A few years ago a football manager in the Russian second division caused controversy (and received a 100 000 rouble fine he couldn’t pay) for speaking out about match-fixing in the league. Vladimir Kosogov claimed that many matches at that level were fixed, and named two sides who’d paid money to opponents and referees in the first division to fix games and eventually get promoted to the Premier League.
One of the sides he mentioned was Terek Groznyy, and it is their reserve side, Terek-2, who were beneficiaries of three penalties in four minutes in a recent second division game against Alania reserves (there has been a recent spate of bigger clubs putting reserve sides into the second division, which is the lowest professional level in Russia).
You can see for yourself what happened in this clip of the game – the ‘fun’ starts at around 40 seconds:
Though the camera is a little way from the action, penalty one seems soft – but, to be fair, they get given. The penalty-taker hits the upright with his effort. Penalty two is far more questionable – and parried by the goalkeeper. The third penalty decision is best – given when a Terek (i.e. attacking) player appears to foul an Alania defender in the box. You don’t need to understand Russian to hear the laughter coming from the stands at this point – one man can also be heard asking, “What’s he doing?”
This penalty wasn’t saved – the Alania reserves website wryly comments that their keeper didn’t react “because it was time to end this series of penalty awards”. The website also comments that although there was formal reason to give the first penalty, the other two were given “only by the wish” of the referee. The referee – Sergey Baranov – has this season given eighteen penalties in fifteen second division matches.
Perhaps the final word should go to fans who’ve watched and commented on the clip (translated from the Russian):
“A fan’s fallen over in the stands – give a penalty.”
“The referee’s for sale.”
“Really sad to look at this circus.”
“He needs to referee for Russia in the World Cup – then we’ll definitely win!
Saul Pope is a Russian and Ukrainian football blogger and contributor to “When Saturday Comes” magazine. He can be followed on Twitter @saulpope