The captain of Russian national bandy team, Mikhail Sveshnikov, has signed a contract with Dynamo Moscow making his way back home after several years in the Swedish league.
If you ask anyone from outside Russia or Scandinavia, what bandy is, the vast majority would not have a clue. However, the game is very simple, in fact, it is just field hockey played on ice.
It may not be as big as football and ice hockey, but bandy still has a strong following in Sweden and Russia.
And one of the biggest stars around is Mikhail Sveshnikov, who is a household name in both nations.
And it has been a big week for the Russian captain, as he rejoined his beloved Dynamo Moscow following a spell in the Swedish league.
“I believe it is more fun to watch bandy in Russia, as the game is a lot quicker and there is more emphasis on attack. In Sweden, the game is more tactically-based and more defensively-orientated, though they are very good at this,” he said.
Bandy is big business in Russia, where the sport is played professionally, while crowds for international matches can be upwards of 30,000.
Players can expect to earn over $100,000 a year, whereas in Sweden, a monthly salary is in the region of just 2,000-3,000 euros, meaning many of the players have to take second jobs.
“The standard of bandy is improving all the time. The increase in salaries also helps, but there are a number of factors which are making the sport better, and more and more popular in the likes of Russia and Sweden,” Sveshnikov said.
However, there are a number of factors limiting the development of bandy. Firstly, it is not an Olympic Sport, which means it is difficult for associations in countries where the sport is not as popular to get state funding.
Also, although it is a very fast and exciting game to watch from the stands, the sheer speed of the game is not suited to TV. The ball can be difficult to see, as can sometimes be the case in field hockey.
“We need to try to spread the game more globally and play tournaments in countries where the game isn’t as developed. All the big championships take place in Russia and Sweden, we should try to play more in countries like Finland, Norway and even in North America. People read about the game in magazines, however, it’s only when they see bandy on TV that they can understand what the sport is all about,” Sveshnikov explained.
The Krlyatskoe Ice Palace is one of the top bandy stadiums around the world. And watching indoors can be of great benefit in the winter when temperatures outdoors drop as low as minus 30.
However, for hardened fans of the sport in Russia and Sweden not even such cold is able to put them off their favorite pastime.