Bandy in hunt for Moscow fan interest
In 2008, the Russian capital hosted a major bandy tournament for the first time since 1989, but it went completely unnoticed.
However, bandy will get another chance in the last week of January. Moscow appeared to be the only city able to host the 2010 World Championships, after Sweden failed to finance it.
“Of course, it's a big risk to host the world championships in Moscow. But I'm optimistic and looking forward to it. Who said there won't be a lot of fans at the stadium this time around? Plus, Moscow is famous for organizing sporting events at the highest level,” Mikhail Sveshnikov,
Russia’s captain, said.
Bandy is a team winter sport played on ice, having a lot in common with both football and ice hockey. The game is played on a rectangle of ice the same size as a soccer field. Each team has eleven players, one of whom is a goalkeeper.
A standard bandy match consists of two halves of 45 minutes each. The offside rule is also similar to that observed in soccer. The players use sticks – same as in ice hockey – but instead of a puck, they play a small ball.
The Russians are training hard to win the event on home ice. And to do this, they have to beat their main, and perhaps only rivals – Sweden.
The Bandy World Championships is played annually, and the Swedes are the current champions – having emerged victorious at last year's tournament. Therefore the Russians are hungry for revenge.
“All our players want to show their best in front of the home crowd. We are full of… I should say, aggression after the Swedes thrashed us in last year's final. And their behavior during that was insolent. So we'll be seeking revenge,” Evgeny Ivanushkin said.
Russia and Sweden are likely to be the finalists in Moscow as well, and their clash will certainly draw some notice.
But the question remains – will the whole 2010 Bandy World Championships be able to compete in attracting fans compared with the likes of basketball and ice hockey?