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Monday, 12 Mar 2007

TYMOSCHUK: FOOTBALL AS AN HEIRLOOM

Anatoliy Tymoschuk speaks about his football career: its past, present and future.
By Yury Yuris

The interview was done just two weeks before Tymoschuk's transfer to Zenit as the player himself was not planning to move to Russia.

Once and again I dial Tymoschuk’s number but hear … Vakartschuk’s voice instead. This is music on hold as the mobile owner can’t answer. The leading singer of the Ukrainian group Okean Elzy kept singing with long beeps in the background.

Vakartschuk is not just a popular singer in the Ukraine, he is the singer of Orange Revolution. Two years ago he inspired the people risen in rebellion, he sang in Kyiv, in Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) that divided the country into East and West.

Tymoschuk comes from Volyn which is in the West. However he has been playing football in Donetsk which is in the East for nine years already.

A question arises. Though it is a delicate one my curiosity, stirred up by the tune from Shakhtar captain mobile, prevails. I ask Tymoschuk when we finally meet:

-         Whose side did you take in the Orange Revolution?

-         I tried to remain neutral. I am not interested in politics. One couldn’t but feel the pressure though then. Each and every of us was in some way concerned with it. The West supported one candidate, the East – the other. Then it took off. Even football got involved in politics. Volyn clash with Shakhtar was switched to neutral soil, to Odessa.

-         Do you think it was needless worry?

-         Yes, I think so. As for Vakartschuk we got acquainted long before these events. I liked his songs – 911, Drug (Friend)… My native language is Ukrainian but I have absolutely no difficulty in speaking Russian. In an interview or some other dialogue I speak the language of my interlocutor. That’s only natural.

-         Clubs from the East of the Ukraine are said to play poorly in the West. Could you explain, why?

-         Clubs from the West play very well at home. They treat every match before the eyes of their supporters as a do-or-die game. Some Kyiv manager said once after a loss to Volyn: “Volyn in Lutsk can beat even Barcelona.” However these teams look confused in away-games when there are no fans to support them. Things have changed lately however. FC Karpaty Lviv are especially strong in away-matches, for instance.

 FOOTBALL AS AN HEIRLOOM

-         What caused your interest in football?

-         I inherited it from my father. He was not a professional but he did his best to arrange my career: he found a wonderful manager for me, Vladimir Baisarovich. He coached me from 6 to 14. I was a ball-boy to Volyn stars and Oleg Luzhny among them. I watched him with admiration as if he were a god. I could not even hope to play with him in the Ukrainian national side.

-         Where did you get football education?

-         At Kyiv boarding school. The same as Andriy Shevchenko. He was in the leaver’s class and I was in the eighth only.

-         You dreamt of staying in Dinamo, didn’t you?

-         I got an offer in fact. Grigoriy Surkis, who was Dinamo president then, tried to persuade my father. WE held a family council and I had the final say: my decision was to return to Lutsk.

-         East or West, home is best?

-         I knew I stood slim chances to secure a place in the squad of the club at the age of 16. To play for Dinamo reserves however did not seem to be a nice-looking perspective. Moreover I had an option: FC Volyn Lutsk manager Vitaliy Kvartsyanyi waited for me to come back and I knew I would be a constant starter there.

 THE UNCONQUERED ALPS

-         How long did you play for Volyn?

-         Two seasons. The first one in the top flight and the second in a lower league as the team were relegated.

-         You did not get any other offers from Kyiv, did you?

-         There was much talk about it but I turned a deaf ear to it. Much later, when I played for the national side, Lobanovskiy, God rest his soul, asked me: “Do you regret not moving to Dinamo?” I said I did not. Each of us should go his own way.

-         You were on the point of going to play abroad from Volyn once, weren’t you?

-         Yes, I was. I was in Tirol on trial at the age of 18. I trained a week in Innsbruck. Cherchesov, who played there, helped me to feel at home: he took care of me as if he were my father.

-         What prevented you then from signing a contract?

-         At first the clubs were split over the price. Then I scored three times for Tirol in a friendly (I played in attack then) and the Austrians asked for time to think over. At last they agreed to Volyn’s financial terms. They told me to go to Innsbruck again but, as ill luck would have it, it was a weekend and a day-off for at Austrian embassy in Kyiv. When they opened on Moday it was already too late, as the transfer window in Europe had closed.

-         And that was the end of it?

-         In six months, in summer Tirol remembered about me again. The club from Austria even secured the backing of the ambassador in Kyiv, who confirmed in a written form that he was ready to grant an indefinite-term visa on an employment basis. It was too late however as I played for Shakhtar already.

 20 000 $ TRANSFER

-         Were Shakhtar the only team from the Ukrainian top flight to invite the young player from Lutsk?

-         FC Chornomorets Odessa also showed interest but I chose to go to Donetsk. Shakhtar ambitions were obvious even then.

-         Do you happen to know how much the transfer cost Shakhtar?

-         Some 20 000 $ if my memory is correct.

-         Do you remember your debut for Shakhtar?

-         It took place on April, 10 in 1988. We played Tavriya away and the outcome was a draw 3:3 as I scored a goal. Then I made a double in our Chornomorets clash. Then I was moved to the reserves team. Apparently they did not find my display satisfactory.

-         Who initiated your change of position?

-         Valeriy Yaremchenko, my first manager in Shakhtar. I scored three times for my new club in 10 matches. Valeriy Yaremchenko then wanted me to play a right-back and then a midfield pivot.

-         For what reason? The manager was not satisfied with the scoring statistics of Tymoschuk the forward?

-         Perhaps. However I incline to believe (not in a very modest way) that the reason was my being a utility-player.

-         Anatoliy Byshovets never failed to make use of it, did he?

-         During the eight months he managed the team I played everywhere but in the goal. Byshovets tried me in six different positions! It became obvious then that my position was that of a midfield pivot. In 2002 I became the best player in that position in the Ukraine.

 A GLASS WITHOUT BEER

-         What is the most memorable event of 2006 World Cup, where the Ukraine surprised the world of football?

-         The penalty shoot-out with Switzerland. I had never been so happy as that night. When the last goal went in, one of my partners jumped up and landed right on my foot. My first finger nail is still dark blue.

-         What would you mark out as the most significant part of the Ukraine team revival, carried out by Oleh Blokhin, who turned 54 the other day?

-         The secret of the revival lies in his personality. He was great player and did not stand defeatist attitudes. He tried to stamp them out from our minds from the very first day of his work in the national side. You do remember, how difficult it was at the beginning, we gained no victories in friendlies, but that was a useful trial for us. It helped us to do things in spite of ourselves, to gain self-confidence. The manager’s zealous attitude to sporting discipline also bore its fruit.

-         You were voted the man of the match after Tunisia clash. Do you drink beer from the silver glass you got as a prize?

-         No, I don’t drink anything from it as I don’t drink at all – no beer, no vine, nothing at all. I’ve never tried and it is too late to start now. I prefer tea, fresh juice.

-         Can you be jolly at parties then?

-         Everyone is used to it. Moreover there are a lot of abstainers in my company.

 TYMOSCHUK AGAINST MATTHÄUS

-         As for T-shirts collections you have no rivals. How many items are there in your collection?

-         I have not counted. Some 150 T-shirts, I think.

-         Did you get all of them in battle – from your opponents after matches?

-         Not all of them probably, but the majority. I was lucky enough to change T-shirts with Raul, Beckham, Crespo, Bergkamp…

-         What are the most precious items?

-         Zidan’s and Ronaldo’s T-shirts. I had the honour of playing ninety minutes alongside him in a charity match that took place last winter in Dusseldorf. As Zidan friends played Ronaldo friends.

-         How did you obtain the T-shirts of the great players?

-         In a quite unusual way: I bought them after the game in a charitable auction.

-         If the auction took place then there must have been other candidates for the relics?

-         Lothar Matthäus was my main rival. He was not interested in Ronaldo’s T-shirt and I got it without haggling for 450 ?. The fight for Zidan’s T-shirt however turned out to be long and hard. I promised myself that I would give any sum of money for the T-shirt. Moreover it was a charitable auction. As Matthäus raised the price to 700 ?. It was clear that he would probably stop here and so it happened. I bought the T-shirt of the great Franchman for 750 ?..

-         You had been concealing another story concerning Matthäus for a long time until it was revealed in a TV-programme…

-         Do you mean the armband with German colours? In fact it belongs to Shakhtar manager’s assistant Alexander Spiridon. As he was Moldavia captain he got it as a present from Matthäus, who was Germany captain then. He has been giving it to me to wear the armband for Shakhtar for two years already.

-         Do the referees mind?

-         No as you might have noticed. Why should they mind? There are no restrictions on the colour of the armband in UEFA regulations. Absolute freedom of choice. The armband worries the “well-wishers” rather. When they can’t find fault with my game, they pick on various details: the armband, my hairstyle, the colour of the boots. Anyway I never part with the captain armband that once belonged to Matthäus, who I admired in my youth days. The only exception was Champions League clash between Valencia and Shakhtar when UEFA recommended both captains to wear with armbands reading “Against racism”. We kept them as a keepsake.

 WE WILL FIGHT THE BATTLE TILL THE END!

To tell the truth, it is pretty difficult to imagine Albelda wearing the armband of some other country, no matter which – France, Italy, Russia. Anyway we were glad Tymoschuk mentioned Valencia and Champions League.

-         Why Shakhtar do not live up to their supporters expectations in the most prestigious European competition?

-         The reason is we have to play teams that the level of the competition is a great deal higher than that of  Ukranian Premier League. Team display, pace, the ability to concentrate are far better among Champions League teams. In our domestic championship opponents can blow off dozens of opportunities. You can’t afford it in Cahmpions League, otherwise the opponents will punish you right off thr bat. We showed our best display against Valencia. In that game we had 7 wonferful opportunities to score but did not manage to win. Valencia had two more or less decent chances but they stole a draw which let them secure a place in the knock-out competition. What we lack is big games in which we could play at least something close to the level of European best clubs. Dinamo Kyiv and probably Dnipro are the only teams who are capable of it.

-         So you gave up the hopes of qualifying for the next round once and for all?

-         No, I did not. As long as there are some chances, no matter how slim they are – you should keep it in mind and never lose heart. If you are out of Champions League – then fight for UEFA Cup, which is also a decent compensation for the hard work. Even if we beat Roma in Donetsk we have to earn points in our away-match with Olympiacos. The outcome will become clear after the last game on December, 5. It is too early to give up hope so far.

 TRANSFER RUMOURS CHAMPION

-         Shakhtar have been the Ukraine champions for two consecutive years as you’ve been transfer rumours champion all this time. You were said to be moving to Manchester United,  Juventus, Feyenoord, Celtic, Roma… Could you say which is true and which is not?

-         I heard about Manchester United and Juventus from my agents, but as far as I know the teams did not have any talks with Shakhtar. I spoke to Celtic representatives myself, moreover I know Forentina and Roma were interested in my services. Feyenoord held offical negotiations with Shakhtar in Dinetsk. As far as I know, Donetsk team were not satisfied with the proposed compensation sum so we never had the chance to discuss the contract.

-         Shakhtar president Rinat Akhmetov and the manager Mircea Lucescu insist that Feyenoord is not the level Tymoschuk needs.

-         Perhaps they are right. Th onlooker sees most of the game, it would not be modest of me to discuss it. In fact it is like this: if some club manages to come to an agreement with Shakhtar it will be time for me to make a decision. It’s no use thinking about it now.

-         I hear Lokomotiv Moscow are also interested in Tymoschuk. Or were interested some time ago. Is it true?

-         Yes, it is. Filatov and Muslin, who was Lokomotiv manager then and who worked with Metalurh Donetsk once, talked to me about my possible switch. As far as I know, the clubs also kept in touch. Then came a lull. I guess there were differences concerning the price.

-         Is it a fact that Shakhtar will let Tymoschuk go only to a club that is ready to give ten million euros for him?

-         I don’t happen to know. I am not the one to answer questions like this.

-         Are you ready to move to Moscow in case Lokomotiv agrees to the financial terms set by Donetsk club?

-         (After a pause). Come to think of it… It is common truth, that Russian Cahmpionship is strong than Ukrainian. However we played CSKA and Spartak in Israel during Russian Cup and I did not notice anything extraordinary about their display. I am afraid a switch like that could not satisfy me, it would not be a step further. Russian Premier Liga is not the level on which I’d like to try my strength.

-         What tournaments could satisfy your ambitions?

-         There are only three of them: England, Italy and Spain. English Premiership would probably the most suitable for me as it involves a lot of fight. However I don’t have my head in the clouds and am aware of the fact that the transfer will be possible only if it will meet my requirements and those of Shakhtar.



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