Fabio Capello and the Day of Victory

A week ago my son and I were playing Star Wars, or rather, we were engaged in a highly stylised light sabre battle. I blame myself for getting him hooked on the original (and best) trilogy and now it’s Star Wars Lego, Angry Birds and Jenga that floats his boat.

As I “won” one fight he fell down and began to cry. Now before anyone calls in Social Services, it was because he was now “dead”. As I held him I tried to explain that he was okay, that as he’s half-Irish he’s almost an immortal. And this triggered a response that I found to be widespread and disturbing.

 

An order came down from the laughable Ministry of Education and Science to teach ALL students, from kindergarten to final year secondary teens, the great and heroic sacrifice made by the Russian nation in the Great Patriotic War, 1941-45.

This includes telling kids as young as three that they need to stand ready to defend Russia from fascism at a moment’s notice and that once again the fascists are at our borders. Timur telling me that he didn’t want to die or be in a war made sense for me. Right now the country is swimming in this increasing paranoia that slops down from the leaders.

Hypocrisy on a mega-scale abounds in Russia in the lead up to May 9th and the Day of Victory. Only two days I watched from our canteen window as special State officials with their blue buckets (flashing blue lights) whizzed into the city centre.

Of the 32 cars, 9 were Mercedes, 7 drove Audi’s and 16 were BMW’s. It doesn’t just stop at the top, as our betters should be allowed to have their foreign bank accounts and properties without issue, further down the food chain it is ripe. The “Blue Oyster Bar Motorcycle Club”, sometimes known as the Nightwolves, embarassed themselves and Russia by trying to “Ride to Berlin” to celebrate victory.

These odd little men with their odder leader, known as “The Surgeon”, play to a diminishing audience, especially as they ride into battle on their Harleys, BMW’s and Honda’s, strange choices for great patriots, though good for them that they enjoy foreign objects throbbing beneath them. It’s a step forward for equal rights in Russia. Though I do worry for Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov who joined the gang and gifted them 16 motorbikes, none of them Russian made. This is not a joke!

Mercedes with “To Berlin”, the battle slogan, painted on them and the orange and black remembrance ribbons adorn replacement bottles for water coolers. Irony is not only in the kitcheny in Russia!

Anyway, it has impacted on our football debate. Poor old Fabio Capello, yes him, the refugee who fled from the English free press to the free press of Russia, is again without a brass farthing in his pocket. A war of words erupted when his son, and agent, said that Papa hadn’t been paid for his work in April.

Increasingly embattled Russian FU President, Nikolai Tolstykh, said that Italian threats and media stories were not appropriate in the lead up to the Day of Victory, and that Fab and his agent/son, should hold their whist as the Russian people are solemnly remembering the great losses and sacrifices of their ancestors. In December he said that it was not appropriate to take about the unpaid salary as it was close to the New Year holiday and Orthodox Christmas.

Of course the Italian riposte came that Capello’s Dad had been in a concentration camp and emerged weighing only 48 kilogrammes and that regardless of the time of year, contracts should be honoured. It means he will soon be gone.

RFU President in waiting, Vitali Mutko, answered a colleague of mine that he was on holidays and would not be drawn into answering before the Day of Victory. This has effectively left the RFU and Tolstykh hanging.

The questions come again, why did the RFU sign a long-term contract for seven million euros a year (before bonuses, expenses etc) when they had no way of paying for it? Where has the promised Kremlin and Oligarch money gone?

 

While this is typical of Russian football, and sports, it paints the Football Association of Ireland and League of Ireland in a very good light. A friend of mine told me a very good anecdote for this type of Russian business.

Two friends meet, one says – “You should buy from me a big truck of jam and sell it, people need it and you’ll be rich.” The other agrees, “You’re right, I’ll do it. See you tomorrow, same time, same place.”

They shake hands on the deal then both go in opposite directions. The first to find a truck full of jam to sell, the other to find the money to pay for it. Fabio brought the jam but didn’t find a buyer.

So this weekend there will be no football matches on Saturday, but there will be the Russia-Belarus match in the World Ice Hockey Championships.

Everyone expects little brother to do big brother a favour, especially after Russia’s painful loss to the USA, though the less said about that the better. It’s all about victory for a wee while yet!

The Author

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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