Míchel Salgado isn’t Ronaldinho, but it was fun

The famous Spaniard together with Sergey Ryzhikov and Colombian fan opened Football Park and check out Kazan Arena

Míchel Salgado isn’t Ronaldinho, but it was fun Photo: Dmitry Reznov

Football Park, which opened in Kazan first by the Confederations Cup, hasn't reached last year's scale this year. But famous defender of Real Madrid Míchel Salgado could entertain the audience, what even star Ronaldinho didn't manage to do. Realnoe Vremya tells how the star Spaniard lost to Rubin's goalkeeper Sergey Ryzhikov in tennis football, what the experienced Spanish-speaking guests told about Kazan Arena and the limit of Stanislav Cherchesov's team's dreams.

Not flattering estimate of Russian football by Salgado

Even if this opening of Football Park was to be, in fact, a more prestigious event than last year, as it was dedicated to the very WC, not its rehearsal, there were noticeably fewer spectators in it that one year ago. However, there is no reason for a surprise – world football legend Ronaldinho was the headliner of the programme then. This time though famous player Spanish Míchel Salgado arrived in Kazan. But to tell the truth, this figure is of another calibre.

When the Spanish defender appeared on the stage, not more than 2,000 people were in the Millennium Square. And anyway he didn't the cause encouragement among the Kazan audience, which is spoiled by elite sport, like Ronaldinho. His speech was an example of political correctness and professionalism.

''In my life, I've had three world cups – in 1982 in Spain, when I was just a kid, then in 2006 when I participated in the tournament together with the national team of Spain and now – as a FIFA ambassador. It's a festival, many colours, diversity of people who come to the world championship. It's not only sport but also a very important component of cultural relations between countries,'' noticed Salgado.

Journalists surrounded the speaker a bit later and made him not only pay for the Spanish but also Russian national teams.

How do you think the national team of Spain will perform in Russia and here in Kazan?

The national team of Spain wants to rehabilitate in Russia for the unsuccessful performance at the previous world cup (Editor's Note: Spain couldn't reach the play-off in Brazil four years ago). Now our squad has a balance of experience and youth. We hope this will help us to perform successfully,'' Salgado said.

Míchel Salgado: ''In my life, I've had three world cups – in 1982 in Spain, when I was just a kid, then in 2006 when I participated in the tournament together with the national team of Spain and now – as a FIFA ambassador''

And the invited star found it difficult to estimate the level of the Russians and noticed that the previous generation of Russian football players was in the public eye, unlike the current one. According to him, the level of Russian football remains a mystery for foreigners.

''Who is the star of Russian national team? It's a complicated question because I didn't see a lot of Russian football. When I played we had many players who played in the Spanish and English leagues. It's Onopko, Mostovoy. And now it's very difficult to understand what Russian football is and give certain names. We have brothers who play in the Russian league but I forgot their surnames (Editor's Note: the Berezutsky brothers),'' Salgado characterised the current football status of Russia in the world not a very flattering way.

How Ryzhikov won Salgado and refused revenge

And after the welcome speech, Míchel followed the special embowed table where partners of an improvised game were waiting for him, which resembled ping pong but with a football ball. Goalkeeper Sergey Ryzhikov and another two guys – young freestylers – were his partners. As it should be, the professionals chose amateurs as their partner and started to play to 11.

Míchel's team lost first 8-5. But when the situation was critical, the Spaniard speeded up and began to change the situation with the help of a virtuoso game with his head. However, Ryzhikov and his partner didn't let the victory go away – the final score is 11-9. Salgado immediately required revenge match as a joke, while Ryzhikov replied he agreed to play it 4 years later.

When the football players started to perform penalty shoots to the robot-goalkeeper, and Ryzhikov, who knows it's the most difficult to save penalty shots as an experienced goalkeeper, shot below and scored. But Salgado couldn't score after two attempts. But small football amateurs who decided to give a masterclass to the professionals made the equipment feel ''sad'' and got deserved applause from the football players and other fans. As a skilful assistant, Míchel served the ball to one of the boys who scored to the iron goalie in the air.

The ambassador of the tournament from Kazan Elmira Kalimullina also was at the opening ceremony

''Russia will win Colombia in the final''

Famous fan of the national team of Colombia Gustavo Llanos, who is more famous as El Cole, and the ambassador of the tournament from Kazan Elmira Kalimullina were at the opening ceremony. But El Cole took the floor only when all the procession switched to the stadium of the upcoming world cup, Kazan Arena.

''I think Russia will be a wonderful host,'' the fan who was painted in colours of the national flag of Colombia from head to toe started his speech. ''I'm convinced this championship will have warm support of Russian fans.''

What are your impressions of the stadium and Kazan?

I congratulate you, it's an excellent place, which is worth hosting world cup matches. I've seen fan zones, the teams' changing rooms and the amazing pitch, which we see here.

How will Colombia perform?

We will definitely go further than at the World Cup in Brazil.

Will the national team of Russia eliminate you then? Realnoe Vremya's correspondent joked.

If in the final, I agree,'' El Cole replied.

''Kazan Arena resembles me the stadiums in Germany''

Míchel Salgado, who played at many big stadiums in the world, told why the Kazan arena surprised him.

''It's a pity I won't be able to play on this great pitch and in this tournament myself. It's an amazing stadium – we've seen the suites, seats for spectators, the pitch. This wonderful stadium resembles me the stadiums of the World Cup in Germany in 2006. This type of stadiums started to be built in Germany and Portugal. But stadiums of Spain remain behind.

Míchel Salgado: ''It's a pity I won't be able to play on this great pitch and in this tournament myself''

What does Kazan Arena need to do to obtain his soul like same Santiago Bernabeu, at which you played for many years?

First of all, I need to notice that the story of leagues in Italy and Spain is different from Russian. I need to notice I came to Russia to play together with Real in the early 2000s. And I'm here in 2018. I need to say many things have changed here. Just global changes have happened, and not only in football but also in the country, in general. What does one need to do to get its own soul? To host the world cup well. The service here is world -class. For instance, it impressed me that this stadium hosted the FINA World Championships and there was a swimming pool right here on the football pitch. The arena is used not only for football, and this impressed me. And I think right such events can fill the stadium with soul.

Did you follow the Confederations Cup? What impressions did the tournament's organisation leave? Realnoe Vremya's correspondent asked.

In FIFA, we think, it's very important to host a big sports event before the WC. And this becomes a kind of challenge for the host country. I think Russia showed it's 100% ready to host competitions of such a level. There were a good attendance and excellent TV ratings.

How will the national team of Russia perform? Foreign journalists couldn't calm down.

As I said, I can't estimate the football players and the level of the current Russian team now. But I think they are able to reach a semi-final. And they also may not reach it,'' Míchel Salgado was diplomatic.

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By Erik Dobrolyubov. Photo: Dmitry Reznov
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