Expanding football horizons! It is unlikely that there are many fans of Cypriot football among you. But one story from the island is definitely worthy of being known. Right now the game is being turned over by Aris, a club with a unique history and a Russian-speaking base of employees. A trip to Cyprus revealed this story in a special way.

“Aris” was founded in 1930, but still cannot boast of significant trophies. The club did not become the champion of Cyprus, and in the national Cup it only reached the final, and then 33 years ago. But in 2020, a new era has begun in the history of Aris: a Belarusian, doing business in Cyprus, Vladimir Fedorov, became the owner and president.

“The fact that Russian-speaking investors began to appear more often in Cypriot clubs is not a trend, everyone has their own story,” Fedorov explains. Football has always been my passion, consider it a childhood dream come true. In our case, there was a club with traditions, with a core of loyal fans, but at the same time with many organizational problems. Two years ago, Aris was in the lower division and did not have significant goals. We were imbued with sincere sympathy for the Arisa community: here the grandfather passes on his love for the club to his grandson, for them it is the family loyalty and traditions of Arisa that is more important, no matter what happens to the club. There are trusted people here – and not a single Gloryhunter. Of course, at first they were wary: what will happen to the club? Who came again? But we convinced the skeptics with rapid growth.”

Vladimir Fedorov

Vladimir Fedorov

Photo: Press service of FC Aris

Since Fedorov came, things have been going uphill for Aris. The club instantly made its way from the first division to the top league. The next step is to invite a new coaching staff headed by 34-year-old Alexei Shpilevsky. The Belarusian specialist, despite his age, has been training for 15 years. He worked in the RB Leipzig system, became the champion of Kazakhstan with Kairat and tried himself in the Second German Bundesliga.

Fedorov and Shpilevsky quickly formed a tandem. According to the coach, the president fully trusts him: “Fedorov comes and talks. Not every day, but keeps in touch. If one of the players needs something, they can contact him – he is always available to them. It’s the same with me – we discuss everything every day.”



“Tedesco regretted leaving Spartak.  Interview with Aris coach who worked with Rangnik
“Tedesco regretted leaving Spartak. Interview with Aris coach who worked with Rangnik

Shpilevsky is also actively involved in the transfer policy. Before you sign a newcomer, you need the approval of the coach. In general, the Aris transfer system is a different story. Contrary to stereotypes about rich people from the post-Soviet space, the new owner of the club made a different emphasis: Aris works according to the scheme “to take a young football player and improve him”. Shpilevsky likes this system: “There are scouts who follow potential newcomers. We have everything set up so that the player is scanned completely – they are judged not only by video and statistics. Our scouting system is impressive and not many clubs have that.”

At the same time, the composition of Aris does not become too Russian-speaking either – the team has only the midfielder of the Belarusian national team Yevgeny Yablonsky. Shpilevsky’s word again: “You can feel the attention from the press, agents are also calling, but this is a purely sporting principle. There should be no familiarity, and the owner knows this. It doesn’t matter to us who you are – African, Belarusian, Russian or someone else. We want to take players who fit our game. Well, the club, of course, wants to make money on it. And I want to help him with this.”

Alexey Shpilevsky

Alexey Shpilevsky

Photo: Press service of FC Aris

How does a club win a new audience?

To win over the audience, the management of “Aris” turned on the imagination to the maximum. The goal of the club was primarily expats of the Russian-speaking community. The reason is clear: nowhere in Cyprus do so many immigrants from the post-Soviet space live as in Limassol. According to the marketing director of the club Alexey Dozortsev, none of the other clubs paid attention to these people, so for Aris they became another target audience, in addition to the traditional Cypriot one. An additional factor was the mentality. Russian-speaking guys from the club understood what those who speak the same language with them want.

“This is the target audience, which is very difficult to attract,” explains Dozortsev. – In economic terms, attracting one such fan is very expensive. But this audience is desired by all. Everyone knows that Russian-speaking people are ready to spend money, to be loyal to the project… We understood that this audience is very diverse. These are employees of IT companies, people from the service sector, construction, and other places. Each of them must be approached. Many of them had never been to football and were not interested in it. For them, Aris became the first team in their lives, and now they are with us, they come to the stadium and get sick.”

Alexey Dozortsev

Alexey Dozortsev

Photo: Press service of FC Aris

How “Aris” is trying to turn the Cypriots’ idea of ​​media, famously shows the action “Mother-in-law’s Day”. News about her reached the post-Soviet space. On October 24, 2021, Aris decided to celebrate the international holiday in an original way and issued an appeal in Russian with a proposal to invite the mother-in-law to the stadium. At the entrance to the arena, free tickets were waiting for them.

“Mother-in-law’s Day” is an action that struck not only Cyprus, Dozortsev recalls. – We received calls from Greek clubs and even from their football association. It must be understood that here the ambiguity of the mother-in-law cult is even more unrefined than ours. We can treat mother-in-law with humor, but still with love. And here everything is like in jokes. And our action was such a break in the pattern that people were disarmed. We win with love. And the mothers-in-law were in shock, and everyone else, and the media.

What else did Aris do to attract a new audience? Here are some great stories:

  • band of drummers on the podium. The first publication of this innovation on one of the main sports portals in Cyprus collected in four hours twice as many views as all the news about other teams during the week;
  • matchday. At Aris, attention is paid to the little things – for example, each match program contains secret moments and collectible posters;
  • Each child at the match receives a gift. These are various things related to the club. “Aris” was the first in Cyprus to launch such a tradition;
  • another innovation. “Aris” was the first to organize work with schools. Instead of banal invitations to the match, club representatives arrange festive meetings with children. This converts into new fans;
  • fan association. The message “We are Aris, we are Limassol” made it possible to gather fans of two other Limassol clubs, AEL and Apollo, at the match against APOEL. It is APOEL that is the main football irritant for all teams in the country.

The last point of Aris is especially pleasing – the word of Dozortsev: “I talked with representatives of various fan organizations, and everyone says:“ We love and respect Aris. We see how you work. You are the purest team, not politically biased and not involved in internecine conflicts. We will support you.” And this is the main feedback. Our fans are understandable. But reverse respect is an incredible feeling. You understand that you are doing everything right and changing the value relations within the island. Now AEK and Apollo also play in European competitions, and we wished them good luck – people in social networks went crazy: “Wow! Seriously?! Was that possible? Respect!” Love and quality work can change things.”

Fans of Aris

Fans of Aris

Photo: Press service of FC Aris

What has the team already added?

The growth of “Aris” in attractiveness is also confirmed by the figures. “When the club had problems, many fans fell off,” says Dozortsev. – Someone began to root for other teams, someone just switched to passive mode. When we came to the club, 50 people went to the matches. Over the past season, we raised this figure by 20 times – a thousand began to walk. There is no such progression here.”

After the appointment of Shpilevsky and a powerful personnel reinforcement, the rapid growth of Aris continued: the team even led the championship for some time, and most importantly, immediately got into European competition. For the first time in its history.

“Yes, we set the task of reaching the elite of Cypriot football in one season,” Fedorov confirms. – They invited not only young players, but also experienced players. Then we realized that we could immediately fight for the European Cup zone. Competitors were discouraged when league debutant “Aris” topped the standings. Then it was not possible to stay in the first place, but no one said that everything would be easy. We had to change the game philosophy – and this is the arrival of a new coaching staff headed by Alexei Shpilevsky, to conduct a hyperactive transfer campaign, since the squad needed to be strengthened for new tasks.




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And last Thursday, July 21, Aris played a truly historic match: for the first time in its existence, the team played in European competitions, or more precisely, in the 2nd qualifying round of the Conference League.

Before the match with Neftchi, the team checked into a hotel in Larnaca. The fact is that the current Aris stadium does not meet UEFA requirements, and the new arena has not yet been completed. Therefore, the team played its first European Cup match on the home field of AEK. It was at the hotel that I managed to talk with Shpilevsky. On the eve of the main match in the history of Aris, the coach was not worried.

Alexey Shpilevsky

Alexey Shpilevsky

Aris head coach

“Honestly, I have more confidence. I am very pleased with how we spent the pre-season. The guys did a crazy job. I liked their perception and the speed with which they learned. Maybe there will be some excitement before the match, but we already have experience. For some players, this is the first such event, but I try to take all the nerves and give them confidence so that they play like at the training camp.

The words of Shpilevsky and the fairy tale “Arisa” came true. The club, although not at their home stadium, put on a show. As soon as the teams entered the field, fireworks were set off near the stadium. The same group of drummers replaced the claps for the fans, and then played something from their repertoire, creating the atmosphere of the festival.

And if the first half passed with an equal game and was remembered mainly by the dissatisfaction of the referee, who in several controversial situations made decisions in favor of Neftchi, then in the second the charge was finally transferred to the players of Aris. Shpilevsky’s team opened the scoring almost immediately, and after another 10 minutes added a second goal. The coach raised his hands in a royal way, entered the field and said hello to the fans. It could look like a manifestation of excessive self-confidence, but given the course of the game, Shpilevsky can be understood.

“Aris” completely controlled the situation on the field, did not allow the opponent to create chances and actively went forward. The account could be much larger. A one-on-one exit in the last seconds should have definitely set a rout on the scoreboard, but even 2:0 is unlikely to upset any of the fans. Which, by the way, has come a record number over the past couple of years – almost 2.5 thousand!

Arisa match

Arisa match

Photo: Press service of FC Aris

“The victory over Neftchi in the League of Conferences is a real holiday, a confirmation that we have chosen the right path,” President Fedorov shares his joy. But in reality, it’s just a step forward. We want to become a stable club in the European arena.”

The return match between Aris and Neftchi will take place tomorrow, July 28. And, to be honest, I want to cheer for the bright Cypriots with all my heart.

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