Alisher to the rescue in Russia

As snow continues to fall outside and the temperature dips close to -10, news rolls in of the latest leg of the return of Russian football to the St. Petes boys and a 180 from the path of development.

A “source” reported this week that the dictator-friendly Alisher Usmanov was throwing his considerable weight behind the Mutko jaunt to power.

On Friday it was announced that he will give the Russian Football Union a “soft loan” of 400 million robules (c. 5.5 million euros) to pay Fabio Capello his wages.

 

Of course it comes as no shock that an oligarch should be “ashamed” – as Mutko said – of the international image of Russia in such circumstances. Oligarchs are famously attentive to the needs of government in Eastern Europe, or anywhere, once they have been granted certain rights and favours. Alisher’s will soon be known.

The online and professional reaction has been one of disgust, that a man whose wealth soruces are more than questionable, who is allied with one of the worst human rights abusers in the former USSR and who made out like a bandit during the November-December rouble massacre (his companies were involved in shorting the currency), is now hugged to the Kremlin’s bosom by his former KGB colleagues.

Most are ashamed that such a huge some of money could be handed over so easily at the request of the Sports Minister yet across the country tens of thousands are yet to receive pay from November. While a legendary italian coach gets his back pay in the capital Sports Schools remain underfunded and coaches unpaid. The international image of the country is of top priority somehow.

Indeed, the international image needs some shoring up after VVP’s order that military reservists begin active training and, in a quite odd interview, that the Russian people are strong and can afford to tighten their shoestrings. This just 2 days before “significant progress” was made in relation to the war in Ukraine during the Presidents meeting with the leaders of Germany and France

A certain element of fear ran through the small parts of the media still open to free comment with the focus now turning to celebrate the Sochi Winter Olympics and the 38billion euros spent on preparing for them. Debate has been largely muted to the Usmanov “loan” and the Sochi Games. Though as has been seen in other European countries, sadly including our own in Ireland, free press is not immune to bias towards government policies or spin.

The nation is told to save and be prepared to defend itself while oligarchs and government ministers can spend big to maintain a public image. Russian football is not becoming, it is a decaying Potemkin Village.

Given that this is a loan (at the behest of Mutko) and football and the RFS is crumbling under the weight of debts and lack of structure from the Mutko regime, it looks like the fall guy will again be Tolstykh.

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Alan Moore

Russian based sports journalist and consultant, working with major clubs including Hajduk Split, Eintracht Frankfurt, Lokomotiv and Spartak Moscow. Current host of Capital Sports FM in Moscow, former international boxer and semi-professional footballer and commentated at the FIFA World Cup 2018.

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