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Sunday, 23 July, 2000, 22:19 GMT 23:19 UK
Russians rule anthem offside
Russian football crowd
Russian footballers want to get their fans singing
By Orla Guerin in Moscow

Vladimir Putin has been dealing with major world issues in Okinawa, but Russia's top football players are asking him to solve a problem at home.

Players from the Russian champions, Spartak Moscow, have written to the president asking him for a proper national anthem to sing before matches.


An anthem touches your soul - you're singing for your country

Spartak player Andrei Tikhonov

The old Soviet anthem was a patriotic affair - a hymn to the Motherland with a line in praise of Stalin.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Russia chose a new melody but has never found lyrics to match.

Now the Spartak Moscow players say they and the nation have waited long enough.

Russian military band
The current anthem remains wordless
"We don't want to hang our heads any more when our anthem is played," they say in a letter to President Putin.

"That's the best way to lose a match before it even starts."

In recent years, Russia has done plenty of that. The last major tournament the national team qualified for was Euro 96.

No words

"We want to be able to sing our anthem," the players say.

Their coach has even come up with words.

He is not the only one. Thousands of lyrics have already been suggested but the authorities have been unable to agree on the right words for the new Russia.

The team will probably have to make do with half an anthem for some time to come.

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