The Moldovan derby

Chiara Dazi

2015 - 2017


Moldova was part of the Soviet Union. Today, it is an independent country with a pro-Russia self-declared Transnistrian region in the East, an autonomous Turkish-speaking Gagauzian province in the South, a border to Ukraine to the North, one to Romania and the EU to the West.

Photographing the Moldovan national football is about showing daily life in a nation looking for normality, while building new identities on its controversial past and present.

The stadium is a space where identities are outed, reflecting the outside society with conflicts at times acerbated.

The football national landscape provides a centre around which local communities are reinforced in a fragmented context. At the same time, this sport works as unique common ground for communication where clubs from the different regions of the country cross borders in order to play every Sunday on a shared field, sitting side by side on the bench while running for the goal to win.

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  • Moldova Republic / Chisinau / April 2015 / Near the circus in Chisinau. The monument with a football was built some years ago when the area was still assigned to the construction of the new sport arena. In fact, eight years ago the old republican stadium in the city has been demolished; two assigned plots and many projects later, the ball is on the pedestal, but no new stadium has seen the light in Chisinau.

  • Moldova Republic / Orhei / September 2015 / FC Milsami Orhei - FC Zimbru Chisinau. The red bus of the FC Milsami team is crossing the road along the communal stadium of Orhei while a woman in red and black colours walk by. The club FC Milsami is located in the city of Orhei, some 60 kilometres North of the Capital. Leaded by the local mayor and businessman, the club has recently won the national title for the first time in history (2014/2015 season). The mayor and club’s president has started an unprecedented campaign of refurbishment in the city, mostly personally financed by his own means.

  • Moldova Republic / Transnistria / Ternovka / March 2016 / Some supporters of the FC Zimbru Chisinau are singing for their team on the terraces at the FC Dinamo Auto stadium, which is located on the left bank of the river Dniestr. In order to reach the game the supporters have to pass a border control and receive a 10 hours visa for the territory of Transnistria.

  • Moldova Republic / Gagauzia / Ceadîr-Lunga / November 2015 / In the area of the stadium from the FC Saxan in Ceadîr-Lunga, in the South of Moldova, the guardian is burning collected leaves and dry grass around the pitch. The local club is the only one in the first league representing Gagauzia. It is an autonomous region populated by a minority, speaking a turkic language, and with tight connections to Turkey and Russia.

  • Moldova Republic / Transnistria / Tiraspol / April 2016 / The girls of the Sunshine dance club are preparing for the dance they perform in the middle of the football pitch during the game break. FC Sheriff Tiraspol has a fancy infrastructure offering for the children of the region and the players of the country an unique opportunity. The differences between the phantasmagoric sport complex in Transnistria and the rest of Moldova play a role in the often contradictory relationship among the two sides of the river.

  • Moldova, Republic / Chisinau / FC Dacia supporters group Noua Legiune before leaving for the match, Two supporters of the club FC Dacia are preparing to the trip to the match. The bus is sponsored by the club in order for the ultras groups to be able to join: otherwise rarely Moldovans would have the means to travel around the country following their team for the away games.

  • Moldova Republic / Chisinau / April 2016 / "Bad boys", one of the supporters group of FC Zimbru, the oldest team still in the main league.

  • Moldova Republic / Chisinau / February 2016 / One of the ultras is carrying the drum to the bus which will take the supporters to the away game. The gathering point of Zimbru fans is at the Sofia supermarket, a square located in the Botanica district, not far from the club's stadium. In the past, a sport bar was located on the first floor of the supermarket.

  • Moldova, Republic / Speia / A cigarette break during the trip with the minibus from Chisinau to the home game of FC Dacia in Speia.

  • Moldova Republic / Transnistria / Tiraspol / November 2015 / Victor is one of the Zimbru supporters who has been beaten by a big group of Sheriff's fans during a fight right outside of the FC Sheriff stadium in Tiraspol. Sheriff-Zimbru is the big derby of Moldova and often ultras groups engage in organised or spontaneous conflicts. (the sport and
    political hostility could be compared to the Madrid-Barcelona derby).

  • Moldova Republic / Chisinau / August 2016 / Zimbru Zimbru supporters on the street in the Moldovan landscape, during a break from the trip home after the game. The supporting groups gathered some food and presents for an orphanage in the southern city of Ucrainca, where they support the local parentless children. They also organised a game for the local community where theyplayed themselves.

  • Moldova Republic / Speia / July 2016 / A couple of the supporters FC Zimbru in the stadium of their biggest opponent, FC Dacia Chisinau, while waiting to be allowed out with the escorted bus. FC Zimbru Chisinau was playing against FC Dacia Chisinau for a Capital city derby which is taking place in Speia, the new home base of Dacia. Speia is a village located 70 km from Chisinau which used to be a very rich productive centre, which suffered the economical and demographic decay common to the whole country after the collapse of the Soviet Union

  • Moldova Republic / Transnistria / Tiraspol / A car is entering without stopping at the gate of the FC Sheriff Tiraspol sport complex. The people sitting inside greet the guards at the entrance who they apparently already know.
    The sport complex is an impressive example of sport architecture in a landscape of rather poor context and is guarded as a fortress.

  • Moldovan Republic / Congaz / African player from Congo and Ivory Coast warm up for the training. Until the season 2016 the FC Saxan team was mostly composed by players from Africa. Not all the citizens of the autonomous region were happy with this situation.

  • Moldova Republic / Orhei / September 2015 / Moldovan National Team U21 plays against
    Montenegro in the stadium of Orhei for the European Championship qualifying rounds. Life goes on around the pitch where the players are running to win.

  • Moldova Republic / Orhei / FC Milsami supporters are entering the stadium of the FC Dacia Chisinau. The stadium is actually situated in the village of Speia, some 70 kilometres from the capital city. It was built when the city was flourishing and quite big industries were giving work to the locals. As soon as the soviet Union broke down and Moldova gained independence, most of the
    factories closed and all the work the citizens put into the construction of the dreamy stadium seemed meaningless along with the draining out of the population in search for work and better life away. Today the stadium is privately owned by the FC Dacia, a Chisinau based club. Games are mostly attended by some children and pensioners from the town, except for some ultras groups coming from the Capital. Those are backed up by the club which support their travel expenses in order to keep them coming.

  • Moldova Republic / Gagauzia / Ceadîr- Lunga / the keeper of the stadium checks the seats for
    a round in the evening. The seats have the colors of the Gagauzian flag: blue-white-red.

  • Moldova Republic / Transnistria / Bender / September 2016 / Stop at the Administrative Boundary Line with Transnistria. The supporters took a minibus to reach the stadium in Tiraspol where the game FC Sheriff - FC Dacia will take place. Travellers have to present their passport and get a permit to enter the region which is valid for ten hours only.

  • Moldova Republic / Gagauzia / Ceadîr-Lunga / October 2015 / Players on the bus of the FC Saxan Ceadir-Lunga heading to the natural grass training facility in a neighbouring village. The president built the club and the artificial turf from scratch. He is a local businessman with passion for football who recently also run for mayor of the city without succeeding.

  • Moldova Republic / Gagauzia / Ceadîr-Lunga / November 2015 / Three players from the Gagauzian team FC Saxan in the city of Ceadîr-Lunga walk to the stadium for the evening training. Two of them are from Turkey, one from Ghana. Many players from Africa join Moldovan teams hoping to find a door to Europe, but are often disappointed by the level and conditions they find here.