Latin America & Caribbean

Russia footballer joins Chile club after drug sentence

Footballer Maxim Molokoedov (31 July)
Maxim Molokoedov calls his attempted drug-smuggling a "bad memory"

A Russian footballer who served a three-year prison sentence for drug smuggling in Chile has been allowed to stay in the country after his release.

Maxim Molokoedov has been offered a contract for the Santiago Morning club, where he has been training since last season under a special permit.

The Chilean justice ministry revoked his expulsion order.

Justice Minister Juan Ignacio Pina said Maxim proved that reintegration and rehabilitation were possible.

Molokoedov, 25, used to play for FK Pskov 747, a team in the Russian second division. He was arrested at Santiago airport with 6kg (13lb) of cocaine in 2010. He planned to smuggle the drugs back to Europe.

Today, he regrets it and prefers not to talk about the subject, calling it "a bad memory."

'El Ruso'

In jail in Chile's capital, Molokoedov started playing with the prison team.

Word soon spread of "El Ruso's" abilities with a football, and members of the Santiago Morning club showed interest.

A former professional player who volunteers at prisons, Franklin Lobos, vouched for Molokoedov.

He was then allowed to leave jail with a guard and train with Santiago Morning, where he will now be playing as a professional.

"I'm very happy and I want to thank all the people who helped me to keep going and have a chance to succeed here in Chile," he said at a ceremony where he was told he could remain in the country.