Thanks to the Winter Olympics most people remember the Russian city of Sochi and its magnificent Fisht Stadium, currently being converted into a venue for the 2018 World Cup. It will be the stadium for Sochi’s home football team too – the only problem is that the city is on its third post-Soviet team, and may be about to lose that as well.
FC Sochi’s Director Evgeniy Mukhin recently got in touch with OneDivision.Ru to make some surprising claims about problems his club was having with a Russian football official. Last season, when the newly-formed side was playing in the amateur fourth tier, Mukhin was called by the Professional Football League (the Russian third tier) General Director Nikolay Akelkin. ‘He asked us to employ his brother Stepan Akelkin,’ Mukhin recalled to OneDivision, ‘explaining that then we wouldn’t have problems getting into the PFL. When I asked what problems we could have if we won the league [and so by right got promoted to the PFL], I was told ‘you’ll see”.
Stepan was employed by FC Sochi, but didn’t suit the club either as a player or trainer. ‘We even tried him as a fitness coach’, recalls Mukhin, ‘though he didn’t have any qualifications, nor knowledge or experience. There was nothing left to do but pay him literally for nothing.’
This was only the start of the problems. Having won the league, the club completed the paperwork to register for the PFL South but was told they’d only be allowed into the division if clubs from Crimea were (which eventually happened). Then, after refusing Stepan more money, the club discovered its stadium wasn’t going to be certified by the relevant bodies for home matches. A request from Stepan for a bonus for the entire team followed: when refused, further threats came – and on transfer deadline day the club was only able to register one of six planned signings.
Stepan Akelkin, it seems, has form. He was previously in the squad of another Sochi club whose manager was told he should remain in the squad – even though he told the club management he didn’t want the player. Tweeting the OneDivision story, football agent and former player Roman Oreschuk wrote ‘I know this Stepan very well ))))’.
So what now for FC Sochi? A club made up 100% of local footballers may be forced to quit the league unless it can start using its stadium – which is already cleared for use by various other sports’ teams, including Russia’s Paralympic football team. The frustration in Mukhin’s voice is clear: ‘These people aren’t developing football but instead blackmail people – some for their father, some for their brother, some for unknown people,’ he told OneDivision. ‘There’s no discussion about the development of football at the PFL at the moment…Bureaucracy in football wins again.’
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