Putin Defends National Soccer Team Coach Guus Hiddink

Russian President Vladimir Putin defended national team coach Guus Hiddink and said there were too many foreigners playing in Russia’s domestic league, AP reports.

Putin, speaking Wednesday in his annual televised question-and-answer session, said the Dutch coach had a proven record.

“It’s not about the new coach, it’s about the way soccer is organized in Russia,” Putin said. “The coach that came to Russia to work on contract basis is a good specialist and he proved it in practice by working in various countries in the world.”

Hiddink, who was hired in April to coach Russia even though he was still the coach of Australia, has led both the Netherlands and South Korea to the World Cup semifinals.
This year, he took Australia to the second round, where it lost to eventual champion Italy on a late penalty.

Russia qualified for the 2002 World Cup and the 2004 European Championship but failed to advance to the second round. The team failed to reach this year’s tournament in Germany and has one win and two losses in three Euro 2008 qualifiers under Hiddink.

Putin suggested that the Russian league was the problem, and that it should impose a quota on foreign players.

“This number should be limited, because when a national team is being composed, there is nothing to compose it from,” Putin said. “This excessive quantity of (foreign) players suppresses the growth of young and talented players.”

Precise figures were not immediately available, but several Russian clubs have experienced an influx of foreign players.

Last year, CSKA Moscow became the first Russian team to win a European trophy. Brazilian players Daniel Carvalho and Vagner Love scoring two of the three goals against Sporting Lisbon in the UEFA Cup final.

Putin also said Russia lacks soccer fields and that more attention should be devoted to children who want to play sports, especially soccer.

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October 27, 2006

Yana Osipova, 18, died making a parachute jump

The Russian parachute team has suspended its training in Vladikavkaz after a parachute jumper’s death, an official of the North Ossetian Youth and Sports Ministry is quoted by ITAR-TASS news agency.

On Thursday, Yana Osipova, 18, died making a parachute jump from the height of 2,000 meters.

Her parachute failed and her reserve parachute entangled and did not open correctly.

The girl was a winner of several Russian parachute competitions. It was her 284th jump.

After her death, the authorities of the Vladikavkaz parachute club suspended all jumps until the investigation ends.

Violation of security rules is one of the reasons of the girl’s death, investigators said.

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October 20, 2006

Metallurg Magnitogorsk Sues NHL

A Russian hockey club filed an antitrust lawsuit Thursday against the NHL and the Pittsburgh Penguins, saying rookie Evgeni Malkin shouldn’t be allowed to play in the league because he remains under contract in his native country, AP reports.

The Metallurg Magnitogorsk hockey club, which filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, also demanded unspecified damages from the NHL and the Penguins over Malkin’s deal to jump teams this summer.

“We haven’t seen a copy of the complaint yet so it would be inappropriate to comment,” said NHL spokesman Frank Brown. A spokesman for the Penguins did not immediately return a telephone message for comment.

The 20-year-old Malkin left the Russian Super League team during August’s training camp in Helsinki, Finland, slipping quietly into the United States to begin his NHL career. In his debut Wednesday night, Malkin scored his team’s lone goal in a 2-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils.

Malkin was under contract for another year in Russia. The NHL had previously said the league believes any player should have the right to choose where he wants to play as long as he is legally free to do so.

After Malkin left his Russian team, he cited a Russian labor law that permits an employee to leave a job by giving two weeks notice.

The lawsuit, filed after a Russian arbitration panel ruled that Malkin is still under contract to Magnitogorsk, said the signing of Malkin to an NHL contract was a “blatant and deliberate tampering and interference” with the Russian team’s existing agreement.

In the lawsuit, the team said the Penguins knew or should have known that Malkin was under contract to a Russian team when they signed him. The lawsuit said the NHL and the Penguins violated antitrust laws by conspiring in a group boycott and refusing to deal with Russian hockey clubs regarding player transfers.

Malkin and Magnitogorsk signed a one-year contract on Aug. 7, calling for Malkin to receive $3.45 million, according to the lawsuit.

It said the contract was negotiated and signed in the presence of Malkin’s Russian agent and his parents, and provided favorable terms allowing him to become a free agent a year sooner than an earlier contract.

Malkin, the No. 2 pick in the 2005 NHL draft, missed the early part of the NHL season after dislocating a shoulder in his first preseason game.

The lawsuit said the NHL and its clubs have “decided to play hardball” with Russian hockey clubs to punish them for the Russian Ice Hockey Federation’s rejection of a new general agreement governing the transfer of foreign players to the NHL.

It said the NHL told its clubs on Aug. 2 that they were free to sign NHL contracts with Russian hockey players already under contract with Russian hockey clubs if the players secured releases according to Russian labor law.

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Russian Club Sues NHL in U.S. Court for Stealing Players

Russian Club Sues NHL

Russian club Lokomotiv Yaroslavl has filed a lawsuit in U.S. federal court against the NHL, the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers, AP reports.

The lawsuit essentially claims that Andrei Taratukhin of the Flames and Alexei Mikhnov of the Oilers are under contract with Yaroslavl for the 2006-07 season and should not be allowed to play for any other club in the world. It asked the federal court for a temporary injunction barring the two players from skating for the two NHL teams.

“Respondents should not be permitted to continue playing professional hockey in breach of their contractual obligations to KC Lokomotiv …,” Russian lawyer Alexander Berkovich writes in the lawsuit.

The NHL saw it coming.

“The Russian team has been threatening us and the clubs with litigation for some time,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told The Canadian Press in an e-mail. “While I won’t comment specifically on the claims the Russian team has asserted, I can say that we believe they are without legal merit and intend to defend the case vigorously.”

A similar lawsuit from Metallurg Magnitogorsk will likely follow against the Pittsburgh Penguins with the Russian club also claiming it has prized rookie centre Evgeni Malkin under contract for this season.

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October 18, 2006