Each day after practice, a police officer escorts 24-year-old midfielder Maxim Molokoedov back to prison in the Chilean capital where he’s serving a three-year sentence.
“I was going down a bad path, I had a bad moment, but today I have an opportunity that I hope will allow me to earn a living,” Molokoedov told AFP.
Blond and 1.8 meters (5 feet 11 inches) tall, the former second division player in Russia stands out on the pitch. His teammates call him “The Russian”.
He said that playing on the Chilean team has helped him turn his life around. “This, to me, is living and living well. I hope to be an example for everyone,” said Molokoedov, a native of Saint Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city.
He spoke in Spanish, a language he learned in the Santiago prison, one of the country’s largest, where he is one of 5,000 inmates.
In 2010, Molokoedov was caught at the Santiago airport trying to leave for Europe with six kilos (13 pounds) of cocaine hidden in children’s books.
Molokoedov first caught the eye of a recruiter for Chile’s national team, Claudio Borghi, during a jailhouse match in 2011. He began to advocate for the Russian’s talents to be used in national competition.