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'Russian Football' Takes Page From 'Fight Club'


A screen grab from a YouTube video of young men playing "Russian football," which is billed as a hybrid sport between football/rugby and boxing.

A screen grab from a YouTube video of young men playing "Russian football," which is billed as a hybrid sport between football/rugby and boxing.

A hard-hitting new sport is said to be gaining traction in the Russian Urals as a great stress reliever for young men -- students and professionals alike -- who are strapping on their headgear and gloves and giving it their best shots.

"Russian football" is being billed as a cross between rugby and boxing, despite looking more like the brawl that might break out at a match than any main event itself.

Russian Channel One aired a report from Chelyabinsk that shows the obvious appeal in a country where martial arts training is popular and military service mandatory.

It quotes one young manager saying it's a great stress reliever, a la something from the mind of "Fight Club" author Chuck Palahniuk.

And there is YouTube video of another sports club training on a smaller scale:​

Played on an area the size of a basketball court, teams literally battle it out with their fists while trying to advance a medicine ball across their opponents' goal line. The first team to seven wins.

Boxing rules apply -- so there's no kicking or hitting below the belt.

Channel One says the pastime is the invention of Chelyabinsk entrepreneur Aleksandr Tkachenko, who spread the word via social network, and boasts a growing following. Regional matches are even being set up to keep pace as the sport spreads, organizers say.

-- Andy Heil

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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