Unravelling the enigma of football in the post-Soviet republics
If there existed such an article as the television licence in Eastern Europe, you could consider the beholder suitably disgruntled.
The region’s output is not in the vanguard of excellence, not when broadcasters subject their viewers to staid political drivel, bonkers game shows of Tarrant on TV clip-quality, or the kind of hardcore filth one could only dream of acquiring at a car boot sale (or so NMTB’s heard).
And they're not averse to taking a perfectly good format from one of our programmes and Eastern European-ifying it, like Moldova’s Strictly Come Dancing. The sadistic producer pairs a celebrity with an indigent member of the public – that’s an indigent member of the public with a sick relative unable to afford treatment, NMTB hastens to add – for a dance-off.
You can probably guess what the prize is; in the blog’s opinion, it’s akin to organised mendicancy, especially when the individual in poor health is wheeled out to plead for their relation to remain in the competition.
Also, you have to question whether spending several hours a week dancing really is helpful to the situation, and could they be doing something a little more productive with their time, like ooooh, getting a job, maybe?
NMTB’s guilty pleasure after work in Chişinău was the ludicrous Teste de Fidelite, perhaps best explained as an unhealthy hybrid of Balls of Steel and The Jeremy Kyle Show that our failing society will indubitably be lapping up in the not-too-distant future, if the furore surrounding the indiscretions of certain footballers is anything to go by.
Plot thus: take one insecure woman, a (potentially) adulterous other half and a harlot with enormous gazongas as inducement. Fast forward through the “chance meeting” between said other half and harlot with enormous gazongas, and the pair end up indulging in what swimming pool signage would describe as “heavy petting” at her flat.
At this point, the insecure (and now correct and incredibly irate) woman, smug presenter and two balaclava-clad goons burst in to bring proceedings to an abrupt halt. It’s then that the callous producer gets his grubby mitts on a glorious money shot of five minutes of stiletto-hurling, fist-flying mayhem.
Next we cut to the miscreant in a studio enduring the ignominy of a lie detector test in the manner of a Stalinist show trial except with the bonus of utter humiliation on national television.
It honestly wouldn’t surprise the blog if it reached these shores with vacuous footballers as fodder, and it’s doubtless in the minds of Teste de Fidelite’s creators, as players in Eastern Europe aren’t exactly holier-than-thou.
Recently it’s been Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala’s Youssef Rabeh whose capricious behaviour has been engendering media interest.
A litany of controversial incidents have blighted the career of the newly-promoted Premier-Liga side’s Moroccan defender since leaving Africa, including being handed a three-year suspended jail sentence for drink-driving, so it perhaps wasn’t a disappointment to Levski Sofia fans that the 24-year-old was hived off to the Dagestan club earlier this month.
The centre-back joined his new team-mates at Anzhi’s, ahem, “chaotic” training camp in Turkey, where they were preparing a long-awaited return to Russia’s top flight.
Their friendly against Slavia Sofia – and Rabeh’s debut – was a farce, owing to the game’s abandonment on 58 minutes after Magomed Magomedov’s dismissal provoked Anzhi players and officials into attacking the referee.
Leading the charge wasn’t the controversial Moroccan but, naturally, club president Magomed-Sultan Magomedov, who was disgusted that the official had shown the temerity to brandish a second yellow card at his son.
And there were more problems for Anzhi after Rabeh proclaimed himself unavailable for their next friendly against fellow Russians Krylia Sovetov Samara because of a niggling injury.
He remained at the club’s hotel during their 2-1 defeat, but on Anzhi’s return, their “crocked” centre-back was nowhere to be seen.
Rabeh, whose whereabouts remain unknown, had absconded. Also gone, in what could be an unrelated incident, was his roommate Todor Timonov’s wallet.
"I'm shocked," declared Rabeh’s agent Nikolay Zheynov. "I've talked to his family and they also have no idea where he is. He stabbed us in the back."
Rabeh is since said to have conducted a telephone interview with the Bulgarian newspaper Meridian Match and affirmed he was retiring from football, just a fortnight and 60 minutes playing time into a three-year contract with the Russians.
"We did so much to help him and we hoped that his move to Anzhi would help him and his career," Levski's chief executive Konstantin Bazhdekov said, in a buck-passing lilt.
It’s cast something of a shadow over the new-season preparations for Anzhi, who are refusing to stump up the transfer fee for the Moroccan, said to be around the £300,000 mark.
Contract law isn't NMTB's forte, but it presumes the matter is between Anzhi and Rabeh, and nothing to do with Levski, who have have taken the matter to FIFA while presumably vowing never to deal with Russian clubs again.
Only a few months have elapsed since they become embroiled in one of the most bizarre occurrences in football. In September Levski received an offer-you-can’t-refuse bid for a quartet of their key players from Rubin Kazan, and promptly packed them off to Russia to discuss personal terms. It was roughly £4 million on the table – good money for a Bulgarian club.
Something perturbs NMTB about the person who oversees Levski’s transfers, because they evidently aren’t the most erudite of individuals and three facets of the deal would have aroused suspicion among the wise:
1) The Russian transfer window is closed in September2) The players were asked to fly to Moscow, 450 miles west of Kazan3) The contact details proffered were a mobile telephone number
It didn’t evoke suspicion in Sofia and the players did meet somebody in the Russian capital, that much is true, although substantially lower figures were bandied about by the Rubin “delegate” and the troupe flew back to Bulgaria with contracts unsigned and, more importantly, minus a cheque for £4 million.
Slightly peeved, Levski contacted Rubin. Well, they dialled the number on the fax, and all they got was a bemused English girl, who definitely wasn’t Gurban Berdiýew.
The perturbed Bulgarians eventually did reach the Premier-Liga champions, who confirmed they weren’t culpable for summoning the Levksi players to Moscow and announced that the whole affair was news to them.
It probably wasn’t a coincidence that the wild goose chase occurred on the same day as the Sofia derby and a severely depleted Levski slumped to a 2-0 defeat to their bitter rivals CSKA.
And it almost certainly wasn’t a coincidence that hitherto unheard of sums of money concerning Bulgarian football in Asia were staked on a CSKA victory.
Interpol are investigating the ridiculous episode, which ironically lists Rabeh as one of the quartet of players involved.
Thankfully they're not all a bad lot though, and there was one uplifting story from the FSU last weekend that proves footballers can be an affable bunch.
Shakhtar Donetsk’s Darijo Srna purchased 760 tickets for local orphans and foster children to attend the Hirnyky’s 1-0 win against Vorskla on Sunday. The Croatian also paid for their transport to and from the game.
Now that is the behaviour of a captain.Счастливо
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Mr.Gilbey...could you keep us updated in future on Kevin Kyle's form for Spartak Nalchik (if they decide to sign him after his trial game that is)?
Kevin Kyle was substituted at halftime during a practice match, although he is apparently being giving a second chance to impress.
Re: Anzhi, it’s rumoured that Rabeh has surfaced in his native Morocco
Any word on how Keisuke Honda is doing at Moscow?
He was something of a revelation in the Dutch league but we didn't think he was THAT great ;-)
Honda has only played one competitive game so far - the Champions League tie with Sevilla, and was one of the better players on the pitch that day.
I was quite impressed with him.
He should be facing Rubin Kazan tomorrow in the Super Cup, the season curtain-raiser between the Premier-Liga and Russian Cup winners.
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