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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Underground World of Serious Sports Fans

For MTMembers of the Moscow Dragons rugby team cheering while watching a South African rugby game at SportLand on Saturday.
Pining for Monday night soccer in the corner of a British pub? Thinking about the start of another summer of Aussie cricket that you're not going to spend in front of the television? Or perhaps American football withdrawal is keeping you awake at night?

For the coming months, participation in these kinds of sports will have to be done vicariously in this part of the world. But that needn't diminish your sports consumption. Whatever the sport you love and miss, as Moscow life turns indoors, there is somewhere to watch it, and more likely than not, it will come complete with a big screen and beer snacks.

To be sure of getting the sports fix you need, check out the SportLand netherworld that is, by general consensus, the city's most comprehensive sports-watching venue.

The Novy Arbat institution is run by Moscow Times columnist Frank Caruana and has live sport -- everything from sumo wrestling to cricket to Champions League soccer -- playing 24 hours a day on four big screens and a multitude of televisions. There are no windows to provide uncomfortable reminders of the time of day.

"We can have 60 people in here at 3 a.m. watching the NBA," said marketing manager Andrei Nikolayev.

SportLand's "democratic" tradition -- meaning everybody from ambassadors (the Irish and Australian variety are reportedly frequent visitors) to the man off the street is frisked on entry -- makes for an eclectic crowd. It's here that the British Broadcasting Corporation's Moscow bureau while away their Sunday afternoons at a permanently reserved table.

On special request, management will switch to whichever one of its 5,000 channels you need so that you can catch the final moments of the 2002 World Mud Wrestling/Curling/Shuffleboard Championships.

"We are different because we only do sports," Nikolayev said. "Basically sports is our business 24 hours a day. You won't see any disco here."

Open 24 hours
21 Novy Arbat
Metro Smolenskaya
Tel. 291-2041

Sports Bar
Open noon to 6 a.m.
10 Novy Arbat
Metro Arbatskaya/Smolenskaya
Tel. 290-4311

Doug and Marty's Boar House
Open noon to 9 a.m.
26 Zemlyanoi Val
Metro Kurskaya
Tel. 917-0150

Australian Open
Open 10 a.m. to midnight
10 Leningradsky Prospekt
Metro Belorusskaya
Tel. 214-1749

Sports and gambling, that is. Upstairs is the Cherry Casino, and even within SportLand, if the action gets dull, there are croupiers offering roulette and black jack against a background of pokies for one-armed sportsmen. It is also possible to place a bet on any major sporting event.

But if the rigorous security (not unique to SportLand) is too much -- or you have a child with you and want to watch sports (SportLand by law is not allowed to have minors on the premises) -- just across the road is the Sports Bar.

In a peculiarly Moscow touch, the Sports Bar sports feast comes with a sushi bar attached. For 500 rubles ($16) you can have a sushi assortment brought to you from the attached Yakitoria restaurant and wash it down with a half-liter of draft Guinness (160 rubles).

Open from midday to 6 a.m., the Sports Bar can hold 300 people and, like SportLand, will also switch channels so discerning customers can watch the sport of their heart's desire.

If it all becomes too much or you consider yourself more a participatory sportsman, the venue has pool tables in the upstairs bar and, in a new "attraction," on Friday nights it is possible to mix sports and art by taking the opportunity to paint the bodies of striptease artists in the sports colors of your choice.

Across town on the Garden Ring, Doug and Marty's Boar House has a 10-square meter screen for major events and seven televisions broadcasting a combination of football, rugby, hockey, baseball and NFL. Log on to the club's web site at for the month's sports event program.

The newest of these sports-watching locations is the Australian Open bar and restaurant. Not far from Belorusskaya metro station, the Australian Open specializes in football, Formula One and, yes, tennis.

It has one big screen, six televisions and Fosters on tap (half-liter for $4, or 124 rubles) -- you can also order vegemite off the menu -- but the place is severely handicapped by a midnight closing time.