Who was the first Russian legionnaire footballer

It is generally accepted that the massive departure of our players abroad began during the years of perestroika. Football connoisseurs may recall that in Soviet times, some athletes managed to play abroad. For example, in 1980, the footballer of Zenit Leningrad, Anatoly Zinchenko, signed a contract with the Austrian club Rapid, in which he spent three years. But the first footballer from Russia appeared in a foreign club a long time ago, even before the First World War, or rather, in 1913!

In 1904, a 13-year-old gymnasium student Misha Romm joined the Bykovo children's team. The young defender quickly attracted the attention of football specialists and a few years later he was included in the SKS team that played in the Moscow championship.

At that time, a real football boom began in our country: the British who came to Russia literally "infected" young people with this new sport. Football teams grew like mushrooms after the rain.

Gradually, Mikhail Romm became one of the strongest players in the country, was included in the national teams of Moscow and Russia, and was repeatedly chosen as the captain of these teams. Romm was included in the Russian national team before the 1912 Olympics, but suffered a knee injury and did not go to the tournament.

In the fall of 1913, after a year of service in the tsarist army, Mikhail decided to go on a trip to Europe. In Florence, where the footballer was visiting his father's relatives, a certain Mr. Orsini, the chairman of the local football club Firenze, approached him and offered to play for the team.

Romm quickly gained credibility with local fans, who nicknamed him "Russian giant", Mikhail's height was almost 190 centimeters. As part of Firenze, the Russian played several matches and became the champion of the province of Tuscany. The team representatives warmly accompanied Romm by presenting him with a membership card of the football club "Firenze".

Returning home, Mikhail continued to play for Russian clubs, ending his career in 1923. Romm's coaching debut took place 5 years later: he headed the Moscow team and became the winner of the first All-Union Spartakiad in 1928 with it.

In the thirties, Romm became actively involved in football journalism. Mikhail Davidovich also owns several books on the theory of football. But his greatest merit can be considered an educational film about his favorite game. It was filmed in 1939 at the Tbilisi stadium "Dynamo" named after Beria, where they showed a master class of the stars - Grigory Fedotov, Boris Paichadze, Mikhail Yakushin, Anton Idzkovsky. Alas, the painting has not survived ...

In 1943 he “thundered” for eight years in the Stalinist camps and, having served his sentence, was exiled to Kazakhstan. There, far from the hectic football life, this extraordinary man, severely offended by fate, lived out his life.

The first Russian footballer-legionnaire died in 1967 in Chimkent, where he was buried.

Interestingly, Soviet footballers used to have a tradition to regularly visit Romm's grave. Alas, in our time, few people remember the athlete who cut through the "window to Europe".