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EDITIONS
 Saturday, 11 January, 2003, 16:44 GMT
English squad takes on Russian prisoners
Football players at Russian prison
Lining up for the big match at the Tula prison

Inmates at a Russian prison received an unusual Christmas present this year - a football match against veterans of the English game.

Prison number 400/7 in Tula - 180 kilometres south of Moscow - played host to the friendly, which was timed to coincide with the celebration of Orthodox Christmas, Russian TV reported.

A collection of English league players from the 1970s including Paul Brady of Birmingham City, William Bygroves and David Cook of Chester FC, and Paul Cliff of Everton, took part in the match.

Freezing temperatures

Both teams braved freezing temperatures of minus 25 degrees Celsius on an icy, makeshift pitch - usually reserved for prisoner roll-call.

Russian football match
A goal for the home side

"Father Frost should be on our side," said one of a group of Russian police commanders watching the match.

Paul Brady, captain of the English team, also reckoned the home side were favourites for the game, despite the presence of a small British support group

"I'm very pleased to be here. Very excited. It's a hard challenge," he told the TV, adding that his team had "no chance" of winning.

High spirits

There was certainly no shortage of support for the prison team from their fellow-inmates.

Notice boards usually detailing prisoners' rights and duties were draped with banners reading "400/7 to win"' and "No surrender!".

The visitors acquitted themselves well despite the unaccustomed conditions. But they were up against determined opposition, urged on by the regional prisons director, who jokingly promised "early release for anyone who puts the ball in the net!"

Football prize cup
The winners got a cup

When William Bygroves was booked for the visiting team he was greeted with a chant of "Two days in solitary!" from the home supporters.

"It was a great match and this was my first time in a Russian prison. I enjoyed myself," Bygroves said afterwards.

"Is that right?...Because you're welcome to come and stay any time," the prisons director quipped in response.

Home win

To the obvious delight of the crowd, the inmates' team scored their first goal just three minutes after the referee's starting whistle.

Another goal followed at the end of the second half. The final score saw the home side carry the day with a win of two goals to one.

Players had to identify team-mates by their haircuts

Russian daily Trud, reporting on the unusual match, said that it was originally scheduled to take place indoors but at the last moment the British players "decided to test themselves in extreme conditions".

The bitter cold wasn't the only test for the two teams when both teams discovered that they had near-identical green strips.

"The referee decided there was no point in changing, so the players had to identify their team-mates by their haircuts," reported Trud.

This was the second game at a Russian prison for the English visitors, and they have another one scheduled in Yaroslavl before winding up their visit, Russian TV added.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

Links to more Media reports stories are at the foot of the page.


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