Futbol: A Political Weapon, from Stalin to Putin

Original title: Futbol: Le ballon rond, de Staline à Poutine, une arme politique

Publication Date:

June 2018



Original language and publisher

French | Allary Editions

Territories Handled

Worldwide excl. French



Futbol: A Political Weapon, from Stalin to Putin

Original title: Futbol: Le ballon rond, de Staline à Poutine, une arme politique

  • 2 Seas Represents: World Excl. French.


The authors of Futbol retrace, with passion and precision, the political and sporting history of football in Russia. […] The book reads like a novel, as it is full of anecdotes and portraits of characters who built Soviet football. […] Futbol aptly explains the role of political influence in sport – Le Monde

There is lot of material in this book – Radio Canada               

An eye-opening book – L’Express                          

Rediscovering the USSR – Le Soir                          

An indispensable missile for the World Cup. […] Very beautiful, very well documented. – L’Equipe            

Just before the World Cup takes place in Russia. This book tells the story of how, from Stalin to Putin, football has always been one of Russia’s most powerful weapons and an instrument of political ambitions.

This book teaches us that in Russia, football is a martial art. Rather than just simply describing a century of football in Russia, it deciphers the Russian power structure from Stalin to Putin, through the extremely enlightening prism of the beautiful game.

The 2018 FIFA World Cup, hosted by Russia, is a consecration for the country’s relationship to football which, more than just a sport, has always been an instrument of power. Ever since it was introduced in the Soviet Union, the “beautiful game” has been the theater for power struggles within the regime, and one of the Kremlin’s favorite weapons.

It all started with Beria, Stalin’s right-hand man, and the sinister head of the Soviet security services, but also – and this is less well-known – in charge of the Dynamo Moscow and Tbilisi football clubs. Beria would turn those clubs into tools for a relentless fight against his political enemies. Two clans confronted each other via the two clubs, and anything went… including the best players from the opposing team, who were often sent to the gulag.

Russian football has continued to be rife with power struggles ever since: at the time of the “Death Match” between the Ukrainians of FC Start and the Luftwaffe Nazis on August 9, 1942; when the Soviets were developing “scientific” football, to conquer the world during the Cold War; in the way in which the regime has showcased star players; in the relationship the oligarchs maintain with the sport, and all the way through to the organization of the 2018 World Cup.

Writer and director of historical documentaries for TV (Arte, France Télévisions), Nicolas Jallot has also had several investigative books published, including Un Dissident au KGB (Stock, 2011) and Manipulation de l’opinion (Stock, 2007).

Régis Genté, journalist living in Tbilisi, Georgia since 2002, he has been covering events from the former Soviet sphere (Caucasus, Central Asia, Russia and Ukraine) for the past 15 years for Le Figaro, Radio France Internationale (RFI) and Le Monde Diplomatique.