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MOSCOW, April 24. /TASS/. Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko refused to comment on a contract with national football team’s Head Coach Fabio Capello, published by Russian media earlier in the day, saying all questions on the issue should be addressed to the country’s football governing body.
"I would like to abstain from commenting on such issues and all questions should be addressed to the RFU [the Russian Football Union]," Mutko said in an interview with TASS.
Russia’s daily Novaya Gazeta published on Friday a copy of a contract inked by the RFU with Italian manager Capello in January of 2014.
In line with the document, which was signed until July 2018 and stipulated an annual salary of 7 million euros ($7.6 million) for the Italian coach, the RFU practically had no rights of severing the contract unilaterally without paying a penalty, while Capello was granted such opportunity. Some parts of the contract were signed by Sports Minister Mutko.
"Of course I have undersigned it since it is my job," Mutko said. "Moreover I have begun issuing special decrees. A contract with each coach [of national teams] must be accompanied with my special decree stipulating my approval."
"There are 160 [sports] federations in our country and each of them signs certain contracts," he said. "My primary task is to approve the candidacies of head coaches. Sports federations are self-sustained bodies and organizational as well as financial details [of the contracts] are within their responsibilities."
Mutko, however, refused to comment whether he bore some sort of responsibility for his signatures in Capello’s contract.
Earlier in the month the RFU received an inquiry from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which wanted to know whether Russia’s football governing body possibly collaborated with companies Chestersen Ltd and FARO Management in signing the contract with Capello.
The OCCRP suspects the Italian manager of having additional sources of income. Last week RFU President Nikolai Tolstykh told TASS that the contract with Capello was signed without the participation of any third party.
The OCCRP is a not-for-profit, joint program of a number of regional non-profit investigative centers and for profit independent media stretching from Eastern Europe to Central Asia, according to its official website.
Capello’s contract, which he initially signed in 2012 and extended for another four years in early 2014, was in the media spotlight late last year over the issue of wage arrears.
Capello and Oreste Cinquini, the Russian football team’s general manager, had been unpaid between last June and December. According to various media reports, RFU’s debt to Italian managers totaled some 600 million rubles ($9.7 million). On February 5, Russian billionaire businessman Alisher Usmanov extended 400 million rubles ($5.96 million) loan to the RFU to repay Capello’s wage arrears.
The RFU said in its statement on February 6 that it executed "the necessary financial transactions to repay wages to head coach of the Russian national team Fabio Capello," and thanked both Mutko and Usmanov for their help in the settlement of the debt repayment issue.
The Russian national squad experienced a string of setbacks over the past decade failing to qualify for the 2006 World Cup in Germany and 2010 championship in South Africa to the great dismay of the Russian football fans.
Things changed when Italian phenomenon Capello took over the team as the head coach in July of 2012 and managed to help the Russian national squad to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The team, however, failed to clear the first stage of the much-anticipated global tournament putting their coach in the center of stern criticism and raising serious concerns in the country about the team’s performance in the next World Cup, which would be hosted by Russia in 2018.
However, Russia did not severe the contract with Capello after the Russian team’s performance at the World Cup in Brazil and the Italian manager also decided to stay with the Russian squad as the head coach until the year of 2018 as stipulated by the contract terms.