The photo reads, in English, Spartak — for Спартак Москва, of course. As Jonathon Wilson’s Behind the Curtain explains, “Spartak have had a hooligan element since the seventies, when shaven-headed thugs in their red-and-white colours would rampage through city centres and daub their slogans on walls — further evidence, to those looking for it, of the club’s renowned independence.”
Read on for more about Spartak’s history.
Spartak’s origins lie in catering, and supporters have appropriated opposition taunts of ‘Meat, Meat’ to respond with “Who are we? We’re The Meat!”. And indeed, they have long been the meat of Russian football.
Spartak were the most successful Russian club during the Soviet era, winning twelve championships (Dynamo Kiev, from Ukraine, won one more). They were known as the most independent club from the regime (other clubs received funding from the Red Army and the KGB, but Spartak were only loosely funded by trade unions), and that’s one reason why they’ve never had their own stadium.
Their current home, Luzhniki Stadium (formerly Lenin Stadium), hosted the 1980 Olympic Games opening and closing ceremonies but was also home to Russia’s worst football disaster in 1982, when perhaps 340 people died in an icy stampede.
Thankfully, the stadium has since been renovated. Without Dynamo Kiev to compete with, Spartak initially dominated the Russian championship, winning nine of the first fourteen years. The last few years have been less successful, as they haven’t won the title since 2001; this year, they finished second for the third successive year, losing out to FC Zenit on the last day.