85th upon official commencing of sanctioned internationals. Club-wise, it is debated between three things as to what Uralica's footballing program is best known for:
- Sikkivukarin Palloseura's performance in Liga Mundo
- Zavod Ural Solikamsk's performance in the Siberian Trophy competition
- Uralica's performance internationally.
Still, most world footy pundits agree that Uralica is not a nation to be taken lightly.
- Uralikan Jalkapalloliiga
- Uralikan Amatöörien Cup
- Uralikan Naisien Jalkapalloliiga
- Kakkonen (East and West)
- Kolmonen (8 regional divisions)
- Guznishcheva Kubok
- Northern Lights Plate (for amateur women's clubs)
Team Naming Practices Edit
Uralican teams have a vast number of different names, although many of them are based on names used in the old Russian and even Soviet systems.
The most common name is simply FK (Fudbalsky Klub) - or any of its translations, which include JK (Jalkapalloklubi or Jalgpallklubi), LK (Labdarúgás Klub), and FC (Football Club) - with the name of the city. Since the Finnish language has three other rough translations of "football club," these are used as well. "Palloklubi," "Palloseura," and "Pallokerho" are all found in Uralica.
Numerous names exist from the old Soviet sporting societies, with the most common ones being Dinamo and Spartak. Many other names date back to those days, such as Torpedo, Sokol, and Zenit. Others, like Burevestnik, Progress, Velocitas, and the like, are more recent.
Also like the Soviet Union and Russia, the armed forces have their own clubs. CSKA (Tsentralny Sport Klub Armija) is very common, as is the very Uralican CSKVC (Tsentralny Sport Klub Voyennovoduzhnykh Tsil) - the Uralican dialect name for the clubs representing Uralica's vaunted air force.
Another Russian habit Uralica picked up on was the naming of teams according to occupation.
- Gornyak - mining (there is another analogous word, "Shakhtyor," but surprisingly, that is seldom used in Uralica.)
- Energiya - energy business
- Zavod - manufacturing
- Metallurg or Metallist - metallurgy
- Zheleznik - either railworking or ironworking
- Serebrennik - silver mining/smelting
- Khimik - chemistry
- Neftyanik - oil and petroleum products
- Neftekhimik - petrochemical production
- Tsementnik - cement/concrete production
- Stal - steelmaking
- Transit - trainbuilding, bus-building, etc.
- Gruzchiky - trucking
- Promyshlennik - general industry
- Mashinostroitel or Mashinist - machine-construction
- Tekstilshchik - textile/clothing production
- Pshenitsa - wheat-farming (only one currently exists in Uralica's league system, this being Pshenitsa Kudymkar)
- Lesnik - ranger
- Bumazhnik - pulp and paper production
Likewise, there are also many teams that take their names from companies. The highest-level of these include Zavod Ural Solikamsk, Metafraks Gubakha, Amkar Perm', Turan Ukhta, Severstal Cherepovets, and TvinkiZavod Chaykovsky.
Yet another Russian habit is that of taking names from a region or nearby geographical feature, and there are plenty of these in Uralica, with Udmurtiya Izhevsk, Ural Yekaterinburg, Mordovia Saransk, Sever Murmansk, Sysola Syktyvkar, and Kannas FK Viipuri being just some of the better-known examples. The Ural Mountains in particular have many teams named after them.
A decidedly Uralican twist on this is the team named after ethnicity. Uralicans will not hesitate to flaunt their multiculturalism even in their football team names. The concept of the "tribal team" was introduced almost right away, with most of the original Tribes as well as the Hungarians getting Kakkonen-based teams. But this has expanded outside the league and also now includes Chuvash (Chŏvash Ulatŏr), Tatar (Neftçi Ägerce), and Bashkir (the Uralikskiye Bashkirye society has already put UB Chernushka in the league system) teams.