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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

TNK to Sponsor World Cup Run

The Russian national team failed to qualify for this year's European Championships. They missed the World Cup in 1998 and they have a tough group ahead for the 2002 World Cup. But the TNK oil company believes it has the magic touch f and the money to help.

The Russian Soccer Union and TNK signed a contract Monday for an undisclosed sum, but soccer officials said it was substantial enough to fund the national team's preparations for the next World Cup.

TNK also sponsors the women's team Ryazan-TNK, which won the Russian title soon after the oil company stepped in.

Vyacheslav Koloskov, president of the Russian Soccer Union, stressed that the deal was with a Russian company.

"The first step is to show the lads that standing behind them stands Russia," said Koloskov at a news conference at the Hotel Baltschug-Kempinski, adding that players need security to help them play.

Outside the conference room, a television showed films of the national side in action. Unfortunately, the game chosen was Russia vs. Ukraine, when an embarrassing mistake by Russia goalie Alexander Filimonov stopped the team from qualifying for Euro 2000.

Soccer officials have often complained about underfunding and weak government help. Koloskov sounded more hopeful Monday, saying he had had a recent meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matviyenko and that they would meet again soon.

The soccer union also recently signed a deal with Vnukovo airlines to provide transport for the side.

Two years ago, the team was delayed for two and a half hours at Vnukovo Airport before a crucial match against Ukraine in the European Championship qualifiers. Koloskov said then that airport officials were trying to squeeze money out of Gazprom, the team's then-official sponsor.

But the national team is still looking for a general sponsor, with Russian companies reluctant to come up with the $5 million a year it is asking.

Koloskov said that companies have the attitude: "You win something and then we'll give you the money."

TNK's chief Simon Kukes said his company was considering becoming the general sponsor.

"A lot will depend on the success of the team," said Kukes, who added that TNK will consider extending the contract as far as the 2006 World Cup.

Kukes even offered to set up a poet's prize to help inspire the players f true, only at one journalist's prompting. Last week, Spartak players wrote to President Vladimir Putin complaining that the lack of lyrics for the national anthem left them twiddling their thumbs when it played.