One of the most successful football clubs in the history of both Russia and the former Soviet Union, Spartak Moscow have amassed no fewer than 21 domestic championships and 13 cups during their 88-year existence. Nor are they slouches on the continental stage, having reached the last four of all three of the major European club competitions. looks back at the evocative history of the Krasno-belye (Red and whites).

Birth of an institution
During the Soviet era, it was the norm for state institutions such as the army or police to form their own sports clubs. In 1921, Ivan Artemyev and Nikolai Starostin founded the Moscow Sport Circle, investing much of their energy in the relatively new sport of football. Having built a stadium and earned funds via ticket sales, by 1926 Starostin had attracted the institution’s first sponsor, which enabled the club to upsize to the Tomskii stadium and go head-to-head with close neighbours Dinamo Moscow.

A few years later, Starostin would meet Alexander Kosarev, a highly influential politician and keen sports fan. Thus it was that in 1934, with Kosarev’s support, Starostin helped elevate the club to a new and more successful standing, renaming it Spartak Moscow after the Roman slave and athlete Spartacus and making it part of the Spartak Sports Society.

Making of a legend
Spartak’s first coach was the Czech strategist Antonin Fivebr, who led the club to their first championship in only the second season of the Soviet top flight in 1936. Spartak added two further titles before the outbreak of the Second World War, taking the Soviet crown in 1938 and 1939.

The 1950s saw a duopoly develop between rivals Spartak and Dinamo in the Soviet first division. The Spartak shirt was worn by some memorable players in this era, including former Soviet Union captain Igor Netto, who led his nation to an Olympic gold medal at Melbourne 1956. In the ten years from 1952 to 1962, Netto and Co landed no fewer than five league titles before the club began losing its stranglehold on the domestic front.

Without another championship until 1969, the early 1970s were truly barren years in the league, though the drought was alleviated with a cup victory in 1971. Relegated to the second division in 1976, the fans remained faithful throughout, supporting the efforts of coach Konstantin Beskov and a team featuring up-and-coming young talents like Rinat Dasayev and Georgi Yartsev to return to the top table of Soviet football.

On the back of this support, Spartak achieved promotion after just one season away and quickly stormed to a tenth league title in 1979. The club also claimed the last championship of the Soviet era in 1989, an injury-time free-kick from forward Valery Shmarov clinching a 2-1 final-day triumph over Dinamo Kiev, and the title.

The present
The end of the Soviet Union also heralded a new era for Spartak Moscow, and a highly successful one at that. To say the newly founded Russian championship was dominated by Spartak is an understatement. In his dual role as coach and president, Oleg Romantsev led the club to nine titles between 1992 and 2001.

However, the new millennium has not been kind to the ‘People’s Team’, with only a solitary 2003 Russian Cup triumph since that 2001 league win. The loss of a number of key players, combined with several changes of owner and coach, have all contributed to this malaise.

In 2005, however, Spartak’s fortunes changed again when coach Aleksandrs Starkovs led the club to a runners-up spot and a place in the UEFA Champions League. Spartak finished twice again the following two seasons before, in April 2009, former playing icon Valery Karpin took over as coach. Having starred for the club between 1990 and 1994, the former Celta Vigo and Valencia midfielder will be hoping to rekindle Spartak’s golden 1990s period.

The stadium
The Luzhniki Stadium, also known as the Grand Arena of the Central Lenin Stadium, was opened in 1956 and with 84,745 covered seats the arena it remains the largest in Russia. For the Olympic Games in 1980, the venue even accommodated 103,000 spectators. The stadium was renovated years later, between 1995 and 1997, thus reducing the capacity, and is one of the few major stadia in Europe with an artificial pitch.

Spartak have been building their own stadium for the last two years now and, when it opens later this year, 42,000 fans will be able to watch the home games of one of the most popular clubs in Russia.

Major honours
* 12 Soviet Championships (1936, 1938, 1939, 1952, 1953, 1956, 1958, 1962, 1969, 1979, 1987, 1989)
* 9 Russian Championships (992, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001)
* 10 Soviet Cups (1938, 1939, 1946, 1947, 1950, 1958, 1963, 1965, 1971, 1992)
* 3 Russian Cups (1994, 1998, 2003)

Legendary players
Igor Netto (1949-1966), Rinat Dasayev (1977-1988), Valery Karpin (1990-1994), Viktor Onopko (1992-1995), Yuryi Nikiforov (1993-1996), Dmitri Alenichev (1994-1998 und 2004-2006), Pavel Pogrebnyak (2002-2004), Roman Pavlyuchenko (2003-2008), Nemanja Vidic (2004-2006), Stipe Pletikosa (since 2007)