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Russians Call For Disbanding Of National Soccer Team

  • Tom Balmforth

Russian national soccer team coach Leonid Slutsky reacts during the UEFA EURO 2016 group match between Russia and Slovakia at Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille, France, on June 15.

Russian national soccer team coach Leonid Slutsky reacts during the UEFA EURO 2016 group match between Russia and Slovakia at Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille, France, on June 15.

MOSCOW -- Over 100,000 people have signed a petition calling for the wholesale firing and replacement of Russia's scandal-dogged national soccer team, hoping to turn things around before the country hosts the World Cup in 2018.

The petition follows the team's poor performance at the 2016 European Championship in France and public anger over allegations of wildly lavish partying by at least two players in Monte Carlo.

A clip posted on YouTube shows forward Aleksandr Kokorin and midfielder Pavel Mamayev at an elite nightclub, surrounded by flashing sparklers and bottles of costly Armand de Brignac champagne as the Russian national anthem booms.

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, called it a "shameless display of conceit," and the players have faced criticism on state television talk shows.

The petition was started days after Russia's humiliating exit from the EURO 2016 competition, where it gained just one point in the group phase and won no games. Russia drew with England in its first match but lost to Slovakia and Wales.

"We want to be proud, not ashamed," reads the title of a petition posted on Change.org that had been signed by about 120,000 people by the afternoon of July 7. It calls for the disbanding of the team and the selection of an entirely new outfit.

The signatories call for all money saved from the disbanding of the team to be spent on new sports facilities to nurture future generations of Russian players.

"Like children at New Year's, all Russians are waiting for a miracle, but this miracle hasn't happened for decades," the petition says.

The Soviet Union won the UEFA European Championship in 1960 and was runner-up in 1964, 1972, and 1988, but post-Soviet Russia has never made it into the final.

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said on July 6 that he expects a major shakeup in September that will see new players called up who "may be of a lower class" when it comes to skills but "have a huge desire to play for the country."

During his third presidential term, Putin has stressed what he says is the importance of patriotism and said people representing Russia should put the country before their personal desires.

Kokorin and Mamayev have denied they did anything wrong in at the Monte Carlo nightclub, where Russian media reports said they ran up a tab of some 250,000 euros ($277,000) on alcohol and entertainment. The players said it was paid for by other revelers.

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    Tom Balmforth

    Tom Balmforth covers Russia and other former Soviet republics. He can be reached at balmfortht@rferl.org

     

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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