June 7 – Dinamo St Petersburg will move to the Fisht Stadium in Sochi next season as the World Cup venue seeks to shed its tag of white elephant.
The stadium, nestled between the palm tress lining the Black Sea shores and the mountains, was the flagship venue for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. The 48,000 all-seater will host six World Cup matches.
Sochi, however, has no professional club. Zhemchuzhina were in the top flight in the 90s, but for years there has been a void in professional football in the seaside resort. The ‘transfer’ of Dinamo may save the impressive Fisht from the embarrassment of being all but abandoned. The stadium has struggled for events after the Winter Olympic Games.
“You can congratulate us. We are continuing our existence in Sochi,” said Dinamo St Petersburg team director Dmitry Rubashko.
Still, the move is peculiar. The Petersburg club has a storied history of marginalisation in the lower Russian league with little or no following. They were founded in 1922 with the backing of the all-powerful secret police. The club was also a founding member of the Soviet Vysshaya Liga. The Petersburg version of the Dinamo clubs belong to Vladimir Putin’s judo partner Boris Rotenberg.
Rotenberg is believed to be a billionaire who has built his wealth during Putin’s reign. Speculation is rife that he has been tasked by Russia’s head of state to create a team in Sochi. Dinamo St Petersburg will probably be renamed FC Sochi.
“We will decide on the name in the coming day,” said Rotenberg. “We have not set any goals for the moment.”
In a welcome move for the ‘new club’, the Russian government has earmarked $190 million for World Cup stadium operation costs for the coming five years.
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