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Did Foreign Coach Fail Team Russia?

Published: July 4, 2014 (Issue # 1818)



  • The early termination of Capello's contract, which expires in 2018, would cost the Russian Football Federation millions.
    Photo: Ivan Sekretarev / AP

In their search for a scapegoat for Team Russia's dismal performance at the World Cup, Russian football fans have focused on two lines in coach Fabio Capello's resume: nationality and salary requirements.

Capello, 68, is an experienced Italian club team coach, but has had a patchy track record with national teams. He is also the highest paid of all trainers at the World Cup.

The coaches of 15 of the 32 teams playing in the World Cup are not citizens of the nations they are representing. The trainers of six of the remaining eight squads vying for the World Cup title including Brazil, Germany, Argentina and the Netherlands were born in the countries they are coaching.

While a variety of factors can influence a squad's performance at the World Cup, in the current tournament, having a native coach appears to contribute to a team's success. This factor, according to Russian football analysts, is even more crucial for Team Russia.

"Russia has its particularities," Yevgeny Lovchev, a Soviet footballer who played in the 1970 World Cup and the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, told The St. Petersburg Times. "Russians have a different mentality. They are not like Europeans. We understand which buttons to press and how people will respond. Foreigners cannot grasp this."

After the Russian men's national hockey team was humiliated on home ice at the Sochi Olympic Games in February, coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov was sacked. While other national hockey federations including those of Latvia and Belarus resorted to foreign coaching expertise long ago, the president of the Russian Hockey Federation insisted that the team's next coach would definitely be homegrown.

But while the issue of foreign hockey coaches is problematic in Russia, there have been internationals among the football squad's training staff for nearly a decade. Dutch nationals Guus Hiddink and Dick Advocaat headed Team Russia before Capello.

Unlike hockey, football is not considered innate to Russia, despite the sport's long history in the country, insiders said. The rainfall of petrodollars over the past decade has led to a shift of mentality, boosting the belief that it is more effective to buy advanced technologies from abroad than develop them at home. The world's best football trainers much like kitchen appliances or leather shoes come from Europe, and the hiring of Capello is just another example of Russia buying a shiny object from abroad, they said.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Aug. 28


Learn more about the citys upcoming municipal elections during the presentation of the project Road Map for the Municipal Elections being presented this evening in the conference hall on the third floor of Biblioteka at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. Steve Kaddins, a coordinator for Beautiful St. Petersburg, which gives residents an online forum to lodge complaints about infrastructure problems in the city, will be on hand to answer any questions. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is open to all.



Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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