By Andrew Osborn
MOSCOW (Reuters) - A comedian who called Russia's World Cup soccer team "shit" in a music video watched online by at least 12 million people released a new song on Sunday in which he said sorry and his co-performer hailed the national side as heroes.
Semyon Slepakov's original song, "Ole Ole Ole," was released before Russia's first match earlier this month and tapped into the views of many Russians who regarded their players before the tournament as underperforming and destined for a humiliating and early exit from the competition.
The jokey song was well received by many Russians at the time, but angered some fans and politicians, including the Kremlin-backed head of Chechnya who said he found part of it offensive.
Since its release, Russia has dramatically confounded its critics, beating Saudi Arabia 5-0 and Egypt 3-1, earning itself a place in the knockout stage in an unexpected turn of events that has delighted the Russian public.
Slepakov, whose patriotism had been called into question by some fans, teamed up with Sergei Shnurov, the founder of the band "Leningrad", to try to make amends in a new song called "Champions".
Released on Sunday, the track, peppered with expletives, quickly garnered over 500,000 views and was the top trending item on YouTube in Russia.
'YOU ARE NOW HEROES'
"Forgive us guys, we were real morons," Slepakov, accompanied by Leningrad's musicians, sings.
"We did not believe in you solemnly, did not clench our fists. In front of the whole country, we shouted at you that you were surplus to requirements! How many times did we repeat that whatever happened you would screw up!"
Shnurov, in the same song, sings that the Russian team's unexpectedly strong performance has generated nationwide euphoria and that Russians, who used to curse the team, are now toasting their footballers with vodka.
"You are now heroes for us. The people are queuing up to bow down to you. If somebody opens their mouth (to speak badly of the team) we will rip their mouth apart," he sings.
Russia, who began the tournament ranked as the weakest team in the tournament by FIFA, are due to play Uruguay on Monday in the city of Samara, but are already guaranteed a place in the knockout stage.
The new song had a warning for the Russian team however, pointing out that the Russian public is fickle.
"We will kiss your boots, but know this. If you lose even once you will immediately become scumbags."
(Editing by Andrew Bolton)