With Russia set to host the next World Cup in 2018 — for now, at least — photographer Sergey Novikov is documenting the idiosyncratic soccer fields where Russia's amateurs play.
Novikov, 35, has traveled across central Russia for three years for the project, visiting picturesque fields next to churches in small towns and artificial pitches in towns closed to outsiders in Russia's far north.
Most of the stadiums Novikov photographs date back over 50 years to a time when few in Russia had television, and watching local soccer games was more popular.
The stadiums are integrated seamlessly into town life.
It's often hard to make plans. Once, Novikov traveled from Moscow to Kirovsk, a town in Russia's far north, only to find that the game was cancelled to mourn local officials who had died in a helicopter crash.
Another time, Novikov was called on to play himself after one of the players fell ill.
Novikov plans to visit amateur teams in the Ural Mountains and Siberia to complete the project in time for the World Cup.
"Stadiums are especially important in provincial towns because they are often the only place that members of the local population can let off some steam," Novikov told the Moscow Times.
"When everything is going badly at work, when you face chaos and corruption in your town, when your wife leaves you for another man then you have two options: sport or alcohol."
Here are some more of Novikov's tribute to those who chose sport:
Max Seddon is a correspondent for BuzzFeed World based in Berlin. He has reported from Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and across the ex-Soviet Union and Europe. His secure PGP fingerprint is 6642 80FB 4059 E3F7 BEBE 94A5 242A E424 92E0 7B71
Contact Max Seddon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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