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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Maradona in Kalmykia? President Makes His Bid

What uniform will Diego Maradona, once the world's greatest active soccer player, be wearing next season? Will he remain with his present club, Boca Juniors of Buenos Aires? Will he accept an offer from Flamengo, where he would join Brazilian national striker Romario?


Or will Maradona, 35, be packing his bags for Elista, the capital of the Kalmyk Republic in Russia's southern steppe, to lead the city's second-division club Uralan into the ranks of Russia's soccer elite?


To hear Kalmyk President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, you might think Maradona had already applied for a Russian work visa.


"Uralan's move to the top soccer league is set for 1997. In any case, this is the task I set for the side, and negotiations with the famous Argentinean are already under way," Izvestia quoted Ilyumzhinov as saying Saturday. "They bear a particularly confidential character, and since I have not yet received his agreement, it would be premature to go into details."


Premature, certainly, but is it even remotely possible that Maradona might end up in Kalmykia? "The whole thing seems completely unrealistic, but then again Ilyumzhinov is the kind of person who can do most anything he wants, and can lay his hands on any amount of money at any time," Dmitry Dyubo, a soccer writer for Sport Express, Russia's leading sports newspaper, said Monday.


Ilyumzhinov's term as president of Kalmykia, a republic of 320,000 people on the Caspian Sea, was extended last summer until the year 2000 -- a disappointment for the millionaire leader, who had campaigned to be named president for life. Ilyumzhinov, 32, was first elected president in 1993, whereupon he disbanded the republic's parliament, suspended its constitution and outlawed opposition political parties.


He is also, since December 1995, the president of the World Chess Federation. He plays down his reputation as an extravagant showman, a reputation he has earned with such stunts as giving Bobby Fischer $100,000 in cash for a book. "My actions appear extravagant only from the point of view of a hardened, narrow-minded old Soviet who is not used to thinking and acting on a grand scale," he told Izvestia.


Maradona has declared that he will play with Boca Juniors, the club with which he rose to stardom in the early 1980s, until they win the championship. But he has also threatened to leave the club more than once, the last time in December 1995.