The end of Federation of American Football of Russia’s (FAFR) 2014 season saw the Moscow Patriots defeat the Astrakhan Gladiators 27-12 in Moscow. Now let’s take a look back at this season, which featured a record number of teams in the top division and saw a level of competitiveness that promises to deliver more exciting American Football action in Russia for years to come.
Division North, centered in the city of St. Petersburg, was once again dominated by the local St. Petersburg Griffins, as even the arrival of an ex-NFL Bobby Rome didn’t help their rival St. Petersburg Vikings push them for the title. The newcomer Petrozavodsk Gunners didn’t manage to win a game against either of the well-established teams of St. Petersburg, but showed a lot of promise as a young team with a good deal of local support and upside.
Division Center was dominated by the explosive Voronezh Mighty Ducks who averaged over 40 points a game at the divisional stage, but the division was competitive behind them. The Samara Stormbringers, Saratov Aviators and Pensa Phoenix all managed to win at least a game against each other, making their division one of the most competitive ones in Russia, which will hopefully continue to push all these teams further.
Division Volga, centered in Moscow, was the most crowded division with six teams battling for the three playoff spots. Only the rookie Yaroslavl Rebels went winless there, but they surprised everyone with a lot of resilience and organizational capacity for a team that was only formed a year ago. The eventual champion Moscow Patriots had no trouble with anyone except cross-town rival Moscow United, who also won all of their other games. So did the Nizhny Novgorod Raiders 52, who won all of their games except the two against the aforementioned teams from the capital, including against last-years champions Moscow Black Storm. The latter missed the playoffs together with the Nizhny Novgorod Broncos, with both teams losing out to their respective inter-city rivals.
Division South was won by one of the oldest teams in the country Astrakhan Gladiators, but the other two teams Volga Kites and Stavropol Stones both managed to stay competitive against them, while splitting their games with each other. With all of the teams receiving a lot of local support, this division appears to be on the road to producing some quality football in the near future.
The Division East, based in the Ural mountains, saw fierce competition as well. The winner was only decided with a point-differential tie-breaker between three teams, the Ozersk Ural Hunters (the eventual winner), Ekaterinburg Ural Lightnings and Izhevsk Steelworkers. The only winless team in the division was the Chelyabinsk Scouts, a reorganized franchise in the city with one of the country’s oldest American Football traditions.
Black Sea Division
The newly-formed Division Black Sea, centered in Crimea, was a fight between the local Simferopol Taurus and Sevastopol Titans, who split their games with each other, with the former winning in a tie-breaker. The only mainland-based team there, the Krasnodar Bisons, couldn’t compete at the same level as the other two, but they have surely learned a lot from these experienced and well-established teams and became a welcome addition to American Football in Russia.
Although the Russian National Championship is over, a number of local tournaments are still being played out throughout the country. Last weekend saw the St. Petersburg Vikings claim the yearly Karelia Bowl, and next weekend will see Ekaterinburg Lightings and Ozersk Hunters battle for the Urals Cup. The competition in the North-Western College Championship as well as the North Caucasus Federal University Bowl is still raging, so the months of September and October will still provide a lot of action for football fans across Russia.
But what does the long-term future hold? Although the logistical problems, lack of funding and low organizational capacity on the national level are still exist, people’s enthusiasm for the sports keeps pushing its development and growth throughout the nation. This year saw an unprecedented growth in fan attendance and the geographical spread of the teams participating in the Championship, and with a lot of other teams appearing to be set to join in 2015, the future of American Football definitely appears to be bright in Russia.
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