Russian blindly back to action

Everybody knew there would be issues with returning to action during this global pandemic. To name just a few of the vested interests – sports media, news media, bookmakers, sports manufacturers – all needed to get back to business.

News media were among the most desperate as they know that they will die without the sports section propping up media companies.

Fans were the least pushy of the lot, most fully aware that bringing home a deadly virus was not ideal. We were told all was set to rush back into action.

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Need for normality

Oliver Callan told me that pandemics end in two ways – either the government just cave in for peace of mind, or we find a vaccine. We have no vaccine.

In Russia the May 9th Victory Parade was postponed to June 24th. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin (VVP) gave very good direction and advice, however left it to each region to decide for themselves on how to enforce best practice.

Irresponsible universities and schools chased students home, despite acknowledging Moscow as the nation’s virus epicentre.

Even in Moscow, home of the tightest lockdown in the World, it was chaos. The usual two suspect groups didn’t play fast and loose with laws, they sneered at them over their coffee and energy drinks.

For the golden youth and caucasian “businessmen”, coronavirus was meant to be caught by those less well off. Putin’s popularity dropped as those of us being careful saw these clowns strolling the streets, posting on Instagram and laughing about how they owned the city.

Police stood fearfully by. They upbraid the golden youth and they lose their job. They caution a Caucasian “businessman” and they either get a bribe or bullet, either way they lose. It was the normality we accept in Moscow, though we were now housebound spectators.

Football stumbled into view and when the date for restart was announced many of us saw light. The announcement of 10% of stadia allowed to be filled with home fans was less welcome.

In Moscow, normality would mean passing through confined spaces just getting to grounds. Sick footballers and staff we expected, but a total collapse in sports administration we did not, and it was only the beginning.

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Russian logic – part 1

An agreement was made between the Premier League clubs that they would decide about postponing/rescheduling matches in the case of an outbreak.

We’d seen it happen in Ukraine, when Karpaty Lviv had an issue with COVID-19 and their match was postponed. In Russia, they used a different logic, one compounded by odd statements from an increasingly erratic Russian Premier League administration.

Having lost the moral high ground, the RPL dug themselves deeper into the crap by stating that an outbreak of covid is “not a force majeure”. They put the blame on clubs not being prepared or resourced for such incidents.

It blew up with the Meath-like cynicism of FC Sochi last week and their farcical match with the FC Rostov under-12’s. All of us in sports and sports media here looked on aghast as Sochi refused to move their match with Rostov to July 19th, despite Rostov putting their entire 1st team and almost 30 staff in quarantine.

Rostov had to concede or send their under-11s. Just as in the aftermath of the 2010 Leinster Final, we all figured that Meath would show their sporting side and offer a replay to Louth, 10 years on, FC Sochi were the Meath of Russia.

Sports and news media, bookmakers and other vested interests did their best to spin a 10-1 destruction of a bunch of skinny schoolchildren as defiance in the face of aggression.

One wannabe commentator drawing a comparison with something far darker. He vomited a link between the Axis attack on the Soviet Union on June 22nd 1941 and the bravery of these young men facing “impossible odds”. It was the type of gobshitery you’d only expect from rugby media.

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Russian logic – part 2

Rostov were gunning for Europe, Sochi counting down the days until this latest attempt at a club in the resort go out of business. Their Rotenberg sugar daddy has lost interest, so the club is going under.

Down the road in FC Krasnodar, the club received a request from Dinamo Moscow for a switch of dates due to COVID-19. Krasnodar agreed. From a club source I was told that not a single person from owner Sergey Galitsky to the players dissented. Not in the typical Russian style of – you all have to vote the same way as the boss – this was a unanimous, magnanimous sporting gesture.

The Russian Premier League compounded their reticence on showing they might understand sport, as well as prove to be good administrators, by hiding. They claimed that they were following the Bundesliga process, except they were not for answering questions.

League head Sergey Pryadkin was this season voted back in for another spell. He is showing, like many administrators in top positions in Russia, that you’d not put a dog lead in his hand. Personally, I believe he has the ability, he just has been advised very, very poorly.

So now we wait for the next Russian football car crash. We’ve seen Zenit secure an inevitable title and their reserve team in Sochi, complete with Aleksandr Kokorin who scored a hat-trick against Rostov, become an even bigger laughing stock than before.

However, no matter how we wish to view it, we cannot be absolved of blame. We all wanted a return to normality. We all wanted to see live football. We went rushing back into action without considering that not all want sport played fairly.

Irish people only have to look at events in 2010, or 20 years previous when we cheered on match-fixing on the biggest stage of world football. Football returned, sport died.

Author Details

Alan Moore

A Russia-based Sports Journalist and Consultant, worked with major sports clubs including:- Spartak Moscow, Hajduk Split, Eintracht Frankfurt. Boxed Internationally, played semi-pro football and worked full-time in sports management/consultancy from 2003-13. First published professionally on football in 1990, first Russian league match in 1991, Host of Capital Sports on Capital FM, Moscow, #ChampTalks2020 and write the odd article. Former Director of the Centre of International Relations at the Russian State Social University in Moscow. And to make things more fun, he produced and hosted #ChampTalks2018 for UNESCO, Moscow's Tolerance Centre and Capital FM.

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