The city of Izhevsk, Russia is probably best known as being the birthplace of the AK-47. But the hidden surprise for me in my visit to this industrial city located a 16-hour train ride east of Moscow was the local American Football team.
Russians are known both for their love and mastery in sports from hockey and gymnastics, to weight-lifting and cross-country skiing. But in 20 years of living in Russia, I had no idea that there was a small, but incredibly enthusiastic American football movement around Russia. These are men who have taken the effort and time to learn the rules of American football, train, acquire the necessary equipment, and even travel around Russia to compete with similarly fanatical teams.
We caught up with the team during an evening practice and were able to hear their views on playing a completely obscure sport that they love, and also their views on their favorite NFL teams.
It was fun to ask them their opinion on my beloved, yet historically beleaguered Cleveland Browns, and be pleasantly surprised as they rattled off some of the Browns’ players’ names.
The team’s defensive coordinator gave an interesting viewpoint, saying that for the team members, playing football is a fight, and seemed to suggest that it is metaphorical for the fight that they face every day in their jobs and other life circumstances.
My Russian friend Zhenya is also a big American football fan. He and I run the Russian language “The Amerikanets” YouTube channel. I even wrote a blog post on why my YouTube channel is in Russian, instead of English.
But the passion of these American football players in Russia challenged Zhenya and me to start another very big project: an English-language YouTube channel about life in Russia.
With that, here is our English-language video report from our time with the Izhevsk American Football Team:
I love the fact that every Russian city holds so many hidden surprises, and I hope that we can continue to show them to you as we travel around the nation. Who knows, we might even break some stereotypes as we journey together.
And we will continue to create Russian language videos as well. Here is our Russian video report of the same team:
I would love to hear your ideas for future videos. What would you love for me to not just write about, but show?
BONUS: Check out the Izhevsk team in action as they take on the American football team from Perm, Russia.