Alisher Usmanov has no interest in quitting football despite selling his Arsenal shares and has just invested $200m in Pakhtakor Tashkent FK.

Since deciding to sell his Arsenal shares, there has been a lot of speculation about  Usmanov’s next move. Heavily linked with Everton, the Uzbek businessman refused to rule them out as a possibility when he said, “We are friends with Farhad Moshiri. If he needs the support, I am happy to help.” He also admitted he received ‘many proposals’.

One of those, it seems, came from Pakhtakor in his home country.

Founded in 1956, just three years after Usmanov was born, they currently play in front of a 35,000-capacity stadium in the Uzbek league where they finished third last season.

Pakhtakor Stadium

They have won the league 11 times since 1992 as well as 11 Uzbek Cups in the same time after the collapse of the USSR saw them leave the Russian league.

Based in the country’s capital of Tashkent, Usmanov’s investment in The Cotton Growers will go towards a new $100m stadium that will be built on the current site that will meet FIFA’s requirements.

Mail.ru, a company co-owned by Alisher Usmanov, has called for a change to Russia’s hate-speech legislation and amnesty for those already convicted under the law ‘unjustly’.

“We see how in many regions of our country the practice of opening criminal cases against users for likes and reposts on social networks is becoming popular,” Mail.ru Group said in a statement on August 6.

“Often the actions of law enforcement agencies clearly do not correspond to the potential threat, and their reaction to entries in comments sections or to memes in the news feed is unjustifiably harsh,” it added.

A woman passes the logo of Mail.Ru Group, one of Russia's biggest Internet companies, during the 10th Russian Internet Week in Moscow on November 1, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV
A woman passes the logo of Mail.Ru Group, one of Russia’s biggest Internet companies, during the 10th Russian Internet Week in Moscow on November 1, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV

The move comes amid an increasing Russian crackdown on online speech that sees Maria Motuznaya, 23, facing up to five years in prison for sharing a meme that prosecutors allege ‘contained hate speech and insulted religious believers’ including the Russian Orthodoxy.

The charge came after two other women complained about images Motuznaya had on VKontakte, a site often called ‘the Russian Facebook’. VKontakte is owned by the mail.ru group.

Motuznaya is far from the only Russian to find themselves in trouble. 19-year-old Daniil Marking, a film student, was also charged with inciting hate speech after he likened the fictional character Jon Snow from Game of Thrones to Jesus. He also faces up to five years in prison.

Mail.ru statement in full:

The position of Mail.Ru Group on law enforcement practice in relation to users of social networks

In our country, tens of millions of people regularly use social networks. We daily share our thoughts with friends, discuss the news, put the likes, lay out photos and videos. The ability to share information is the greatest value of social networks.

We see how in many regions of our country the practice of instituting criminal proceedings against users for husks and reposts in social networks is becoming popular. Often, the actions of law enforcement agencies clearly do not correspond to the potential threat, and their reaction to notes in comments or memes in the tape proves to be unmotivatedly rigid.

We are convinced that the legislation and law enforcement practice should be changed. We consider necessary amnesty for the unjustly convicted, serving time for the relevant charges and decriminalizing such cases in the future.