The violent end to the careers for two of Russian football’s biggest stars

On Sunday, 7th of October, Zenith Saint Petersburg confirmed its pacemaker role in the race for the Russian Premiership title by producing a confident 2 – 1 win over FC Krasnodar.

The whole match day was not disappointing either, with a handful of goals in Krasnoyarsk, nail-biting thriller in another Moscow derby and unexpected FC Rostov home defeat – all of this leaving a pleasant warming afterglow and hope for even better performances after the pause for international matches.

What happened a day after, however, was not so charming and delightful.

Hours after the central game Alexander Kokorin and Pavel Mamaev, rivals at the pitch but comrades outside of it, did not find themselves in the list of players called up for upcoming Russian team matches and decided to unwind and to celebrate, joined by several other friends including Kokorin’s younger brother Kirill.

The celebration probably started just after Zenit striker posted a picture with a hashtag “10 years of friendship”, and it all went well until early Monday morning, when the company, bored for lack of occupation, was walking near the Beijing hotel in Moscow city center and kicking the cars parked nearby.

One of the drivers did not tolerate that and presumably told young lads to stop, however, his remark was met aggressively, and the man had no chances against the crowd knocking him down and switching all of their silly energy to beat him. Alexander and Pavel can both be seen at the video taking part in the assault.

Was that the end of this distasteful exhibition? No – the group were quite happy with their uneven fight and felt somewhat hungry afterwards, so they decided to have some breakfast at a nearby coffee shop. The company put a few tables together, and when there were no chairs left Kokorin decided to borrow one from the nearest table.

The man sitting at that table noticed that a polite way would be to ask if the chair was available first, and furious footballer decided not only to tell a few words but to hit the man with that chair also – he was definitely satisfied with what he had done judging by his happy smile.

Unlucky for Mamaev and Kokorin, the man hit by a chair was Denis Pak, a Russian official holding quite a high position at the Ministry of Industry and Trade, who complained to the police immediately after the incident. Mr. Pak reportedly got his tooth broken and sustained several bruises as a result of the assault.

The first victim of the so-called professionals and their friends was Vitaly Solovchuk working as a driver for a Russian First channel news presenter; he is said to be hospitalized with a head injury. There is no information on whether he filed a complaint of his own, although he has already confirmed in an interview that he identified Mamaev and Kokorin among the assaulters.

The police opened investigation on a criminal case for battery at first, and both sportsmen were called in for questioning and detained for 48 hours. A day after the accusations were presented, but the charges were amended to criminal disorderly conduct committed by a group – so the footballers have been arrested and will be kept in custody for two months.

It is certainly a bit early to predict on how the situation will turn eventually, but we have a lot of information to point out at the moment already.

First of all, it should be noted that under Russian law, battery is considered to be a minor criminal offence since the relevant Art. 116 of the Russian Criminal Code provides two years of jail sentence as a maximum penalty for it.

Moreover, the analysis of cases shows that offenders often go off with just a few months of community service or even with a fine, which is what both footballers would want – the maximum amount of fine is RUB 200,000 (€3000), while Mamaev’s bank account is said to be credited with €1.4 million yearly, and Kokorin earns between €2.5 million to €4 million every year according to different sources.

The biggest problem for the wannabe-gangstas-but-happened-to-be-footballers is that one would normally be condemned to a fine in case of a settlement between the parties, otherwise more severe sanctions are likely to apply.

What the guys should also keep in mind is that the lawyer of mr. Pak, the ministry official who suffered from the assault in a coffee shop, has already announced that no settlement is possible; moreover, his lawyers insist on criminal prosecution under Art. 213 of the Criminal Code “Criminal disorderly conduct”, although only a few experts agree that footballers can be accused of an attack performed by an organized group.

Nevertheless, this does not make the guys position much more favorable, since before hitting the man with a chair Kokorin reportedly shouted a few racist words to mr. Pak. Should this information be confirmed, the footballers are likely to consider a long vacation in jail – The maximum sentence is five years for a person acting separately and seven years if the crime was committed by an organized group.

What should also strike fear in the sportsmen’s minds is that custody is normally applied when the courts and/or investigators see the accused persons as potential prisoners, so some time behind bars for two friends is not so unlikely.

Various media later reported that Kokorin and his friends later offered RUB 5 million (€70,000) for the video tape of their fight, however, by that time it had already been asked for by mr. Pak’s representatives and forwarded to the police.

It is also worth mentioning that mr. Solovchuk, the victim of the first attack, may have more severe injuries than the ministry official, and depending on the circumstances the guys may be accused not only of battery, but also of intended moderate bodily harm (art. 112 of the Criminal Code, maximum penalty up to five years jail sentence).

FC Krasnodar reacted to the situation immediately by issuing a press-release on Tuesday. The release condemned their midfielder behavior and specified that the club will be studying options available for contract termination.

The Saint Petersburg club announced their negative reaction as well but were much more reserved about in their evaluation of the case, leaving some room for speculation on whether Zenit believe that further cooperation with Kokorin is ethically acceptable.

It is not the first time when Alexander Kokorin, now 27, and Pavel Mamaev, 30 years old, are the newsmakers for the yellow press. In 2016, for example, both were seen at Twiga, a posh Monte Carlo night club, ordering dozens of bottles of overpriced champagne – just after Russian national team fiasco at the European championship.

Kokorin, one of the most  highly paid players in the Russian Premier League, used to be one of the most talented strikers in Russia, which quickly brought him money and a VIP syndrome as a side effect. Since his young years Alexander was known for his passion for luxury life. Kokorin’s Instagram profile is and was full of party pictures, yachts and overpriced vehicles.

It is safe to say that Alexander made some good performances on the football ground as well from time to time, scoring both for his clubs and even for the national team, and only due to his ACL injury he missed the World Cup 2018.

However, his arrogant behavior on and off the pitch, in addition to the poor payment/performance balance led to a fair reaction from the public and press – Alexander Kokorin’s name became much more likely to be linked with a scandal rather than with football as such.

Pavel Mamaev, in turn, was somewhat more modest, although until the beginning of this season he was often regretfully named as one of  the talents leaving the football stage on a minor note. This autumn, however, left Mamaev’s critics puzzled, since he became one of FC Krasnodar leaders who made it possible for the team from Russian South to imagine their gorgeous stadium witnessing Champions’ League matches.

Alexander and Pavel were both doing quite well in the league until last Monday. Both footballers haven’t made any comments yet, however, the police has every reason to detain both and to serve relevant charges, which, in turn, will be followed by relevant pre-trial restrictions.

The common practice for such crimes is to opt either for custody or for restriction of travel order, both making it not so easy to show up for trainings, which, in turn, leaves clubs in a position allowing them to terminate contracts – hardly can we imagine a situation where a contract will be protecting a player from any sanctions in case of a long absence.

Whatever is the end to the story, it’s probably the first time when press and fans, both Russian and foreign, are united in their opinion that the penalty should be as severe as it can be. Their respective footballing careers are most certainly ruined and it’s Pavel and Alexander who made it so.

The Author

Evgeny Kolpinskiy

Dispute resolution and sports lawyer Dedicated Spartak Moscow supporter

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