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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Dec 13, 2006

Abramovich to invest $40m in Russian team

MOSCOW, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich will invest at least another $40 million in the Russian national team in the hope of reviving it as he has done with London club Chelsea.

Abramovich's National Soccer Academy foundation has earmarked $30-40 million for the construction of a new training base for the Russia team by 2008 and will also put money into building a new stadium, his spokesman told Reuters on Wednesday.

The money is the latest part of an ambitious plan by the country's richest man to lift Russian soccer up from the doldrums it has been in since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

He already partly finances national coach Guus Hiddink's salary package and has put millions of dollars into Moscow club CSKA, who last year became the first Russian club to lift a European trophy when they won the UEFA Cup.

Abramovich's foundation, which sponsors sports projects across Russia, will pour cash into the building of a new national stadium in Moscow, a project worth around $300 million, his spokesman said.

'The Academy is ready to go forward to make sure it is built ... The foundation is the main driver behind the stadium project,' he added, declining to give the exact sum allocated.

Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003 for 60 million pounds ($118 million). Helped by his seemingly limitless funds, Chelsea have won two Premier League titles since his arrival.

It is a different story for the Russian national team, who failed to qualify for this year's World Cup under former coach Yuri Syomin.

Abramovich's plans of further investment into Russian sport will likely boost his good reputation at home.

In the years of Vladimir Putin's presidency, marked with a campaign against 'oligarchs' -- Russia's super-rich accused by the Kremlin of neglecting national interests -- Abramovich has become a widely cited positive example of a different approach.

During his governorship of the Chukotka region, Abramovich has invested hundreds of millions of dollars and made use of his close Kremlin ties to fight poverty in the bitterly cold and largely deserted region in Russia's far east.

The Russian edition of Forbes magazine this year estimated Abramovich's wealth, mostly from oil and aluminium assets, at $18.3 billion.