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What's Russian For 'Fan-Friendly'?

Russian soccer star Andrei Arshavin has become a target for fans' disappointment with the national team's performance at Euro 2012.
Russian soccer star Andrei Arshavin has become a target for fans' disappointment with the national team's performance at Euro 2012.
The captain and star of Russia's national soccer team, Andrei Arshavin, has come in for a firestorm of criticism from politicians and others back home over remarks he made after Russia crashed out early from the Euro 2012 championship.

Following a 1-0 defeat to Greece on June 17 that knocked Russia out of the tournament in the group stage, Arshavin was caught on video saying the fans' expectations for the team were "their problem," as AFP reported:

News reports said Russian lawmakers who were staying at the same five-star Le Meridien Bristol Warsaw hotel did not take the result lightly and made their sentiments known to the team.

"They accused the players of surrendering [Russia's] national interests, of having a lack of will, and of destroying the hopes of millions of fans," the "Sovetsky Sport" daily wrote.

Cell-phone footage of the altercation posted on the website showed several lawmakers grilling a relaxed and seemingly bored Arshavin about the squad's performance against Greece.

"What should we apologize for? What?" he demanded before repeating the word several times.

Lawmaker Anton Belyakov replied that the team "failed the expectations of millions of supporters" and should have said something after the loss.

"Whose expectations were these -- yours or ours? If we did not fulfill your expectations, then honestly, these are your problems," Arshavin said while leaning back casually in a hotel lobby armchair.

The head of the Russian State Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee, Aleksei Pushkov, has since tweeted that Arshavin should not be allowed to captain the Russian team or even play for it.

Arshavin has also came under attack from Gazprom, owner of his hometown club, Zenit St. Petersburg. Valery Golubev, deputy chairman of the state-controlled natural-gas monopoly Gazprom, was quoted as saying, "How can a citizen of Russia treat the honor of his country like that?"

A statement on Arshavin's official website said his recorded comments did not apply to all fans, but accused some Russians of being too quick to turn on the team when it's down.

Arshavin played the last half of the previous season with Zenit, where he was on loan from London's Arsenal. After initially impressing following his 15 million-pound ($24 million) transfer to Arsenal in February 2009, Arshavin has slowly found himself out of favor.

His hopes of returning to play in Russia on a more permanent basis may now require a bit of a rethink. But if that falls through, he can always turn to his hobby as an advice columnist.

-- Dan Wisniewski

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