Foggy Memory – Arsenal’s Weirdest Match Ever

By on December 27, 2021

During the autumn of 1945, the ashes of war started to cool down in Europe. Because the biggest conflict in History was finally over, the general feeling was optimism, even among the rubbles. The alliance between the UK, the USA, and the USSR was still there, although not long. It seemed a good moment to organise friendly soccer matches.

It could “save the marriage” and give the people some entertainment. International competitions were obviously off during the war. It means football fans have been craving a match since 1939. So, one of the first post-war diplomatic efforts was warmly welcomed by fans: the USSR’s league champion, Dynamo Moscow, got invited to a tour in England.

The Tour

Knowledge about the USSR was next to none among British soccer fans. So, Dynamo Moscow was surrounded by mystery, and the fact that it has its domestic league didn’t mean much. Three English teams faced the Soviet team: Chelsea, Stamford Bridge, and Arsenal. The matches occurred in London, and there was much anticipation about them.

It wasn’t the first time soccer was used as a postwar diplomatic tool. The Canadian Army also had a very successful soccer team during WWI, which would play in Brussels in 1919.

Back to the Soviet adventure in England, Dynamo’s first match, against Chelsea, sold out 75,000 tickets. The funds went to the reconstruction effort in Stalingrad. There was so much anxiety towards the first match after the war. The fans were risking their lives, climbing tall stands to get a view of the field. If it had been modern-day times, bookies world be going wild with people learning how to bet on soccer from Canada to Nambia and across the world.

Dynamo Moscow was a strong team, but it didn’t use much of its best quality in the match against Arsenal when a heavy fog engulfed the city.


The fog in London is a natural event, given its geography, climate, and so on. However, during the 40s, the air quality in the city was terrible due to pollution coming from the industry and countless homes. Such pollution, mixed with the Thames’ fog, created nearly poisonous yellow clouds, called “pea-soupers”.

On November 21, the day of the match against Arsenal, an unusually dense pea-souper fell upon the city. Players could barely see each other, referees could see no one, and who knows how the audience was following everything. A match that would have been suspended in normal conditions wasn’t happening in normal conditions. After all, it was a postwar match against two “almost” friendly nations. So both teams carried on.

Not the Best Diplomacy

With no one watching, the game became a good representation of the diplomatic relation between those countries soon after. Dynamo was found to be playing two extra players on the field. Meanwhile, a red-carded Arsenal player rejoined the team as if nothing had happened. The match ended 4-3 for the visitors, with many disallowed goals, black eyes, and bleeding supercilium.


George Orwell would define the event later as “war minus the shooting”. The diplomatic effort showed little results, as both nations fell apart soon. Not because of soccer, of course. Anyway, this match entered History as one of the most bizarre sporting events ever.