“Two and a half years with a rope around my neck.” How Valery Karpin saved Spain’s oldest volleyball club

Update Post: November 28, 2023 9:48 am

Valery Karpin’s 11 years in Spain were remembered not only for his successful matches with Real Sociedad, Celta and Valencia. During this time, the current coach of the Russian national football team opened his own business and became a philanthropist, helping many sports clubs. One of them was the oldest volleyball team in Galicia, Vigo, which for a time was even named after the former soccer player.

From footballer to developer

After a brilliant start in Spartak and three championships, Valery Karpin, like many of the best players of that era, moved to southern Europe. The Spanish journey began with Real Sociedad, with whom he would later achieve his best result in Primera since 1988: second place. Thus, after two successful years in the Basque Country, Karpin was bought by Valencia and almost immediately sold as soon as he played the season. He had to settle at Celta Vigo, for whom the time with Karpin was the best in many years: the team finished in the European Cup zone for several seasons and achieved outstanding results in Europe.

The largest city in Galicia and in the future became the mecca of its football-related activities. “Why here in Vigo? Well, I like the city, its people and its atmosphere, I also spent five seasons here, so I put down roots. “I fell in love with this area and have many friends here.” As he admitted in an interview with Sport Express, Vigo’s lifestyle reminded him a little of Moscow, although less dynamic. He didn’t like quiet, cozy cities.

Karpin plays for Spanish club Celta

Photo: Getty Images

Manila and financial stability: Spain hardly worried about the future. During the time of Spartak, Karpin received $40,000 a year, in the first seasons in Spain – $250,000, in the mid-2000s – many times more. The footballer put the money he earned into circulation: after finishing his career in 2005, he used it to open the Valery Karpin company to dedicate himself to the real estate sector.

In the early 2000s, the Spanish market was booming as rapid growth in housing demand attracted foreign investors. Karpin participated in the purchase of land, construction of houses, apartments and shopping centers. He bought a total of 17.5 thousand square meters of property and became one of the most successful businessmen in Vigo. Along with his former Celta teammate and Real Madrid defender Michel Salgado, he also bought dilapidated buildings and renovated them. They even nicknamed him the “Galician Abramovich.”

However, it was not just the business projects that benefited the city. After struggling to survive in La Liga, the company’s CEO saved the region’s sport from ruin by financing a cycling team, a Vigo university rugby club and a Paralympic swimmer.

“There are good reasons to support each of them, but I wanted to help the people and the sport as much as possible. This is a way to express my gratitude for everything the city has done for me,” she states.

I started with the Vigo volleyball team.

The oldest volleyball club in the region.

Vigo was founded in 1969 from the El Pilar Catholic school and is the oldest Galician volleyball team. The first promotion to the major leagues occurred in 1971. They were never its leaders, but they covered the top 4 several times. However, throughout its 52-year history there were also serious problems: from 1976 to 1992, the team fell from the upper divisions.

Thus a complete comeback occurred in the 1997/1998 season, when the team reached the final phase of the Spanish Cup, placing ninth among 49 teams, and even played in European competitions for several seasons. Of course, not without the help of sponsors: only seven main sponsors came to the club’s aid, and one of the last was Karpin’s company, which helped from 2004 to 2008.

Spanish volleyball club “Vigo”

Photo: clubvigo.com

Such an important signing was kept secret by the board, coaching staff and players. And this was only revealed at a press conference: the jubilant president Guillermo Touza, according to Vedomosti, announced the transfer of 40% of the club’s shares to Karpin. As the Spanish AS wrote then, he himself assumed the payment of all debts.

“For us Karpin’s offer was a pleasant surprise, because without support we would not have been able to survive,” says Touza. “Now we can breathe easy.” For two and a half years we existed with a noose around our neck, but now thanks to Karpin everything has changed.”

Valery Gergievich himself also opened up. “Our company spoke with the former sports advisor to see if we could help the Vigo club and Santiago Domínguez gave the go-ahead. It is important that the sport has the support of private companies, and it is vital for the city to preserve the only Galician team in the category. That is why it is an honor for me to sponsor it.”

He did not appear at the ceremony empty-handed: during the signing he held in his hands a personalized club shirt with the name and anagram of his own construction company. Karpin could join the team as an outfielder at any time if he so desired. “He will have a place in the squad whenever he wants,” said the club president.

The former soccer player made no excuses: he loved volleyball, but he never played for the team. “At school in Russia he played volleyball. Life is not just football and I hope to be an example for other companies in this city so that they decide to support other sports,” explained the businessman.

Under Karpin, the team started in the Super League, but not very successfully: it finished the season in 12th place. And a couple of years later it fell into a lower-ranking league – Super League-2, but closed the second season 2007/ 2008 and was promoted again to the country’s main championship, although without a Russian sponsor. The club has never achieved great sporting successes on the national and international level and in the last ten years has not left the second strongest championship, where it is still on the verge of bankruptcy. The management has been looking for a new sponsor since 2010 and, at the same time, money: to register in the Spanish Super League you have to pay 65 thousand euros.

“We not only compete in Super League 2, but we also have a second team, a youth team, a cadet team, a children’s team, a junior team,” explains the club’s president, Touza. “There are hundreds of children in the club structure.”

Paralympic swimmer Sebastián “Chano” Rodríguez

Photo: From the personal archive of Sebastián Rodríguez.

In addition to entire teams, Karpin also provided assistance to individual athletes: the famous Paralympic swimmer Sebastián “Chano” Rodríguez in Spain. The Spaniard was put behind bars on suspicion of belonging to the terrorist group GRAPO and complicity in murder. Once in the cell he went on a hunger strike and became disabled. Once free, Rodríguez became serious about sports and even attended the 2004 Summer Paralympics with Karpin’s financial support.

“If it weren’t for him, I simply wouldn’t have had enough money to get to Greece,” Chano thanked the Russian philanthropist. “He realized the mistakes of his youth and proved to be a great personality, a brave and very talented man,” Karpin himself noted in this regard. In Athens, Rodríguez took three golds and a bronze.


But in 2008, Karpin’s construction business began to decline, and in 2011, in an interview, Valery Georgievich admitted that he had completely retired. “During the crisis things have slowed down a bit, everything is no longer moving at the same pace as before. But the business now does not take long. I look from afar and it is easy for work. There are company heads who report on the work, but my direct presence on the job is not particularly necessary.” At the same time, the management also withdrew from the affairs of the volleyball club: the team was saved by the regional government, assuming 64% of the budget.

Valery Karpin as coach of the Russian national team

Photo: Dmitry Golubovich, “Championship”

Authorities sued Karpin’s company to recover €1.9 million in unpaid sponsorship fees. Three years later, it turned out that there was nothing to pay off the debt: the property was pledged in banks, and there were not enough personal funds. In 2015, his Spanish company closed permanently. He no longer built a business in Russia, he only dedicated himself to football, where he was recently forced to play only friendly matches with the Russian national team under suspended conditions.

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September 23, 2023 1:52 pm