Leonov: "People come to us because Beach Soccer is very interesting"
08 Nov 2010
One of the greatest players in the world, and Russian Captain, Ilya Leonov spoke some days ago about his beliefs regarding the status of Beach Soccer in Russia. In an interview to the Russian Newspaper Gudok, the Soviet’s number 8 reviews many issues, such as his role in the team, how the Russian Championship is growing, the special conditions of the sport in his country and many other things. Don’t miss one of the most authorized voices in the Beach Soccer Panorama!
─Ilya, how can it be made that Lokomotive, with just 6 years of life, won the race against the rest of the teams in the National Championship? Is this something common in the Beach Soccer sphere?
─This is something really hard to achieve. For instance, Strogino, who had won the Championship for the last two years, did not manage to win it in their first season. We will try to keep in the same vein next season…
─Lokomotive Moscow were pointed as the favourites to end Strogino’s hegemony. How did you felt that?
─Let’s say, simply, that we were among the favourites, together with the teams from Saint Petersburg and Samara. We faced tough opponents during the tournament, such as Soviet Wings, who we could only beat with a one-goal difference, and we also found it really difficult to bend Saint Petersburg City FC in the quarterfinals.
─And things turned really uphill in the final…
─Yes they did. But we have been lucky to count on a great player, such as Dejan Stankovic. He managed the final equalizer and he also scored in the penalty shootout. Besides, Ukrainian goalkeeper Vitaly Sidorenko played also a very important role to make us champions.
─So, securing Stankovic and Sidorenko was like a life insurance, wasn’t it?
─No one doubted about their talent. After our other goalkeeper, Andrii Bukhlitskiy, was sidelined due to injury, Sidorenko had to take office of our goal, and he did a terrific job. And the same for Stankovic. He is a great striker. In the last World Cup, he bombed the Russian goal three times and took Switzerland to the final. The Swiss took an unexpected silver cup, and that happened, partly, because of Dejan’s performances.
─How many foreign players play in the Russian Championship?
─There are some of them, basically Brazilians. They are players of the Brazil National team, World Cup Champions. Even though, we have more Russian players playing now on the Championship.
─How high is the Russian Championship level regarding the European Panorama? Do you think it is the most powerful in the Old Continent?
─The strongest championship in Europe is the Italian one. There are great teams with great local players, as well as the most important footballers from Brazil, Argentina, Portugal or Spain. Much attention is paid to Beach Soccer in Italy, where TV channels are broadcasting lots of beach soccer matches every day. This is something that is still not happening in Russia, where only the final rounds are broadcasted.
─What does our Beach Soccer still lack to make the final jump to the highest level?
─There are few places in Russia where Beach Soccer can be practiced. For example, in Moscow, only Strogino have the facilities to do so, or Anapa, down south, with the new Sports Centre, where the Russian Championship finals were played. But this is not enough, especially in our climatic conditions. We have to find another way, and introduce Beach Soccer Schools. People come to us because Beach Soccer is very interesting, so we must be ready.
─During the Beach Soccer games, music is played out loud. Isn’t it disturbing?
─Music is an essential part of Beach Soccer. It is true that sometimes it makes it a little harder to communicate with your teammates, but we are used to it. Most of the times, events take place on the beaches, where people go sunbathing, swimming and they enjoy watching Beach Soccer matches. And you cannot take music out of all this.
─Let’s talk a little bit about your role in the team. Is it difficult to be a player and a coach at the same time? How do the rest of the players see you on the pitch, as a teammate or as a leader they have to obey?
─When I am on the pitch, I am just another player, just like all of them. It is Lokomotive’s Sportive Director, Mikhail Likhachev, also team’s head coach, who drives us from the bench. If I am not on the sand, we do this job together, and in this moment, the players must follow my instructions.
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