It was the British custom for the two teams to come out with a soccer ball each and loosen up at each end by taking a few shots at the goalkeeper. But the Dynamos did nothing that was expected of them. The 11 players, clad in somewhat dingy blue, came out early with several balls and streamed all over the field, doing calisthenics and playing tricks with the balls. Then they all ran off again.
Chelsea, which usually played in royal blue, deferred to the visitors and emerged tactfully clad in red. A few minutes later the Dynamos appeared again, this time without any ball but each man with a posy of flowers, which he presented to his opposite number. The Chelsea players simpered and turned a color to match their shirts, and the crowd roared. This promised to be fun.
For the first few minutes of the game the Russians were clearly disconcerted by the noise and rowdiness of the crowd. Small boys, pushed to the front, sat with their feet almost on the pitch, and Chelsea took advantage of the Russian lapse by scoring twice. But then the Russian revelation began.
As with most sports fans, soccer buffs tend to think of their sport's golden age as in the distant past. In English soccer the golden age had come in the first decade of this century, when Britannia ruled the game with a dazzling, aggressive style of play. But between the wars the game in England (though not in Scotland) became increasingly technical and defensive, a match of reinforced defense with only three sharpshooters up front looking for a breakaway. What 80,000 Englishmen in Stamford Bridge Stadium now saw, as the Russian team took control, was like a reincarnation of the old-style soccer—open, flowing, moving always into intricate and daring attacks. Old-timers in the crowd smiled and nudged younger companions. "That," they said, "is how we played the game." The Russians, bless them, hadn't learned a thing since 1914, and now the youngsters could appreciate what their fathers had been talking about all these years.
Despite the Russian style Chelsea somehow led 2-0 at halftime. But in the second half the Russians swept through them to score twice. Chelsea fought back desperately and, thanks to the genius of their two great stars, Bobby Walker and Tommy Lawton, took the lead 3-2. The Russians scored last, and the game ended 3-3. By the next morning all Britain was aware that soccer would never be the same again and that England could no longer look disparagingly on "foreigners." No less important, British boys for the first time in history had foreign idols to worship: the flying forward, Kartsev, and the acrobatic, crowd-pleasing goalkeeper, "Tiger" Khomitch.
The Dynamos went to play Cardiff, a third-division team roughly equivalent to a Triple-A team in American baseball. The Russians smashed the inexperienced and part-time Welshmen 10-1. The Chelsea experience was no optical illusion. The Russians were superb.
The next game was in London again, against Arsenal. Arsenal was, and still is, the symbol to foreigners of English soccer. The parallels between the "Gunners" of London and the "Bombers" of Yankee Stadium is extraordinary at almost every level, from their ups and downs, the animosity and love they engendered, to their stars, Babe Ruth and Wee Alex James, Iron Man Lou Gehrig and Iron Man Ted Drake.
But the war had decimated Arsenal. Even its park, Arsenal Stadium, had been requisitioned. George Allison, the jowly, short-tempered manager, could not even find 11 Arsenal players available. He cast around London to see if any other players were on leave. Ronnie Rooke of Fulham, a powerful but aging center forward, was in town, and so were the great Stanley Matthews and Stan Mortensen of Blackpool. Allison drafted them into the team at the last minute.
The Russians promptly objected. Sinyavsky declared to Moscow by radio that the Dynamos were no longer playing Arsenal, but "All-England." As this statement was repeated in the press and on radio, English public opinion, until now amused by the antics of their rum guests, changed to irritation. Only the English Football Association could pick England. Allison was furious and tension had become fissionable when, on the morning of the game, a pea-souper descended on London, necessitating a merciful postponement. Or so it seemed.
The Russians, to the amazement of all, insisted on playing. Worse still, the Russian referee, Latychev, tried a fatuous experiment in umpiring, placing the two linesmen on the one line, while he refereed from the other. The whistle blew, and 22 shadows moved here and there like ghosts in the gloom while press cameras flashed like flame throwers. The referee flagrantly favored his compatriots. Fouls, offsides, shirt-pulling practiced by the Dynamos were ignored, while the slightest Arsenal infringement incurred a whistle. At one point the Dynamos even played with 12 men; one player, apparently injured, was replaced by a substitute, but the injured man stayed on the field and continued to play. The result was Dynamos 4, Arsenal 3.