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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Koloskov Elected Head Of Russian Soccer Union




All of Russian soccer's many woes -- the failure to qualify for the World Cup, the humiliating loss to tiny Iceland - were not enough Tuesday to topple Vyacheslav Koloskov, head of the Russian Soccer Union.


Koloskov was re-elected to a five-year term by the union's membership at a meeting at the President Hotel in Moscow. The vote capped a rancorous campaign marked by accusations of death threats and charges of corruption.


The winner offered to work with his opponents: "It's possible for us not to be friends, and we probably won't be, but because we are elected to our positions were are forced to cooperate and we will work together," he said at a news conference.


After his victory, Koloskov made the startling statement that he planned to work full-time at the Russian Olympic Committee and would hire a chief operating officer to run the soccer union. He said he would not draw a salary from the union.


That statement caused a stir at the post-election news conference, with some members in the audience calling out things like "Russian soccer needs professional management."


The result was largely decided at a Monday meeting of the union's executive committee, observers say. The committee, packed with Koloskov supporters, refused to accept membership applications from professional soccer clubs, a force behind the main challenger, Nikolai Tolstykh.


Tolstykh is president of the Russian Soccer League, an umbrella organization for the 142 professional soccer clubs.


Koloskov received the votes of 52 of 63 voting members to eight for Tolstykh. Another challenger, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the president of the republic of Kalmykia and head of the World Chess Federation, dropped out before the vote.


Six of the country's top soccer figures had decided to challenge Koloskov in a year in which Russian soccer has endured a series of humiliating defeats. The national team, the main responsibility of the Russian Soccer Union, failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 20 years.


To make the misery deeper, the national squad lost qualifying matches for the European Championships not only to France and Ukraine but also to not-exactly-mighty Iceland, essentially ending its chances of playing in Euro 2000.


Koloskov, who became the chief Soviet soccer official 20 years ago when state support was abundant, has hired international consultants to help him come up with a plan to restructure Russian soccer in the new era when government funds are scarce. He says that his only mistakes have been being "too democratic," in running of the union and not lobbying the government enough.


But during the election fight, Tolstykh accused Koloskov, 57, of hiding millions of dollars in foreign bank accounts instead of spending them on soccer development. Koloskov denied this and says Tolstykh has been threatening his life.


With professional teams lacking a voice, the union members eligible to cast their votes in Tuesday's elections represented dozens of regional soccer associations, made up of amateur soccer teams such as clubs for youth, women and disabled people.


"Vyacheslav Koloskov could only be elected by the hearing-impaired, invalids and women from mini-soccer teams," bitterly commented Dmitry Pasynsky, the spokesman for the Russian Soccer League.