Arshavin risks axe over Russia fan jibe

Arshavin risks axe over Russia fan jibe

MOSCOW - Agence France-Presse
Arshavin risks axe over Russia fan jibe

Russia’s captain Andrei Arshavin faces calls to be dropped from the team. EPA Photo

Russia’s captain Andrei Arshavin faced calls to be dropped from the team yesterday after he dismissed disappointment over its early Euro 2012 exit as a problem for the fans rather than the players.

The indiscreet exchange in an upscale hotel lobby that followed Russia’s traumatic loss Saturday to Greece may now cost the supporters’ darling not only his captaincy armband team but also the respect of legions of fans.

“I believe that a player like that does not deserve to be on the team,” the Football Union of Russia honorary president Vyacheslav Koloskov told the website.

“Those who come out on the pitch should remember that they are playing for the whole country,” added Sport Minister Vitaly Mutko.

Controversy around Russia’s most talismanic player broke almost immediately after its failure to make it out of a group that besides Greece also included co-hosts Poland and the Czech Republic.

News reports said Russian lawmakers who were staying at the same five-star Le Meridien Bristol Warsaw hotel did not take the result lightly and made their sentiments known to the team.

“They accused the players of surrendering (Russia’s) national interests, of having a lack of will, and of destroying the hopes of millions of fans,” the Sovetsky Sport daily wrote.

Video footage

Cellphone footage of the altercation posted on the website showed several lawmakers grilling a relaxed and seemingly bored Arshavin about the squad’s performance against Greece.
“What should we apologise for? What?” he demanded before repeating the word several times.

Lawmaker Anton Belyakov replied that the team “failed the expectations of millions of supporters” and should have said something after the loss.

“Whose expectations were these -- yours or ours? If we did not fulfill your expectations, then honestly, these are your problems,” Arshavin said while leaning back casually in an hotel lobby armchair.

A statement on Arshavin’s official website emphasized his comments did not apply to all fans but accused some Russians of being too quick to turn on the team when it is down.

“Let us assume that the player answered in a firm manner to those who reproached him,” the website wrote.
“So with that, we have to asked the following question: who were those words addressed to? To all fans? No, of course not.” But the statement never contested the validity of the tape or issued an apology.

The entire incident will leave a sour impression with fans who may best remember Arshavin for joining the squad during the Euro 2008 tournament and immediately transforming their play while taking them to the semifinals.

Arshavin entered the tournament with rumors spreading that he was out of shape and no longer serious about the game. Those reports only intensified following the star midfield’s remarks.

“The players and the head of football well no longer want to see Arshavin as their captain,” one unnamed source said in comments reportedly widely across the Russian Internet.

Arshavin’s star status at this event was eclipsed by the 22-year-old Alan Dzagoev -- a striker who netted three goals for Russia and later expressed thanks and apologies to the fans.

“We tried doing everything within our powers (to win) and are extremely disappointed,” Dzagoev said after the Greece defeat.

“It is a great pity because the whole country expected us to make it out of the group, and we understood that,” Dzagoev said.

Some in the media said Russians may never view Arshavin in the same light again.

“It is hard to imagine him saying anything that could have hurt the national team’s image more,” the website wrote.