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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Spartak's Alenichev Gets Top Player Award For '97

Dmitry Alenichev of Russian champion Spartak Moscow was voted the country's top player for 1997 by the Russian Football Union at the annual Oscar-like award ceremony at the Stanislavky Theater on Tuesday.

The attacking midfielder, who celebrated his 25th birthday Saturday, was the overwhelming choice for the Most Valuable Player award, beating Rotor Volgograd's Oleg Veretennikov and Torpedo Moscow's Dmitry Khokhlov.

Unfortunately Alenichev, who received 20 of 32 first place votes, was not present to receive his "Strelets" trophy at the lavish black-tie ceremony as he had gone on vacation to the Maldives a few days earlier.

The Pskov native, who just two years ago was virtually an unknown commodity in most soccer circles, succeeded his teammate Andrei Tikhonov as recipient of the award. He led Spartak to the league title and was a key player for Russia in the World Cup qualifiers, scoring twice in a 4-2 win over Bulgaria in a downpour at Luzhniki stadium and then being one of the most noticeable players in a memorable Moscow snow-storm battle against Italy in October.

Veretennikov, who scored a league-leading 22 goals this season, came a distant second in the MVP balloting by the premier-division coaches and the national-team staff but won a trophy for being the top attacking midfielder.

Spartak's Alexander Filimonov was chosen the best goalkeeper while Yury Kovtun from cross-town rival Dynamo claimed the top defensive honor. Alania Vladikavkaz's Igor Yanovsky was picked as the country's best defensive midfielder for the second year in a row, and Kovtun's teammate Oleg Terekhin won the best forward award.

Benfica goalkeeper Sergei Ovchinnikov, who was transferred from Lokomotiv Moscow this summer, won the bestforeign based player award, ahead o Viktor Onopko and Sergei Yuran.