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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Manager, Army Struggling for Control of CSKA

Behind Newcastle stands Sir John Hall, behind AC Milan is media-magnate Silvio Berlusconi, while Juventus is backed by Fiat. But while the CSKA soccer team may have the most powerful backer of them all -- the Russian Army -- the relationship is on the rocks.


In the same week that Newcastle manager Kevin Keegan quit his club, CSKA faces a split between its manager and the army's top brass.


In the money-soaked English premier league, Keegan told of his resignation on the Clubcall fan's phone service.


At CSKA it was left up to the army officers, headed by General Stanislav Logovsky, chief of the Army sport committee, to announce the changes earlier this week.


Speaking in front of a packed room of journalists, Logovsky, along with Colonel Alexander Baranovsky, head of CSKA sports, read an order by Defense Minister Igor Rodionov to replace CSKA coach Alexander Tarkhanov with Pavel Sadyrin, recently let go by Zenit St. Petersburg.


The changes at CSKA soccer club are the latest in a series of controversies involving Baranovsky and the coaching staff of the various sports teams run by the army under the banner of CSKA.


Baranovsky became notorious last summer when he tried to fire long-time CSKA hockey tsar Viktor Tikhonov. Since then, the two have fought each other in court and in public, until finally CSKA split into two different teams.


Tikhonov's squad was allowed to participate in the top Russian league and to represent the country in the inaugural European competition. Baranovsky's team was relegated to the second division.


This time though, the feisty colonel is determined to get the better of the deal.


"CSKA [soccer club] is a joint-stock company, and we own 60 percent of the team," he said. "As majority shareholders we can change coaches as we want."


The decision is part of a continuing struggle to see who's in charge -- the army, the manager or the players.


Tarkhanov, who has coached CSKA since 1994, previously tried to take control of the club with the support of businessman Oleg Kim, who owns the remaining 40 percent of CSKA. He tried to install himself as president at the club's board of directors meeting in the summer of 1996.


"Tarkhanov's claim that CSKA soccer team is an independent entity is total nonsense," Baranovsky said. "The team, its logo and all of its assets belong to the army, and Tarkhanov or anyone else for that matter cannot steal our name. It's as if myself and General Logovsky started making hamburgers in our army kitchen and called it McDonalds."


Both sides are attempting to get public backing in their battle. Tarkhanov recently wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to look into "illegal actions of Baranovsky and his bosses," while Baranovsky has called upon some of CSKA's more famous veterans, like Valentin Nikolayev, Yury Nyrkov and Valentin Bubukin, to give moral support to his claim.


"We won't allow anyone to destroy our team as [NKVD chief Lavrenty] Beria and [Prime Minister Georgy] Malenkov did in 1952," Nikolayev said.


CSKA, affectionately called by its fans "the lieutenants' team," was disbanded after the national side, dominated by CSKA players, was humiliated by Tito's Yugoslavia at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. Stalin himself gave the order because of his animosity for Tito's communist regime rather than any concern for the game itself.


Tikhonov managed to succeed against the Army because of his friends in high places. Baranovsky claims Tarkhanov is trying to copy Tikhonov's actions by appealing to Rodionov and former defense minister Pavel Grachev.


"Tarkhanov tried to fool Grachev," he said. "He tried to pull the wool over Grachev's eyes."


Baranovsky said the reason for Tarkhanov's replacement was a poor showing by the club in recent years, culminating with a disappointing fifth place in 1996.


"Our goal for next year is winning the championship and playing in the Champions' League," he said. "I think Sadyrin is the right man for the job."


Before gaining promotion to the premier league with Zenit at the end of 1995, Sadyrin took CSKA to the last Soviet league title in 1991.


He also coached the national soccer team in 1993-94, but was sacked following Russia's fiasco in the 1994 World Cup.


Baranovsky warned of the dangers of the club escaping into private control, singling out Dinamo -- the Interior Ministry's team -- as an example.


"Just look across the street [Leningradsky Prospekt] from us," he said. "Much of Dinamo's assets were privatized and look what happened. The arenas became markets and warehouses while the sports and athletes are suffering."


The colonel said CSKA, which is involved in 24 other sports apart from soccer and ice hockey, remains the flagship of Russian sports despite financial shortcomings.


"In Lillehammer, at the 1994 Winter Olympics, army athletes won eight out of 11 total gold medals by the Russian team, and in Atlanta our sportsmen earned 12 out of 23 individual golds," he said.