Crashed plane carried Russian football stars

Moscow, Dec 31 (IANS/RIA Novosti) A plane that crashed on landing here carried Russia's national football team - including world famous trainer Guus Hiddink and Arsenal player Andrei Arshavin - to matches, the Russian Football Association's (FA) former spokesman has said.

The Red Wings-operated Tupolev Tu-204 crashed at Vnukovo airport Saturday, killing five crew members. No passengers were on the plane.

The Russian Football Union's crest and inscription "national football team" are clearly visible in photographs of the wrecked fuselage.

The plane "carried none other than the Russian national football team", ex-FA spokesman Andrei Malosolov wrote on his blog late Saturday.

"In 2009, on precisely that plane, Guus Hiddink's Russian national team flew to the Azerbaijan-Russia World Cup qualifying match in Baku. I flew together with the team then as head of the RFU press service."

That game finished 1-1 in Baku and featured stars including goalscorer Arshavin, Alexander Kerzhakov and others.

Malosolov posted photographs on the blog of Russia players on board a Red Wings plane and disembarking from a Red Wings Tu-204. It could not be verified that this was the same plane that crashed Saturday.

Malosolov, who worked for the FA until 2010, criticised the FA's travel policy, saying that the national team at the time "flew on any kind of commercial, charter rubbish" and that "old planes" and "little-known companies" were hired.

Two other planes, one hired for the Russia team and one for Belgium, also displayed signs of being unsafe, he added.

Some Russian media have reported that the crashed plane also carried the team to Euro 2008, in unsourced reports.

Red Wings and the FA signed an agreement in 2009 to carry the national team.

Last year, a plane crash killed the entire roster of Russian KHL hockey team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, among 44 fatalities.

--IANS/RIA Novosti

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