Valenki are warm felt boots typically used for hiking in powdery snow, but you can play football in them as well. Indeed, this is precisely what the workers decided to prove in Nizhny Novgorod, one of the Host Cities of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™.
It just goes to show that people will play football in any weather right around the world. You can even find those who are brave enough to brace the harsh Russian winter and step outside for a kick-about. It goes without saying that they had a proper warm-up beforehand.
A makeshift pitch was set up next to the construction site at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium and the teams were made up of the venue's builders on one side and the fans of local club FC Volga on the other.
“You can consider football in valenki as the Russian version of beach football,” declared Stanislav Gopp, an active member of Nizhny Novgorod's student football league and FC Volga supporter. “It's really tough to play in valenki actually. They come off when you kick the ball because they don't have laces!”
“The memories will stay with me for the rest of my life,” Stanislav also revealed, having scored the opening goal in a victory for the Volga fans (the game ended 4-3 on penalties after a draw in normal time).
“It took me back to my childhood because in winter we'd play football in our valenki when we were little,” said Valery Molchanov, an adviser to the CEO of FC Volga, who also turned out for the fans' team.
There will not be any snow in Nizhny Novgorod or any other Host City during the World Cup in 2018 and they will be playing in normal boots rather than valenki. This is surely for the better, however, as no player wants their footwear to fly off when stepping up to take a penalty!