Soccer / Never Wrong, Even When Proven Otherwise

Valery Gazzayev, who has won 4 Russian championships, three Russian Cups with CSKA and has coached the Russian national team, has come under criticism in the Russian media.

At the age of 52, Valery Gazzayev has won 4 Russian championships (three as coach of CSKA Moscow and one with Vladikavkaz), three Russian Cups with CSKA and has coached the Russian national team.

But despite his impressive record, Gazzayev, who leads CSKA out against Maccabi Haifa in the return leg of their UEFA Cup round of 32 tie tomorrow, has come under criticism in the Russian media.

Which CSKA is the real one, they have asked. Is it the CSKA that was in dazzling form to win the Russian Channel One Cup in Israel last month, or is it the CSKA that has failed to score in its opening two official games of the season, against Samara in the Russian Cup and in the first leg against Haifa. Both games ended in goalless draws even though CSKA had been heavily favored to walk away with high scoring wins.

Gazzayev has problems off the field as well. The Russian media says he is a coach who doesn't take responsibility.

"He is always looking for someone to blame if things go wrong," says one Russian sports writer. He just isn't cut out to take responsibility."

That was evident for all to see after last week's goal-less draw between CSKA and Haifa when Gazzayev lashed out at what he called Russia's "unnecessary" friendly with the Netherlands a few days earlier.

Gazzayev's comments led to a backlash in the Russian press. "The ones to disappoint against Haifa weren't the ones who played for the national team against Holland, but the Brazilians and all the rest of the players who were training with Gazzayev," wrote Sovietski Sport.

Sovietski Sport accused Gazzayev of double standards, noting that when he had been Russia coach, he had refused a request from Lokomotiv Moscow coach Yuri Siomin to release players from the squad ahead of Lokomotiv's Champions League clash with AC Milan.

His comments also earned the wrath of the Russian Football Association and Russia coach Guus Hiddink. Perhaps for the first time since Gazzayev hit out at the appointment of a foreign coach, the Russian FA and Hiddink hit back.

The Russian FA described his comments about the quality of training at the national team as "improper and unacceptable."

Even the usually restrained Hiddink recommended to Gazzayev that he "first take care of his own team before criticizing others."

"Valery Gazzayev is without a doubt an excellent coach," said a Russian journalist who asked that his identity remain anonymous. "But sometimes success goes to his head and he fails to hold his tongue."

Some Russian journalists have blamed Gazzayev for the behavior of the Moscow team's representatives on the Under 21 squad, five of whom were sent off against Denmark. However the accusations seem contrived; Gazzayev is a coach for whom discipline comes above all else. He is one of the few coaches in the Russian league who will not let any player, no matter his star status, get on top of him.

Gazzayev commands respect not only from his players, but also from the CSKA fans, considered among the most violent in Europe.

In a Champions League qualifier when CSKA supporters started setting alight chairs even though their team was winning, Gazzayev stormed angrily across the field to the CSKA fans and demanded that they put a stop to their behavior. The message was understood.

Gazzayev is a coach who loathes unsportsman-like behavior. After the first leg against Haifa, he accused Roni Levy's players of feigning injury, and he belowed at his own players to get up if their injuries were severe enough to require medical intervention.

With Gazzayev, it always comes down to honor. Gazzayev is a man of honor who is never wrong, even if proven otherwise.