St. Petersburg Cup in Russia
All is in readiness for what is expected to become one of the crowning jewels on the Russian Australian Football calendar this Saturday, with the inaugural St Petersburg Cup set to take place at the Kirovets Stadium in St Petersburg.
The event brings together two Russian sides in the St. Petersburg Cats and Moscow Lazy Koalas for a three-game round robin tournament with the visiting Helsinki Heatseekers from Finland, with the top two sides vying for the trophy in a Grand Final play-off.
President of AFL Russia, Slava Belov, anticipates that the event will draw great interest from local supporters and see hot competition on the field, for what he expects will be a “real footy celebration in St Petersburg.”
“When the St Petersburg Cats were founded 4 years ago, the club was meant to connect Moscow and Finland footy, becoming the international hub for Russian footy,” Belov said.
“Since then, the Cats have played a number of games against Moscow and travelled to Helsinki, but it is the first time a tournament unites St Petersburg, Helsinki and Moscow teams.”
Along with the round robin tournament, it will be a historic day for women’s football in Russia with the first ever female exhibition game played as a curtain raiser prior to the Helsinki and Moscow clash, which AFL Europe Game Development Coordinator Lisa Wilson says will be an important showcase to the region.
“Women’s footy has not really reached Russia as yet so we hope that this exhibition game – which features some visiting players and also some new girls – will be the first step to grow in Russia,” she said.
Wilson was on the ground to help lay the foundations for the weekend by leading out an AusKick clinic at a local school in Pushkin Town, which was attended by close to thirty students on Thursday.
“A group of students from the school went on a trip to Australia recently which was organised by the St. Petersburg Australian Consulate, Sebastian Fitzlyon, so they are now excited to learn more about Australian culture – of which footy is, of course, a big part!” Wilson said.
Building awareness and enhancing the development of Australian Football in Russia is the main item on the weekend’s agenda, which will begin with a free beginner’s skills session prior to the competitive action on Saturday and culminate with a fully accredited AFL Level One coaching course on Sunday morning.
AFL Europe General Manager, Ryan Davey, will travel to St. Petersburg to deliver the course and says that the development and growth of coaching ranks in Russia – and right throughout Europe – is of the highest importance.
“We have put a real emphasis on getting out and delivering as many of the level one coaching courses as possible across the continent, so we’re thrilled to finally be able to get to Russia and I’m hopeful that this will help boost the great work that is already being done here,” Davey said.
“In the last 14 months around 150 coaches have been accredited through these courses with the brilliant support of anzuk Education, and that passion that all these individuals bring to the game is hugely beneficial for developing the sport in Europe. This will be the 13th course we have delivered in Europe since we started the program last year and I am thrilled that by the end of the weekend we will have accredited coaches in both Russia and Finland.
“Like many of our tremendous volunteers, these coaches are the ones on the ground who are doing the bulk of the driving at a grassroots level, so for us to be able to help foster their engagement and provide them with some development opportunities is really important.”
Riley Brettell – AFL Europe