55 Football Nations has completed at least one top division match in each of the 11 disparate football nations that once formed the Soviet Union. The 55FN top 20 lists the best and worst bits from the pitch, the road and the dinner plate.
1 – Most entertaining match – Vitebsk (Belarus) – 2-1 to Vitebsk after 11 minutes. Krumkachy ‘keeper Kostyukevich equalised from his own penalty area and was then sent off for a professional foul. It somehow finished 2-2.
2 – Bore draw – Ufa (Russia) – Ufa played six at the back to counter Spartak Moscow on a hot Sunday afternoon. Effective but not pretty.
3 – Man of the Match – Ufa (Russia) – fine home goalkeeping performance by Aleksandr Belenov
4 – Goal of the Blocs – Yerevan (Armenia) – quality reverse pass set up Alashkert’s Nenadovic for the only goal against Shirak
5 – Best stadium – Odessa (Ukraine) – central stadium with soul, a nightclub and a motorbike shop. It needs a few more Chonomorets fans.
6 – 55FN has played at better grounds award – FCI Tallinn (Estonia) – artificial pitch and temporary stand surrounded by Soviet blocks
7 – Noisiest fans – Tula Arsenal (Russia) – “one day we will be as famous as the London Arsenal” sang the Tula fans. They won’t but they will still sing.
8 – Smallest crowd – Yerevan (Armenia) – only 80 fans turned up at the Mika stadium for Ararat against Gandzasar in Yerevan
9 – Dodgy referee realises big team are struggling at home – Minsk (Belarus) – slight contact in the box. Red card, penalty and still Dinamo nearly messed it up against Dnepr Mogilev.
10 – Best football snack – Vilnius (Lithuania) – beer sticks. Rye bread fried in garlic and sesame seeds.
Food and travel
11 – Tastiest dinner – Yekaterinburg (Russia) – delicious borsch, wild rabbit, chocolate dessert, house beer and cracking service at Pashtet
12 – Worst meal – Odessa (Ukraine) – cold chicken livers, apple and mashed potato with blueberry sauce at Molodost
13 – Best kebab – Baku (Azerbaijan) – marinated chicken with homemade bread at Sehrli Tendir
14 – Craftiest beer scene – Riga (Latvia) – surprisingly rich pickings in many ex-Soviet lands although not Belarus. Riga pips it for combination of price, quality and use of catnip.
15 – No football, no worries – Tbilisi (Georgia), Tallinn (Estonia), Minsk (Belarus) and Odessa (Ukraine) – four varied cities that are treat to visit
16 – Lonely Planet not required – Taraz (Kazakhstan), Ufa (Russia) – horse statue, dusty museum, football stadium. City complete.
17 – Most scenic journey – Akhaltsikhe (Georgia) to the Turkish border at Çıldır – mountains, valleys and a desolate border crossing
18 – Most beautiful building – Turkistan (Kazakhstan) – Mausoleum of Khawaja Ahmed Yasawi – masterpiece of Timurid architecture
19 – Inspiring museum – Moscow (Russia) – State Tretyakov Gallery – Russian history in paintings
20 – Cheapest airport transfer – Chişinău (Moldova) – £0.09 to cover 11kms between airport and city centre