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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Abramovich Backs RFU Training Complex Plan

SOCHI, Southern Russia -- Roman Abramovich is among a group of financeers backing a new training complex aimed at developing talent in Russian football.

Vitaly Mutko, newly elected president of the Russian Football Union, recently announced plans to build a series of year-round training centers along the Black Sea coast.

Mutko has been on a mission to revive Russia's most popular sport since taking over from long-serving RFU chief Vyacheslav Koloskov earlier this year.

"This is a huge undertaking on our part," Mutko said in an interview after unveiling the first such complex in this resort city last month. "It would give our best players top-class facilities on a year-round basis."

The all-purpose sports center, situated at the foot of the Caucasus mountains, has five soccer pitches with natural grass and a synthetic 400-meter track, along with a 630-room, three-star hotel nearby.

Abramovich, owner of English Premier League champion Chelsea, has been heavily criticized by some for spending millions of dollars on his London squad instead of helping Russian clubs.

Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov said Abramovich's move to buy Chelsea in 2003 was a slap in the face for Russian soccer.

However, Mutko, a close friend and former colleague of President Vladimir Putin, praised the oil tycoon for creating a foundation to act as a so-called "national academy for football" to benefit the game in his native country.

"He's got the right attitude," Mutko said. "We've been working with his foundation to help nurture young talent, to improve infrastructure. We've already built 13 new pitches in various parts of the country and plan to invest $25 million a year over the next five years in this project.

"We also set up grants of 10,000 rubles ($350) to be given to the best youth coaches around the country to motivate them."