NIKOLAI PISAREV and ALEXANDER ALAEV
Solid football pillars built on beach soccer sand
04 Apr 2012
A brilliant job is a brilliant job. No matter the surface you lay its foundation on. And this is precisely what former Spartak Moscow striker Nikolai Pisarev (right on the picture) current Sporting Director in the Football Union of Russia (FUR) and Russian U-21 National Team, and Alexander Alaev (left), the organization’s CEO, together with all their team, did with the raising of Beach Soccer in Russia. Their giving birth to a really winning and powerful structure, starting it from scratch, and fighting against all the geographical and conceptual difficulties they found, was the best guarantee for the FUR President, Sergey Fursenko, to appoint them in such leading roles as the ones they occupy today. The story of Pisarev and Alaev is the story on how Beach Soccer is a wonderful platform to help his ‘elder brother’, eleven-a-side football, and how the labour on the sand generates highly-trained professionals who can bring a lot of value to it.
Little had been done in Russia regarding Beach Soccer on a professional international basis before 2005. At that moment, with the first FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, both Nikolai and Alexander became in true contact with the sport, with the latter even travelling to Rio to soap about everything happening in such a global showcase. Although Alaev had been gathering information about the sport, the teams, the organizations and so, and had organized several Beach Soccer tournaments in Russia, he got absolutely struck by the spectacle displayed at Copacabana, a festival he describes as “crazy”.
In his first encounter with Beach Soccer, Pisarev got immediately captivated by the unique assets of the sport: “In just one hour, you have lots of things happening in the game, lots of goals, many eye-catching moments, etc. And, what’s best, everything can change although a team gets a three or four-goal advantage…” After this immediate attraction, Nikolai felt he wanted to get truly involved with the sport. He got on a plane and he went straight to Beach Soccer Worldwide headquarters, in Barcelona, so to discuss his possibilities to steer a Russian National Team into the BSWW established circuit.
And the next step was, of course, making it happen. In this, the former Russian international found the blind trust from his friends in Spanish Primera División, who joined him in the Euro Beach Soccer League stage held in Mallorca in 2005. Stars such as Mostovoi, Karpin, Nikiforov, Popov or Kiriakov, amongst others, teamed up to build the first Russian Beach Soccer National Team. They just needed to know that Nikolai Pisarev was in charge of it. That was enough for them to jump onto that boat. “I will never be able to thank my friends enough. They are the most important thing in my life, and they showed me they will always be at my side”, he admits.
Another one of the members of that squad was, precisely, Alexander Alaev, who took part in the team’s training camp for the competition. After the knowledge he acquired in the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup early that same year, his role, inside and outside the pitch, was to become key for the first steps of the Russian National Team, and obviously the subsequent years.
Beginning from scratch stands for no other thing than starting from the very very beginning. “In our first training day in Mallorca, we had to sit down and study the rules, as we were not used to them”, Pisarev recalls. But that starting signal was the beginning of a true success story, loaded with effort, professionalism, and spirit, together with a steel faith in the possibilities of such an attractive sport: “ I always believed that Beach Soccer was something big, something to invest on”.
Similarly, Alaev points that “I immediately knew that this sport had a great potential, with all the spectacle it entails, its excitement... Obviously, a little while was necessary for it to become really popular in Russia, but it was a matter of getting started and doing things right”. And so they did, losing no time, and having the first National Beach Soccer Championship organized in the country only a couple of months later, involving 8 teams and catching the attention of the Football Union of Russia, quickly gaining its support, too.
Pisarev and Alaev, together with all their collaborators, carried out an exhaustive task in shaping up a competitive team to jump onto the global scale. In December on that same 2005, Russia hosted their first Euro Beach Soccer Cup, with the team ending up in second position. In the building of that squad, the coach had already discovered some of the talents that brought Likhachev’s side to the gold in the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup held last September in Ravenna, such as Leonov, Bukhlistkiy, Shaykov or Shkarin.
The current CEO of the FUR stayed some months combining his role as a player with the soon acquired role as a Team Manager, but as his duties kept growing he soon realized that it was not humanly possible to be coping with them both inside and outside the pitch. In 2006, then, he shook off the sand in his feet and got totally involved with his role of National Team General Manager and the organization of Beach Soccer events all through the Russian soil.
When talking about all these years, none of these two men forgets about any of the people who have helped them and their team in such a brilliant task. Together with FUR president, Sergey Fursenko, another of the key figures they keep talking about is Vitaly Mutko, former FUR president and current Minister of Sport, Tourism and Youth Policy, who supported them a lot during their first steps on the sand.
It was precisely Mutko who personally invited Alaev to take on a role in the Football Union of Russia, in 2007, after seeing his amusing capacities in event organization and management. It was not a high-profile role, at that moment, but he quickly became deserving of the confidence to get key positions inside the organism. His philosophy, for sure, has helped him to stay at such a level: “The idea is the same when organizing whatever tournament: You have to work hard, believe in victory and become a winner in nature”.
The same ideas were the ones Pisarev kept putting into practice on the pitch, getting the team more and more powerful, strengthening the backbone of a squad who was soon to become the global leader of the sport. His duty, needless to say, did not remain unnoticed for the FUR managers, who saw in him the most suitable person to lead all the Russian Football, Futsal and Beach Soccer National teams and appointed him the FUR Sporting Director. Seeing what he had managed to build from the ground, there was no doubt that he would steer the national sides to a quantum leap forward.
After coaching the Russian Beach Soccer National team for the last time at the Euro Beach Soccer League stage held in Moscow in 2010, Pisarev took up as the new Sporting Director of the Football Union of Russia (to be also appointed as Russia Under-21 National Coach in November that same year), and he knew very well who was the man he wanted by his side… In one of his first decisions, he named Alexander Alaev his deputy, giving him the responsibility of organizing all the tournaments in the three modalities.
Although their busy agendas make them a bit unavailable, they will never lose sight of how ‘their’ Beach Soccer team keep growing, now brilliantly driven by Mikhail Likhachev. As Alaev clearly defines, “Beach Soccer is our baby, we are very proud of it and, no matter how busy we are, we always manage to keep a really attentive eye on it”. Undoubtedly, the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup lifted by the team last summer is something they feel a significant part of.
Today, with the team in the highest place of the Beach Soccer panorama, they see future as an even bigger challenge: “It is more difficult to keep the trophy than to win it for the first time. So we will have to even gear up if we want the Cup to stay with us”, Pisarev insists. Parallely, Alaev assures that “the main task now is trying to keep this level as long as possible. And, if we want to be successful on that, we need to invest a lot of effort.”
Seeing what they have done, and what they plan to do for the sport’s growth in the country, there is no doubt that, together with Likhachev, Beach Soccer in Russia is in really good hands.
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