World of Sport

Drug smuggler signs for professional club despite being behind bars

World of Sport

Maxim Molokoedov trains under the eyes of prison guards (AP)

A Russian cocaine smuggler currently serving a prison sentence in South America has signed for a professional football club in Chile.

Maxim Molokoedov tried to smuggle six kilos of cocaine out of Chile two years ago, hiding the drugs inside a set of children's books.

But he was caught by police in Santiago, where he was tried and sentenced to three years in prison.

Molokoedov was 22 at the time of his arrest, and tried his hand at drug smuggling - a decision he now brands "stupid" - despite being on the books of Russian second division side Pskov-74.

His conviction originally seemed certain to spell the end of a promising career, but so dazzling were his skills in the prison exercise yard that his fame quickly began to spread. Coaches and players from around the country came to watch the strange foreign player with the silky dribble and stinging right foot, with no less an authority than Chilean national coach Claudio Borghi eventually coming to watch him play a match on the prison exercise field. Borghi instantly declared that he was good enough to turn pro, a fact not lost on other local coaches who had already begun looking into ways to bring him on board.

The law in Chile allows prisoners limited release in the latter stages of their jail terms, and the prison warden allowed him to go and train with a local side, Santiago Morning. He eventually graduated from training sessions to matches, and in his very first game for the club - against Chilean top flight club CD Palestino - Molokoedov scored twice.

Despite the man they call 'El Ruso' still having a year of his sentence to serve, he was officially transferred from Pskov-74 to the Chilean club on Tuesday. He will continue to play for them for the remainder of his sentence after which he will be able to join up with his new team-mates on a full-time basis.

Most amazing of all, however, is that signing for the Chilean club cost the Russian a chance of early freedom. A recently-passed law aimed at easing prison overcrowding offered Molokoedov the chance to be sent back to Russia, on condition that he did not return to Chile for 10 years.

But the lure of professional football is clearly greater than the lure of freedom; Molokoedov turned the offer down, determined to carry on both his career and his life in Chile - even if it means staying behind bars for another 12 months.

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