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Kaliningrad Journal: Russian City’s Dazzling New Soccer Stadium Outshines Its Team

KALININGRAD, Russia — Nikita I. Zakharov leads the fan club for the soccer team in this leafy, slow-paced provincial city, and yet he keeps a cleareyed view of its place in the wider world of soccer.

“We cannot really boast of soccer success,” he said mournfully. The team, Baltika, plays in a second-tier Russian league. In its 64-year history, it has won the championship once — in 1995, “the golden year!” exclaimed Mr. Zakharov — and came in second twice, in 1959 and 1961.

Its biggest win, it turns out, was not so much on the field as with a field. Rising out of a formerly undeveloped swampy area in the city, a gigantic, glistening $280 million stadium appeared this year, one of six new arenas Russia built for the World Cup.

Kaliningrad Journal: Russian City’s Dazzling New Soccer Stadium Outshines Its Team
Kaliningrad Journal: Russian City’s Dazzling New Soccer Stadium Outshines Its Team

It is a bumper crop of new stadiums that, even by World Cup standards, appear out of proportion with the small crowds drawn by local teams like Baltika, which will use the venues after the tournament.

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