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WOMEN IN FOOTBALL her past with CSKA.” Smorodskaya worked for the CSKA Sports Society, not to be confused with the football, basketball or ice hockey clubs, and the fans were obviously not happy with her past at their rival. Before entering the world of sports Smorodskaya worked in the finance sector, where she was employed as vice-president at the government owned VTB-Bank, who now owns and sponsor Dinamo Moscow, and Rosbank. Furthermore, she worked in the administration of Moscow after being headhunted by the mayor Vladimir Resin. This gave Smorodskaya the needed contacts to get a high profiled football job, an industry which is notoriously difficult to break into for people without professional playing experience. Some people claim it was Smorodskaya’s close friendship with the Russian politician and former defence minister Sergei Ivanov, a close ally of president Vladimir Putin, which secured her the job at Lokomotiv since he recommended her to the boss of the Russian Railways Vladimir Yakunin. It is however not certain that the story is this complicated, and as Lokomotiv Moscow expert at Russianfootballnews. com Ilya Solokov told me, Smorodskaya’s strong background in the banking sector as well as management experience from her time with CSKA made her an obvious choice. A TASTE OF NEPOTISM After overcoming the shaky start Smorodskaya sought to bring Lokomotiv back to the golden years during the first Semin era, but one of her first major decisions turned the last fans that supported her against her. At the end of November, only three months after she got the job, she sacked Semin when Lokomotiv only finished fifth, 20 points after the champions Zenit St. Petersburg, in the 2010 season. The dismissal of the club icon led to a scandal, as Conforti put it to me, and 2011 didn’t get

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much better for the struggling Smorodskaya. In January Lokomotiv signed the Bosnian midfielder Senijad Ibricic from Hajduk Split, and Smorodskaya quickly announced that the new signing “was a top 5 midfielder in Europe”. A year and a half later Ibricic was sent on loan in Turkey with Gaziantepspor, and today the now 29 year old Bosnian represents FK Vardar from Macedonia. To make things even worse for Smorodskaya the signing was made by her son-inlaw Kiril Kotov, who she made head scout and later sports director, while refusing all accusations of nepotism by claiming he was simply the best for the job. Lokomotiv are, unfortunately, now infamous for their many terrible signings, and one of the worst being the Spanish midfielder Albert Zapater, who signed a five year contract in 2011. Zapater has only played six matches in the previous three seasons, and as Solokov put it “he is simply getting paid for attending the training sessions”. Smorodskaya’s courage to meet the press is one of the things that characterize her. “She knows that most people don’t like her. But she still gives many interviews. It is both her biggest strength and weakness, as she says many things that can make her look stupid,” Solokov says. The bold statements are often used by her critics to make her a laughing stock. In 2010 Smorodskaya, who the former Lokomotiv striker Dame N’Doye jokingly refered to as his mother because of the warmth she showed him during his stint in Moscow, claimed that she would raise the average attendance of Lokomotiv Stadium to 30,000, but in the previous season it barely reached 9,000. A GENDER INSULT It is however not all bad for Smorodskaya and Lokomotiv. During her time as president, a term that was extended in 2013, the club’s financial situation has been steady thanks to Smorodskaya’s strict financial

control, which also explains why they came relatively unharmed through the rouble crisis that hit Russia last winter. Furthermore, Smorodskaya has worked hard on changing the Russian laws on crowd trouble. Through her seat in the Executive Committee of the Russian Football Union (RFU), she has worked hard on making the matches the RFU has ordered played for closed doors as a punishment open for women and children to avoid playing matches without any atmosphere at all. Despite this, Lokomotiv has been a train wreck, pun intended, since Smorodskaya took office in 2010. Smorodskaya has alienated the fans, who have answered with insults and threats. Smorodskaya’s problem has not been her gender, but her lack of football knowledge. Even though her gender made the fans critical of her in the beginning, it is not the reason for the abuse. “The fans use her gender to insult her. But it is not the reason why they started the insults in the first place,” Solokov explains. During her time in office Lokomotiv has won the Russian Cup, or the Kubok as it is known, and their best result in the league is a third place. Lokomotiv have been unable to make good European campaigns, and last season they crashed out against a club from Cyprus after only two Europe League matches. Smorodskaya’s failures as Lokomotiv president has absolutely nothing to do with her gender, it is only related to her catastrophic lack of football knowledge, and her courage to act despite this. Even though the results haven’t been impressive Yakunin, head of the Russian Railways, still trusts Smorodskaya. Meanwhile 8.62 per cent of the users at the Russian website Rusfootball.info believe she is a CSKA saboteur sent by Ivanov to destroy the rival. Unfortunately, Smorodskaya has only confirmed the prejudices of those who claimed that a woman couldn’t lead a football club.

Sport Executive August 15  

Sport Executive er et gratis magasin på nettet om sport. Sport er den hurtigst voksende branche i dette årtusinde – såvel i Danmark som worl...

Sport Executive August 15  

Sport Executive er et gratis magasin på nettet om sport. Sport er den hurtigst voksende branche i dette årtusinde – såvel i Danmark som worl...

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