Imagine a world where the Cold War never ended. A world where the late 80’s didn’t see the decline in the Soviet Bloc, but rather, the resurgence of the Socialist Economy, and the continuation of East v West.
For many a football fan, the secret gems of the former Socialist Camp are intriguing. Stories of great footballing success behind the Iron Curtain have traveled across Europe since the fall of the wall, with many big clubs hunting in Eastern Europe for the next raw diamond of a player. I mean, don’t you purposely load up Serbia and Croatia in your saves, simply to raid their club’s academies come youth intake day?
But what if the hunting grounds were closed? What if, rather than losing their talent to the West, the socialist bloc was still a force to be reckoned with, with the global stars of our generation not leaving their native countries? What if Luka Modric never left Yugoslavia?
This is the universe in which this save will operate. Using the brilliant “Iron Curtain Database”, with a few amendments, we will task ourselves with operating as a football manager behind the wall. Our mission: To become the most dominant club in the Socialist Bloc, to overcome the money driven dominance of western football, and to become a factory for good footballing talent!
The database itself is a really cool creation, which sees the reintroduction of the Soviet, Yugoslavian and East German league system along with radically changing all teams within the former Socialist bloc to any previous names and logos. It also features one major ruling, “only three foreign players”. Effectively, this shuts down each league, and essentially means any manager is going to be reliant on home grown talent, and the development of youth. Seeing as the system in place was never a money orientated system, this shouldn’t be a problem, with all clubs focusing on their own pool of players! This is not to say that transfer don’t happen, and whilst they are rare, occasionally, clubs from the West will try and buy a player or two, despite the leagues attitude being one of willful negligence when it comes to transfer outside of the East.
The main draw of the database is it’s players. With the Soviet Union and it’s Socialist allies not falling in 1990, travel from Eastern Europe has been limited, with most famous names of recent years never leaving their home town clubs (or in some cases, being placed at the club they could have played for if they hadn’t been forced into moving, i.e. Asmir Begovic is now a FK Sarajevo player).
The database also sees a change to European competitions, as the Champions League is reduced down to only the Champions of each nation, and the Europa League adopting the format of the old UEFA Cup, with straight knockout rounds taking place throughout. The Soviet Union, German Democratic Republic, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia have also all been recreated as International teams, competing firstly at the 2016 Euro Championship (in my test run, Yugoslavia had a very promising tournament!).
As alluded to in the introduction, the aim of this save is simple; using the limitations of it’s rules, our goal is to become the dominant force in Europe, and (one day) the world. A victory over Imperialism and Capitalism is the aim of the day, with the victory being ever so sweeter whilst we stick to our Socialist principles. This means:
- We will develop our own players, with the aim to create an entire squad from our youth structure.
- We will reject big budget transfer policies. This isn’t the way of the Socialist system (and whilst for the USSR and co to survive in the 21st century, Chinese style economics may have been adopted, it just won’t do for what we have planned!)
- Whilst we wish to be competitive in our respective league, we do not wish to damage our comrades in the football pyramid. Therefore, transfer will be first and foremost, conducted with allies in the Socialist Union, before we even contemplate a move out West. It’s better for us in the long run if there are more Eastern European teams competing at a higher level.
This is where I need you. This database is brilliant, and there is so much potential, that I honestly don’t know where to start, so I am handing that responsibility over to you guys. I’ve short listed a few teams who I think will make pretty fun saves. After reading this blog, and reading my short overview of each team, please get in touch via twitter, or the comments section, and tell me which team you would prefer to read about in this save!
The Soviet Top League and the Yugoslavian league are the most competitive of the reformed leagues, but the Soviet League features some real hard hitters. Yugoslavia looks incredible, with a huge collection of talented players. But, a Soviet save wouldn’t be Soviet without it taking place in the USSR, and after taking on board advice from others, I feel that sticking it out in the Soviet Union will make this challenge incredible.I guess Yugoslavia will therefore be a league rival, with artist like football produced from the likes of Luka Modric and co! For us, our potential destinations are:
-CSKA Moscow: known as the “Army Men”, CSKA famously were (you guessed it) the team of the Red Army. One of Russia’s most successful teams, CSKA feature Igor Akinfeev, Alan Dzagoev, and Seydou Doumbia (We’ll assume the Soviet’s still had sway in Africa, as they did in the past). Predicted to finish 6th, CSKA are some way behind the leaders in the league, such as:
-Shahktar Donetsk: Famous in the real world for their blend of Brazilian flair with Ukrainian defense, the Shahktar of this universe are a strong team in the USSR. Filled with talent like Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Yaroslav Rakitskyi, and Taras Stepanenko (all stalwarts of the Soviet National Team), Shahktar are predicted to come in second, behind:
-Dynamo Kyiv: The poster child for Ukrainian football, Kyiv are as strong as ever. With the likes of Andriy Yarmolenko, Eugene Khacheridi, Oleg Gusev, and Harry Redknapp’s favourite Niko Kranjcar in their team, there is no surprise they are destined for titles. A strong season is likely. But, this league is not for the faint hearted, and challenges lay around every corner.
-Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk: Europa League finalists Dnipro still feature Eugene Konoplyanka on the wings, and with a relatively young team to boot, they could be one team who could make a real impact in the coming seasons. Toppling the old guard will be tough, but a talented manager, and a talented pool of players could do the unthinkable, and dethrone the likes of Dynamo and company.
-Spartak Moscow: Finally, the self titled “People’s Club of the Soviet Union”. Known for it’s non alignment with government agencies, Spartak define itself on it’s attacking football. A glorious return to success awaits the club, but first it must overcome the giants of the league. A 4th placed predicted finish puts them on par with the big wigs of the league, but it is perhaps generous, as their squad is certainly not stronger. Maybe the will of the people, and the attacking style will come good. (Arsenal much?).
So that’s our save. Where do we start? Let me know, and let me know what you want to see from this save. As always, you can follow me on twitter , where I will provide updates of the save. I’d also love to update you all with the occasional video! If anyone would like to see a video round up of the teams, let me know!
Thanks for reading, I hope you all enjoy the series, and look forward to hearing from you soon.