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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Mini Soccer: Major Russian Success

While most Russian sports are struggling against the rising exodus of players abroad and the falling level of athletic resources at home, one five-a-side soccer club hovers above the fray.

The Dina five-a-side soccer club has managed to climb to the top of its sport by keeping its star players home in the face of lucrative foreign offers. So while sports such as hockey and regular soccer flounder from the loss of top players, Dina continues to make strides at national and international levels.

Five-a-side is mini soccer played on a smaller field than the regular game. Five field players and a goalie make up a side. The game is played indoors with small goals and features higher scoring and quicker action. Dina was founded after the collapse of the former Soviet Union by Russian banker Sergei Kozlov.

"After the breakdown of the USSR, I invited players from the former national team and paid them from my own pocket for the first months," said Kozlov, a vice president at Kontakt Bank.

Kozlov, 33, attracted sponsors and set up a firm to finance the club and the players have stayed. Dina's main sponsor is Microdin, the giant Russian trading house that also sponsors the Kremlin Cup tennis tournament.

Konstantin Yeremenko, Russia's best five-a-side player, has led Dina to the Russian championship and the Russian Cup. He has received several offers to play abroad but has turned them down.

"I've gotten some proposals from Belgian, Spanish and American teams, but I don't see any reason to leave," said Yeremenko, 23, who has scored an astonishing 289 goals in his short career. "I have all I need: a high salary, good living conditions and an opportunity to improve my level of play."

Kozlov has been the engineer behind the loyalty of his players. He provides them with a package deal that keeps the players from being tempted abroad.

"We manage to provide them with a high standard of living," said Kozlov. "Each rookie is given a flat, rented by the club, and an average salary of $1,000 per month. Top players receive cars and higher salaries. In addition, a doctor is at their families service." He declined to give other salary figures.

As a result, Dina has dominated the three-tiered Russian league. As Russian champions, the club will participate in the European championships in the fall and the team is well on its way to another championship this year.

The five-a-side season runs from September to June and has breaks for international tournaments.