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FC Krasnodar: Chelsea’s Champions League opponents with the maverick owner

Sergey Galitsky made his money from founding a Russian supermarket chain

In the age of the super-club, the Champions League will arrive in rare new territory on Wednesday when Chelsea land in southern Russia.

Their opponents are FC Krasnodar, upstarts by anyone’s measure, but this is a club with a uniquely compelling twist.

The province of Krasnodar Krai was frontier country in the days of the Russian Empire. These days, Krasnodar is a calmer place to be.

Or at least, it will be until Chelsea touch down.

The game, the club’s first ever home Champions League group-stage match, is a sellout – within the Covid-19 restrictions allowed by the Russian authorities. A phenomenal amount of effort, and no little heart, has gone into turning the young club, only founded in 2008, into an outfit ready to compete at this level.

Behind it all is the controlling hand of a singular maverick. Sergey Galitsky, founder of the supermarket chain Magnit, sits alone in the Russian billionaire community.

Whilst most of the country’s super-rich made their money buying up Russia’s natural resources at the fall of the USSR, Galitsky, 53, built his nationwide retail business the old fashioned way, with hard work, grit and innovation.

It’s a not-insignificant distinction in the eyes of a population that suffered hardship throughout the 1990s, while the oligarch class scooped up the country’s natural wealth.

A Russian business insider, who asked not to be named, sums up Galitsky’s rise: “Oligarch by definition refers to someone who uses political connections to make money.

“Galitsky is different. He is not an oligarch, he is self-made. He started a cheap grocery store in Krasnodar from scratch in 1998. Back then, Russia lacked a modern retail chain, and Galitsky’s model achieved huge success.”

Krasnodar were founded a decade later in 2008, entering at the ground floor in Russia’s regional third tier. The motivations were simple: the owner’s love for the game and a desire to build something of lasting…

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