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Russian clubs' search for Champions League glory is hindered
Russian clubs' search for Champions League glory is hindered by the organization of the domestic game, a Russian First Deputy Prime Minister has told Sport Express.

In an interview published on Tuesday, Sergei Ivanov said that while Russian clubs were challenging for this season's UEFA Cup, poor stadia and security arrangements prevented teams from competing for Europe's top trophy.

"If an all-Russian UEFA Cup final took place, this would already be of no great shock in Europe. Both CSKA and Zenit have already won the UEFA Cup, and both teams are among the favourites. Ten years ago, there would have been absolutely no chance of such a deciding game," Ivanov told the sports paper.

"If we are to set real aims, however, we should talk about the Champions League, and not about the UEFA Cup. Let's be completely frank - clubs in the top European leagues look at the UEFA Cup without any particular eagerness," he said.

Zenit St. Petersburg are the UEFA Cup holders and CSKA Moscow lifted the trophy in 2005. On March 12, CSKA beat Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk 1-0 in Moscow and Zenit lost 2-0 to Italian club Udinese away from home in first leg, last 16 UEFA Cup ties. The return matches are on Thursday.

Ivanov said that although he believed that CSKA, one of Russia's three representatives in the 2009/2010 Champions League, would be able to get out of their group, the club could not realistically hope to reach the same heights as the likes of Manchester United and Barcelona.

"Conditions in our championship [the Russian Premier League], on muddy pitches, swamps to be blunt, deprive our talented players of motivation. I completely understand [Andrei] Arshavin. I never made any secret of my belief that Zenit should let him go. I understand that it was impossible to ignore the financial aspect of the transfer ... but if Arshavin had not moved to Arsenal - and he was open about this - he would have lost all motivation," Ivanov expounded.

Returning to the issue of the "swamps" that a number of games in Russia's top league took place on last year, Ivanov said: "If we are going to have a championship of collective farms, then we should call it that, and not make out it is the premier league championship of Russia. Clubs should be fined for such pitches ... $20,000-$30,000 to start with."

He also said that top Russian clubs should provide their own security for matches, and not rely on the Interior Ministry to do so as at present.

"I believe that our Premier League clubs should themselves provide complete security at stadiums. I am really ashamed to see that Interior Ministry troops do so ... This happens nowhere else in the world. These young people have been called up to serve the armed forces ... is this serving?" he commented.

"Premier League matches are of course a business. And the owners of the businesses should answer [for security]. They should hire private security guards and stewards," he said. "Hatred at stadiums is stopping the majority of normal people from going to games, even more so with their wives and children." Ivanov said.

He also criticized the majority of Russian stadiums, comparing them unfavorably with British grounds.

"I have lived in England, and in my youth I visited British stadiums, and even then I realized that they have an entirely different attitude to the game. Watching soccer with a clear, unobstructed view, and not past a running track and a ring of Interior Ministry troops, is another thing altogether," the deputy prime minster said.

Russia has officially submitted bids to hold either the 2018 or 2022 World Cup.


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