Siberian Soapbox

Sometimes a smile can be so goddamn annoying. Why the lightness? Where is the heavy cloud of shame on your face? Since when did you have the light of laughter shining more brightly than the weight of responsibility? Christ those happy tossers can get lost.

No, this is not just a grumpy old man being a grumpy old man – this is a very specific levity I wish to destroy. I’m going native on this rant too. By native, I mean the land that has clasped me to its bosom and won’t bloody well let go: Russia. Unless you’ve been under a rock somewhere, you’ll have seen the latest scandal involving the Motherland. “Russia? Negativity? Oh yes please!” squealed every western editor under the sun. For once, they were absolutely right.

Aleksandr Kokorin and Pavel Mamaev – party animals

OK, for those hermits amongst you, here are the salient facts. Aleksandr Kokorin and Pavel Mamaev both played in St. Petersburg for Zenit and Krasnodar respectively on Sunday. The pair are both Russian internationals and long-standing friends. After the match, they booked out a whole carriage on the high-speed Sapsan train to Moscow. With the international break starting, and neither called up for duty, they decided to party.

As Robbie Williams sagely noted: “it takes a certain kind of man with a certain reputation to alleviate the cash from a whole entire nation.” Well, these two idiots may not quite alleviate all the cash, but they are men with a certain reputation. After they were part of Russia’s abysmal crash out of Euro 2016 (where they still managed to hold Ingurlund to a 1-1 draw), they went on a $250,000 champagne-fuelled bender in a Monaco nightclub.

I’m all for footballers having their privacy, and leeway to let off steam. It is a bleeding intense life that us plebs will never fully be able to appreciate. There is a pissing limit, though. The galling images that emerged of their largess days after the nations humiliatingly dreadful performance stank. Private drink with friends and family? Sure. Do it in a glamorous nightspot with such ridiculous celebratory excess on show? Fuck right off.

Russia’s rollercoaster renaissance ruined

It became the symbol of a Russia’s lowest ebb. The disconnect between the ageing, disinterested team and lethargic, disenchanted support was painful. Caretaker boss and domestic managerial legend Leonid Slutskiy left for Hull City, leaving Stanislav Cherchesov to pick up the many shattered pieces.

Fast forward two years. The sheer euphoric electricity crackling through the largest country on earth was infectious. Artem Dzyuba became a national treasure as the hosts charmed their way to the World Cup quarterfinals. The fans had fallen in love with the revolutionised squad in an unprecedented way given the turmoil. Even the Russian people showed that they, in fact, do not swig vodka for breakfast before wrestling bears and being generally rude.

Kokorin and Mamaev had both suffered long-term injuries that ruled them out of contention for the summer tournament. Both fought their way back to fitness and were showing glimpses of their best form coming into their slash. After their drunken train ride, they lurched to a strip club with friends in tow. Mamaev is a married father, while Kokorin has a one-year-old son with his current girlfriend.

Violence

That should be bad enough, but no. After leaving at around 7am, they encountered a driver in a nearby car park. Comments escalated quickly, and the two chased the man before battering him to senseless. Literally. The victim was sent to hospital with suspected brain damage.

After decamping to a cafe with their group, including Kokorin’s teenage brother, they looked for chairs. One man of Asian origin was unfortunate enough to be sitting in one that they wanted; cue more punches thrown.

All of this violence was caught on camera. Not only this, but the victims could hardly have been worse from the thugs’ point of view. One was a driver for a hugely popular TV presenter, the other a government minister. Within hours, every news outlet in the country was smothering their irrefutable crimes everywhere.

Evil smile

Kokorin even arrived late for the police deadline set to bring them in for questioning, placing him automatically on Russia’s wanted list. On Thursday the pair were formally detained for two months, but not before Kokorin smirked and winked during his interview.

Which brings us back round to the scourge of the smile: the jumped-up little shit smirked. The bastard almost single-handedly destroyed the goodwill built up around Russian football, technically goes on the run from authorities, and he has the fucking gall to smirk. If only there was a spare Khabib Nurmagomedov lying around to be sicced on the slimy tosser.

The pair are on the verge of having their contracts terminated, and almost certainly their careers prematurely ended. Some justice I suppose. If I wasn’t a tad overweight, a little less lethargic and without aching bones, I’d wipe that smirk of his smarmy face. Next time you see a player smile, just remember – it isn’t always a good thing.