I arrived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in the wee hours of September 6th, 2001. It had been a long, tiring journey via Amsterdam and Cairo with a few twists and turns along the way.
However, I was excited as I was going on an adventure. Then Tuesday 9/11 happened and everything went to pot. October to December we didn’t receive salaries and the morale was rotten
I was fortunate to have football on the side, but this didn’t deflect from the frustration and uncertainty we faced every day going into work.
When would we be paid, would we be fired, would we be sent out of the country now that the “War on Terror” had the locals hating us? It was not the optimal working condition.
And here begins the Fairytale of Rostov.
Two champions – same story?
Arrive and survive their first year in the top flight. Sack manager, bring in derided foreign manager and expect to face another battle for survival.
Foreign owner pumps in cash, manager brings in suspect “guru” who was formerly involved with Italian cycling team known for doping. With suspect finances team goes on to win Premier League and the nation celebrate.
Twenty-one of last 23 years in the top flight. In last six years finished between 7th and 14th in Premier League with three cup semi-finals and one cup win.
Former league winning manager in place since 2014 and radically overhauled playing and coaching staff. Club receive rush of finance in Autumn 2015 and suddenly lead the Premier League.
Eleven players tested after routine win over loan players parent club.
Fairytale of Rostov?
The Fairytale of Rostov is based more on the fact that players are getting paid more regularly and completely than anything else.
As anyone who has been in the situation of financial uncertainty, you cannot be at your best.
Until October last year there were severe doubts over whether the club would make the end of the season, yet manager Kurban Berdyev, stuck with it and kept his players motivated.
Rostov have for a long time been a crisis club, even when Artyom Dzyuba was banging in goals for them during his exiles from Spartak.
The local media have been waiting for the men from the South of Russia to blow up at any moment as usually happens with surprise packages (e.g. Krasnodar, Amkar Perm).
Yet they’ve hung in there and are picking up wins and few plaudits.
When 11 players were drug-tested after their win over Dinamo Moscow, there was pretty much nothing unusual.
Russian footballers have more chance of getting tested than their English counterparts and in the current politically driven climate of hate and fear, it was par for the course.
Yet the reporting was orgasmic by foreign media, and incorrect.
I have always been an opponent of doping, not on the grounds of unfair advantage or cheating clean athletes.
I am an opponent because of the physical and mental damage doping causes. In the last few weeks in Romania and Brazil young footballers dropped dead of heart attacks, nothing to see here move on please.
Football was more important and anyway, fans don’t give a damn, nor do the majority of coaches or club owners. They all want wins. The media just wants advertising sales.
The question of Rostov doping has been doing the rounds, yet nothing has come of it.
That UKAD led the charge last evening is telling, since they are the ones who can’t seem to ring doorbells properly or ensure that their own games, in 2012, were clean.
However, it’s lazy to suppose that while Leicester City escape with doing what they do means that the Fairytale of Rostov deserves to have a similar conclusion.
Doping is dangerous, full stop. I would not like to see Rostov get caught as it will not mean anything, like Sharapova’s outing.
The stupidity will continue and Usain and Mo will run in Rio while Paula will continue to be the fastest female marathoner in the world!
Sprinkling of pixie dust
The Fairytale of Rostov has had a number of twists and turns, not just a more stable financial environment and excellent coach.
The arrival of Boris Rotenberg Jr on loan and his financial backing is a situation more suited to the old Formula 1.
Does anyone remember those drivers who bought their drives? Lads with a rich Dad or benefactor who were able to keep afloat back of the grid teams like Jordan, Ligier or Minardi?
Drivers who, god bless them, were not top class but they were free, and actually brought money with them. This same thing happened when the Finnish International landed in town.
Having found it hard going in Dinamo Moscow, after a journey around the leagues, the player who would be a decent addition in the League of Ireland, has played lots for Rostov, though failing to complete matches.
Having him in the side means salaries are on the way and in fairness, he’s a hardworker.
For real or just Leicester?
This week I’d a nice interview with a radio station where we discussed Rostov’s chances of winning the league.
Still a pessimist I don’t see them holding on. This latest doping test could see them lose the match with Dinamo and presage a really dark time for Russian football.
And it is at this point that they depart from the Leicester scenario. As I said on air, they can still be destroyed.
Leicester have very good protection in a goalscoring English international (Jamie Vardy), the son of a pundit and Manchester United legend (Kasper Schmeichel), an Irish CEO (Susan Whelan) and the entire power of the Sky and Premier League machines behind them. Media silence is almost a given.
When I was home last week there was very little delight in the streets of Blanchardstown or Mulhuddart at a little guy winning.
Everyone, from media to sport to normal, I spoke with expressed a distaste or unease with them winning. With the media quickly covering over the Bonar scandal and moving along.
Rostov are not Leicester, they don’t have foreign riches boosting them up, just local ones. They have tried and trusted “medics” not foreign Italian ones from Mapei.
They are not solvent, unlike Leicester. They don’t have a compliant media, unlike Leicester. The Rostov story still could have an unhappy ending.
Conclusion of the Fairytale of Rostov
The same as with Leicester I would fear for them in the Champions League, even if they only take 2nd place and have to play-off to make the Group Stages.
I’m not alone in this, many locals feel the same. I worry that as with Maria Sharapova, should they turn out to have been caught doping, it will add three to four years onto the continued abuse of players at clubs across Europe.
By abuse I mean the continued use of PEDs which bring about early, sudden death (at best) or at worst, long term illness and dementia.
Either way, should the Fairytale of Rostov end with a league win and respectable showing in Europe, in two years they’ll be teetering on the brink of bankruptcy again.
The only difference is that in this time nothing will be done to stem the tide of PED abuse by clubs and players. In Russia or in England.