Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday mocked top club Zenit St. Petersburg for not fielding enough Russian players. With Russia hosting the World Cup next year, Putin told a meeting of sports officials that Zenit couldn’t claim to be popularizing soccer as a “truly Russian game” because it didn’t give enough starts to Russian players.


When Zenit president Sergei Fursenko suggested more attractive styles of play could attract fans and make football “a real Russian game,” Putin hit back. “You’ve got eight foreigners running across the pitch, playing for Zenit in the Europa League, well done,” the Russian president said in televised remarks, Apparently referring to Zenit’s last Europa League group stage game against Spain’s Real Sociedad.

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