It’s not been a great week for Russian soccer – which is a sentence that feels like it could have been written pretty much every week since the nation was awarded the 2018 World Cup.
First, Vlad Putin’s soccer soulmate, Sepp Blatter, agreed to step down, placing Russia’s right to host the tournament into question. Putin must be like: “allegations of corruption and cronyism amid intense international scrutiny led by the U.S., and then the leader quits? I just don’t understand it.”
Second, weird stuff is going on between Russia coach Fabio Capello and the recently-deposed president of the country’s soccer governing body, who has claimed that the overpaid and underperforming Italian boosted his wages with a secret “second contract” with shadowy figures.
“There was panic, and no answers. People would not talk to me about it. And it’s a serious issue,” Nikolai Tolstykh said, according to Reuters. “Who is behind Capello? The man gets €7m and €10m. Somewhere this €10m appears, is paid and someone receives it. Who is sharing it out?”
“In the request to Capello I wrote the following: ‘I get the impression that Fabio Capello’s work in Russia is a business project of a certain group of people, which is not linked to the results of the national team.’”
Capello’s son, also his agent, said the allegation was totally false and that legal action will be taken against Tolstykh.
Third — and this is less surprising — a new study detailed in the Guardian shows that Russian soccer is massively racist. As in, 99 racist and far-right displays and 21 racially motivated attacks by Russian fans in 2012-13 and 2013-14.
With so much going on, it’s easy to forget that only last week Russian authorities proposed using prison labor to drive down infrastructure costs for the 2018 tournament.