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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Coach Glad to Escape Moscow Media

As Moscow prepared to host the CIS champions in the Commonwealth Cup, Spartak Moscow, Russia's premier soccer club, was leaving the country.

Spartak left Thursday on a 10-day training trip to Israel. A forbidden country for any Soviet citizen just a few years back, Israel is now a popular training site for Russian soccer clubs.

"The hosts give us excellent conditions for training, and it's a lot cheaper there than going to the Black Sea cities," said head coach Georgy Yartsev on Wednesday night from Spartak's Tarasovka base north of Moscow.

Spartak-Alania of Vladikavkaz snapped the Moscow club's three-year run as Russian champion and so is representing the home side in Cup play.

"I hate to say this, but I'm glad we're leaving Moscow," said Yartsev, who was officially introduced as Spartak's new head coach Monday. He replaces Oleg Romantsev, who remains as president.

"There are so many distractions here -- the fans, the media and everybody else seems to have an opinion on how Spartak should run its business."

Spartak management has been severely criticized as inept in the media after losing four players to European teams before the Champions' League quarterfinal against France's Nantes on March 7 and 20.

All told, six international-level players were lost to Spartak within a month of its last European encounter on Dec. 6.

Captain Viktor Onopko, Sergei Yuran, Vasily Kulkov and goalie Stanislav Cherchesov transferred to foreign clubs, Dmitry Khlestov broke his right leg in an indoor tournament in Germany and Ilya Tsymbalar had knee surgery.

"We are a new team," said Yartsev. "Most of our guys are 20 to 21 years of age and there's a lot of work to be done."

He said he understands the exodus.

"Yuran, Kulkov and Cherchesov all came to us in the middle of last season, without a team, without a contract. Spartak gave them jobs. By playing for us they substantially increased their value, and then they left."

Although he declined to name figures, Yartsev said the team was unable to match Western offers.

"When someone goes from one of the leading clubs in Europe to a second division team, he must have other incentives," he said. Yuran and Kulkov signed with England's Millwall last month.

As if rebuilding the team is not enough, its home Luzhniki Stadium is undergoing remont and Spartak will have to play Nantes at Dinamo Stadium.

In Friday's Cup openers, Neftchi beat Zibmru 2-1 and Yelimai downed Punik 3-0. Play continues through the weekend.

(For schedule, see Scorecard.)