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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016


The head of the Russian soccer association hit back Friday at Kremlin criticism of Russia's failure to reach the World Cup finals, saying the government had no right to carp because it had not spent a penny on soccer.

"What Chernomyrdin said about the players, his angry words, his displeasure were entirely unfair," Russian Football Union, or RFU, president Vyacheslav Koloskov said at a news conference, in reaction to remarks by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. "His government hasn't spent a kopeck on soccer since 1992 so what is he talking about?"

Sports Minister Leonid Tyagachev said this week that Chernomyrdin was "very angry" after Saturday's 1-0 defeat in Italy that cost Russia a place in next year's finals for the first time in 20 years. President Boris Yeltsin was also upset.

Appointments and team selection would be left to the soccer authorities, but Tyagachev said there would have to be more "coordination" with ministers.

Tyagachev said a top-level meeting called for next month between government officials and soccer bosses would look at allocating more money for the sport -- but in return for a bigger say for the state in running Russian soccer.

Koloskov said the priority would be reviving the system of soccer schools across the country, which had all but collapsed since the fall of the communist Soviet Union in 1991.

The national squad, whose away draws in Israel and Cyprus blighted their qualifying campaign, has also been short of funds since the state gas company Gazprom -- formerly headed by Chernomyrdin -- pulled out its sponsorship after poor results.

Koloskov said the RFU supported players' requests to keep Boris Ignatiev on as national coach, despite the recent failure to qualify. A final decision would be made at a meeting on Dec. 24.

Some Russian media have called for the sacking not only of coach Ignatiev but also of Koloskov.

Russia's players, however, appear to be rallying round their fourth coach in as many years.

Roma defender Omari Tetradze, who missed Saturday's game through injury, was quoted by Sport-Express newspaper Thursday as saying he had spoken to most of the players after the match and they voiced full support for Ignatyev staying on.

Ignatiev's contract runs until August but the soccer authorities expect to decide next month whether to seek a new coach.