For those not familiar with the weird and wonderful world that is the Tinkoff Russian Premier League, the season kicked off this weekend with Dynamo Moscow beating FC Rostov away at the Rostov Arena. With an earlier start than most other top flights, the season takes a three-month break from mid-December to mid-March, when temperatures remain almost exclusively below zero and the thought of Ufa v Arsenal Tula in -12 isn’t particularly appealing. To get KollektivMSK readers geared up for the season, we take a look at the sixteen clubs’ new home, away (and third if they have one) strips for the 2021/22 campaign, sharing our thoughts and giving each a rating out of 5.
Zenit St Petersburg
Runaway champions of Russia every year since 2019, this season Zenit will seek to defend their title(s) in predictably sleek style. This year’s efforts are clean and minimalist rather than revolutionary, with the familiar combination of sky blue and white evoking Saint Petersburg’s maritime history and the ever-present Gazprom logo in its rightful place. Extra points for both kits being made out of 100% recycled plastic bottles (hence the friendly cartoon bottle looming behind Artyom Dzyuba and Ekaterina Sochneva in the promo photos).
Rating – Home: 4/5 Away: 3.5/5
Much like Zenit, Moscow’s Spartak are blessed with an instantly recognisable design that’s hard to get wrong and a morally dubious fossil fuel giant as their sponsor. The away kit is solid if unremarkable, while the home shirt is arguably let down by an unnecessary collar. Both kits suffer an overabundance of sponsors – a common theme among RPL teams this season – but the logo of main sponsor Lukoil blends in effortlessly with the rest of the design and colour scheme. We can’t wait for the first headline about (Victor) Moses and the Red Sea.
Rating – Home: 3/5 Away: 3/5
We have a winner! Lokomotiv Moscow’s 2021/22 kits are stunners all round. Be it the lush mossy green of the home shirt, the elegant collar and sleeve trims of the clean white away top, or the majestic Darth Maul colourway of the third kit, all three of this year’s efforts are a joy to behold. It’s hard to go wrong when your badge is a literal steam train blasting its way through a massive Cyrillic L and your shirts are adorned by the tastefully minimalist logo of sponsor Russian Railways, but Lokomotiv have really pushed the boat (or should that be train?) out this year.
Rating – Home: 5/5 Away: 5/5 Third: 5/5
As manager Leonid Slutsky declared in the club’s latest surreal viral video campaign, Rubin really are super good. With a colourway reflective of the flag of the Republic of Tatarstan (of which Kazan is the capital) and an appropriately extravagant sponsor in the form of a winged snow leopard from Tatar petrochemical giant TAIF, Rubin’s kits are infused with a strong sense of local identity. Most importantly, they also look great, with the verdant green and regal gold of the away and third shirts scoring them particularly high marks.
Rating – Home: 4/5 Away: 4.5/5 Third: 5/5
Formed in 2018 and with an origin story that mirrors that of MK Dons – just replace Wimbledon with Saint Formed in 2018 and with an origin story that mirrors that of MK Dons – just replace Wimbledon with Saint Petersburg and Milton Keynes with Russia’s Black Sea coast – Sochi are one of Russia’s most curious clubs. Perhaps forgivably for a club still in search of their own identity, their kits are something of a mixed bag. The wave design on the home kit is symbolic of the city’s seaside location, which sees swarms of tourists flock to its beaches every summer, but the disappointingly plain away kit would be more fitting as a training top. If the Matrix-esque third kit looks familiar, that’s because Puma have managed to recycle it for a grand total of four separate clubs this season: from Krasnodar and Krylia to Manchester City and Sochi.
Rating – Home: 4/5 Away: 2/5 Third: 2.5/5
It may come as a surprise to see a club who historically represented the Soviet Army playing in purple, but these are the times we live in. While the home kit’s red-blue gradient and mass of sponsors may divide opinion, the purple third kit is the eye-catching result of a design competition that involved both CSKA players and fans, and was apparently inspired by the club’s pioneering 2005 UEFA Cup triumph. The pick of the bunch, though, is the understated away kit, with its old-school collar and retro badge celebrating 110 years since CSKA was founded as the Amateur Society of Skiing Sports.
Rating – Home: 3/5 Away: 4.5/5 Third: 4/5
Boasting one of Russia’s most impressive new stadiums and some of the country’s most promising young players, Dynamo Moscow feel like a club on the up. This year, their kits are clean and uncluttered, with a cool colour scheme and a tasteful sponsor that actually compliments the overall design. The iconic D of their badge – also of Dynamo Kiev, Minsk and Tbilisi fame – combines with the fittingly old-school button-up collars to create a subtle retro feel.
Rating – Home: 4.5/5 Away: 4.5/5
Khimki aren’t likely to trouble the upper echelons of the Russian Premier League table too much this season, and their 2021-22 kits aren’t getting too close to our top 3. Befitting Khimki and their no-nonsense style of football, these are mid-table efforts at best. A lack of imagination, uninspiring badge and ugly betting company sponsor – as well as, arguably, the fact that they’re from Khimki – prevent them from climbing any higher.
Rating – Home: 2.5/5 Away: 2.5/5
As Marcus Aurelius and then Mark Corrigan once said, that which is not good for the beehive cannot be good for the bees. Rostov appear to have taken these words quite literally, retaining the honeycomb design that saw them finish 9th last season as they aim to push for European football in this campaign. Despite a disappointing lack of tractors for a club that used to be named after the city’s agricultural machinery factory, the lack of clutter and attractive colouring here mean a respectable score for Rostov in our ranking.
Rating – Home: 3.5/5 Away: 3.5/5
Darlings of Russian football fans tired of Zenit’s Gazprom-funded hegemony, Krasnodar are an example of how a football club should be run. Founded in 2008 by supermarket magnate Sergey Galitsky, Krasnodar have won over neutrals with their attractive attacking football, promotion of academy talent and stunning stadium. Both this year’s kits score highly for their strong colour schemes and interesting patterns, with an unsightly sponsor the only minus. Kollektiv say Krasno-da(r) to the kits, Krasno-nyet to the sponsor.
Rating – Home: 4/5 Away: 5/5
Named in honour of former religious leader turned Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov, Akhmat Grozny are the pride of Chechnya’s resurgent football scene. The club’s home kit is a nice shade of green, but cheapened by a garish sponsor and dodgy Topman collar. The white away kit looks cleaner, set apart by a zigzag sleeve design that evokes memories of the 2018 Nigeria national strip. A solid mid-table effort from the Russian Premier League’s southernmost club.
Rating – Home: 2.5/5 Away: 4/5
What words come into your mind when looking at Ural’s kits in the above picture? Fluorescent? Square? Sunday League? Unfortunately for a club hailing from one of Russia’s most up-and-coming cities, Ural have got it very, very wrong this year. The radioactive orange home kit gives off bargain bin Shakhtar Donetsk vibes, while the rest of them are a boring, barren wasteland where blocky, poorly-formatted sponsors go to die. A relegation-worthy effort from the Yekaterinburg team.
Rating: Home: 1/5 Away: 1/5 Third: 1.5/5
While CSKA Moscow look to experiment with their new fuchsia third kit for this season, the deep purple of the Ufa home kit is a staple for the Republic of Bashkortostan’s main club. Ufa have focused on the little details on this year’s strips, ensuring sponsors and badges are incorporated into the colourway, and adding nice touches such as a patterned map of Bashkortostan on the sleeve. Despite the Scottish Premier League vibes given off by the not-so-impressive third strip, Ufa’s vibrant home kit boosts the club higher in our rankings of this season’s kits.
Rating – Home: 4/5 Away: 3.5/5 Third: 3/5
Arsenal Tula’s red and yellow home kit was designed in a top-secret Siberian laboratory specifically to blind opposition goalkeepers. Okay, we made that up, but their garish contribution to the RPL will certainly help them stand out; “unique” might be the most polite way of describing it. Their away top is a stronger effort, reversing the colours and bringing a lot more balance to the kit. The real hidden gem, though, is their grey third kit, which appears rather ordinary at first glance, but includes some nice details such as a yellow and red trim as well as the under-arm chevrons that are reminiscent of iconic Colombia kits past and present.
Rating – Home: 2.5/5 Away: 3/5 Third: 3.5/5
Samara’s Krylia Sovetov – which translates as Wings of the Soviets and automatically wins our Russian Premier League Team Name of the Season Award – are looking to reestablish themselves in the Russian Premier League, having stormed to the second division title last season. While the Wings’ home shirt has fallen prey to Puma’s copy and paste kit design, their away strip’s fresh white colourway is a lot cleaner, and both fit the cosmic feel of the club’s spaceship-style stadium. Although Krylia’s home kit is sponsored by Sogaz – an insurance company owned, of course, by the omnipresent Gazprom – the lack of sponsors on their away kit is a welcome break from the numerous oil, gas and betting companies plastered over the rest of the league’s kits.
Rating – Home: 3/5 Away: 3.5/5
Professional football in Nizhny Novgorod has had a turbulent history to say the least, having seen a series of clubs come and go over the past few years. The first ever Russian Premier League season for this latest iteration will prove a tough one – not that that will not discourage the young team from springing a few shocks, especially with Zenit and FIFA legend Alexander Kerzhakov in the manager’s dugout. While the club badge itself looks a bit rugby league, the shirt is also adorned by the elegant crest of the Nizhny Novgorod region, which actually runs the club (as opposed to the usual oligarch). The light and dark blue of the home kit are a nice nod to the club’s location on the banks of the mighty River Volga.
Rating – Home: 3/5 Away: 3/5
Tom – Lokomotiv Moscow Third, Dynamo Moscow Home, Rubin Kazan Away
Emil – Lokomotiv Moscow Away, Rubin Kazan Away, CSKA Moscow Away
Joel – Rubin Kazan Third and Lokomotiv Moscow Third