Another week – another match-fixing rumour in the Russian Premier League. This time it’s the Kuban Krasnodar/Volga Nizhniy Novgorod fixutre this Sunday. What first raised suspcions on Twitter was money being placed on the game almost a week before it took place – this happens rarely, other than when a fixture is very high-profile.
And the money was going not on the home side – 7th placed Kuban, who’ve beaten Dinamo and Spartak Moscow this year – but on 13th placed Volga, who are one point off the bottom of the table. At the time of writing (Saturday morning) on the Betfair exchange, twenty times more money has been placed on this fixture than any other Russian games happening that day. Despite being far the weaker side on paper, Volga are clear favourites.
You might be interested to know that Kuban’s coach is former Chelsea and Romania player Dan Petrescu (England fans will remember him best for what he did in this game). Russian speakers can check out this short article from last season. In it Petrescu refutes suggestions that a first division match involving his side was fixed. The opponents that day? Volga Nizhniy Novgorod.
According to one Tweeter, Petrescu has also said that he’ll leave Russia if his side plays even one fixed match. I haven’t been able to find where he said this (but don’t doubt it’s true) – if anyone can lead me to it, I’d be grateful.
Saul Pope is the author of ‘New Holland’, a mystery novel set in Russia and published by Espresso Books. He also writes for the football magazine ‘When Saturday Comes’.