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Russian supremo resigns after Euro fiasco
Published : 25 Jun 2012 17:49:16Rss feed
The overall head of football in Russia on Monday resigned after the national team failed to make the knock-out stages of Euro 2012 with a hugely disappointing performance.
"I would like to apologise to the fans for this result," Russian Football Union president Sergei Fursenko told Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin said.
"I have taken a difficult decision -- to step down as head of the Russian Football Union," he added.
Russia were knocked out of the Euro 2012 after a defeat by Greece, a below-par performance that exposed deep-rooted problems in the Russian game despite the vast sums of money being ploughed into the sport.
The downfall of Fursenko, who took on his post in 2010, had appeared inevitable since the weekend when Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said that the Euro flop showed that the Russian game was in need of a major overhaul.
Fursenko said that the team -- boasting talent including established stars like Andrei Arshavin and new talent like Alan Dzagoev -- was strong and had been well prepared by Dutch coach Dick Advocaat.
"But it went wrong. And of course our fans are now disappointed as they expected a different result."
Mutko at the weekend acknowledged that football was heading in the wrong direction in Russia and said the government needed to interfere more in the running of the game.
The authorities are already seeking to rebuild grass-roots football infrastructure like pitches for youths as well as a serious coaching development system that collapsed along with the Soviet Union in 1991.
The stakes for Russia are now even higher after it won the right to host the 2018 World Cup, a project spearheaded by Putin.
At a meeting in Saint Petersburg before he left on a tour to the Middle East, Putin told Fursenko that football in Russia was developing with new players emerging and the domestic league becoming more exciting.
"The refereeing system has also been reformed which is very important to stop match-fixing," Putin said.
Russia is already looking for a new coach for the national squad after Advocaat announced before the Euro he was quitting his post. He is now taking over PSV Eindhoven in his native Netherlands.
Billions of dollars have been poured into domestic football over recent seasons, notably at Premier League big spenders Anzhi Makhachkala, but the money has yet to lead to a radical change in quality on the pitch.
Fursenko grew up in Putin's native Saint Petersburg, working in the television business and then for state gas giant Gazprom before moving to top executive positions at the city's football side Zenit.
The head of Russia's federal audit office Sergei Stepashin welcomed his departure as the right decision after the performance of the national side in Poland.
"I think that the Russian Football Union needs to be led by someone who knows football and who has unquestionable authority in the world of football," he said according to the Interfax news agency.
But in a sign his decision was made suddenly, Fursenko's deputy Nikita Simonyan said he was not informed beforehand and there had been no hint of a resignation just a few days ago, RIA Novosti said.
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