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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Soccer Mania Sweeps Moscow at Midnight

APWaving the team's flag, soccer fans in downtown Moscow celebrate CSKA's 3-1 UEFA Cup victory over Sporting Lisbon on Wednesday night in Portugal.
Soccer mania swept Moscow on Thursday as tens of thousands of jubilant fans took to the streets and politicians and government officials rushed to congratulate CSKA on its historic UEFA Cup title.

A torrent of fans dressed in red and blue poured onto city streets in the wee hours of Thursday, screaming and singing shortly after the final whistle blew in CSKA's 3-1 victory over Sporting Lisbon in the Portuguese capital.

The epicenter of the celebration was on Tverskaya Ulitsa in central Moscow, where thousands of fans drank beer and waved CSKA flags and scarves -- for the most part getting a free pass from police for their drunken revelry.

The few cars that ventured onto Tverskaya were brought to a standstill by the crowd, though the passengers did not seem to mind, with many of them hanging out of windows and cheering along with the fans outside.

The last time Moscow saw a soccer commotion of this magnitude was three years ago, in June 2002. Then the city center turned into a battleground as 8,000 fans watching a World Cup match on a giant screen across the street from the State Duma exploded in anger when it became clear that Russia would lose to Japan.

Some fans began torching cars, smashing windows and fighting police and each other. Two people, including a police officer, were killed as a result of the melee, and dozens of others were injured.

Thursday morning's celebrations were tame by comparison. Around 80 fans across the city were detained, the majority for public drunkenness, a police spokeswoman said. There were no reports of injuries, she said.

Fans in southwest Moscow, however, did smash up a car and a kiosk, RIA-Novosti quoted a police source as saying, and fans in northwest Moscow damaged a parked car.

Mayor Yury Luzhkov announced Thursday that 50,000 fans had celebrated CSKA's victory in the streets, and the soccer-loving mayor was one of several politicians and government officials across the country to congratulate the team.

"This is a unique achievement for Russian soccer, which will help the future development of this sport in our country," Luzhkov said, Interfax reported.

Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov opened Thursday's government session by congratulating CSKA, known as the Red Army team and still partially owned by the Russian military.

"Simply great work," Fradkov said. "Everyone was rooting for them. We're happy with this victory."

Fradkov added, "In general in life, there should be more victories of this kind."

The victory even brought together the leaders of republics whose ethnic majorities have quarreled and fought one another. North Ossetian President Alexander Dzasokhov congratulated the republic's native son, CSKA coach Valery Gazzayev, as did Murat Zyazikov, the leader of neighboring Ingushetia.

State Duma speaker Boris Gryzlov, who has never been shy in shooting for political points by appealing to Russia's beleaguered soccer fans, even suggested that May 18 could become known as "Russian Soccer Day."

"This victory will give new impetus to the development of soccer," Gryzlov told reporters Thursday.

Gryzlov was featured prominently dressed in a soccer uniform in United Russia campaign literature ahead of the December 2003 Duma elections, and in September that year he was shown on state television alongside Emergency Situations Minister and fellow United Russia leader Sergei Shoigu cheering wildly as the national team beat Switzerland 4-1 in Moscow. A few days later, Gryzlov and Shoigu were photographed alongside Brazilian soccer great Pele for the opening of a United Russia-sponsored children's soccer field. Pele had not previously heard of United Russia.

Even politicians less known for weighing in on soccer affairs congratulated the team.

"I heartily congratulate all fans of our national sport on this brilliant victory," Rodina leader Dmitry Rogozin said at a Duma round-table session Thursday, Interfax reported. NTV television showed Rogozin hanging a CSKA jersey with his name on the back outside his office.

Communist Party head Gennady Zyuganov, who said he was a lifelong fan of the Red Army team, said CSKA had "made the entire country happy."

"The dream of the century has come true for our fans," Interfax cited Zyuganov as saying. "We have the UEFA Cup."

Zyuganov added that CSKA played "simply brilliantly, especially in the second half," Interfax reported.

Praise for the newly crowned champions was not limited to patriotic posturing, however.

In a sudden about-face, Shoigu actually cited the contributions of CSKA's foreign players in an effort to discourage threats of a ban on right-hand drive foreign cars, which he said could spark protests, especially in the Far East, where such models are commonly imported from Japan.

At a government meeting in November, Shoigu took a swing at Russia's most successful professional sports club in recent years, the CSKA basketball team, for filling its roster with foreign players instead of homegrown talent.

"There's not one Russian last name [on the CSKA roster]," Shoigu, a native of Tuva, a traditionally Buddhist republic, said at the meeting. "They have two Greeks and three black guys. What sort of approach is that?"

He sang a different tune Thursday, however, in discussing policy on imported cars at a government meeting.

Lauding the play of CSKA's Brazilian playmaker Daniel Carvalho, who set up all three CSKA goals, and fellow Brazilian Vagner Love, who scored the third and final goal in the victory, Interfax cited Shoigu as saying: "Of the three goals, two were scored by foreign models, and they were scored from the right side as well as the left."

It was unclear how attentively Shoigu was watching the game, however, as only one goal was scored by a foreigner. CSKA's first two goals were scored by Russians Alexei Berezutsky and Yury Zhirkov, respectively.