Over 300 Tatarstan children participate in Football Class by Russian Football Union and TAIF Group
The organisers invited legendary players of the Russian national team to Football Class in Kazan
Another large-scale campaign aimed to make football more popular organised by the Russian Football Union and its official partner TAIF Group took place in Kazan. Trudovye Rezervy stadium where the Leather Ball all-Russian competition among young football players was held hosted the Football Class. More than 300 children — fans of this bright and exciting game — as well as legends of Russian football, ex-players of the Russian national team Dmitry Sychyov, Dmitry Alenichev and Yevgeny Aldonin participated in it. Read more in Realnoe Vremya’s report.
Tatarstan is one of Russia’s leading football regions
This is how President of the Russian Football Union (RFU) Alexander Dyukov characterised the region during his business trip to the republic in September 2020. “The republic does comprehensive work in football — from amateur and mass to professional football. It also develops academies. Given the state of affairs, Tatarstan is one of the leading football regions in our country,” he stressed then.
It is easy to believe how popular football in the republic is. The tournament Leather Ball has excited all districts of Kazan. While the news that real legends — 2008 UEFA Championships bronze medallist, champion of Russia and the winner of the Russian Cup at Lokomotiv, a bronze medallist of the French championship at Marseille Dmitry Sychyov, three-time champion of Russia and two-time winner of the Russian Cup at Spartak, winner of the Champions League and the UEFA Cup, two-time champion of Portugal at Portu Dmitry Alenichev and two-time Russian champion, five-time winner of the Russian Cup and winner of the UEFA Cup at CSKA Yevgeny Aldonin — were going to come to the Tatarstan capital for the Football Class gathered more than 300 football players of different ages at Trudovye Rezervy stadium.
Competitors of the Kazan leg of the oldest and biggest youth football competitions in the country formed a square on the pitch: the first tournament took place in 1964, on legendary Soviet goalkeeper Lev Yashin’s initiative. Football battles used to take place only in one age group. Today they compete in three. This year, it is boys and girls born in 2010-2011, 2009-2010 and 2006-2007. The teams are created in schools, youth sports schools and teenage clubs, while modern stadiums of the republic’s capital host the games — the football and athletic venue of the Central Stadium, Tasma, Rocket, Leather Ball stadium, Trudovye Rezervy, etc.
“Last year, our republic signed an agreement on football development with the Russian Ministry of Sport and the Russian Football Union. Four children’s football centres have already been created here, they rely on the support of the RFU and start to move forward on their road to upgrade their professional mastery and develop the level of football. Today Tatarstan is a leader in the Russian Federation in terms of football infrastructure: 55 real-size football pitches with artificial grass, six indoor venues — almost nobody has this in Russia. Today you have an amazing opportunity to play football at the top level,” Chairman of the republican Football Federation Alexander Gusev addressed the young football players.
He as well as head of Vakhitovsky and Privolzhsky Districts of Kazan Marat Zakirov and Chairman of Committee for Physical Culture and Sport of the Tatarstan capital’s Executive Committee Albert Salikhov wished the competitors an honest and bright game.
And the game didn’t make itself wait.
A lot of boys and, to be honest, not a few girls would dream about sharing one pitch with renowned athletes who are champions. The dream of playing with Russian football legends the youngest participants in the opening ceremonies born in 2012-2013 going to the children’s football centre in Vakhitovsky District and will have to fight for awards of the Leather Ball only next year had became a reality. Though the organisers dedicated only 10 minutes to this match, it promised to be very bright.
80 boys and girls were divided into two teams — the orange and the green (because of their bibs). Dmitry Alenichev became the coach of one of the teams, while veterans of Rubin Kazan FC coached the second squad. Dmitry Sychyov was to strengthen the game of the Oranges, while Yevgeny Aldonin played for the Greens. After a short briefing, the referee blew the whistle... And the ball got lost in the green and orange whirlwind of excited players.
“It is pleasant to see so many people who love football and will demonstrate us an interesting match today: in a 40x40 format the Greens against the Oranges. There has been no such thing! And all this is happening here within the RFU’s project Football Class, which is hosted here in Kazan with the support of TAIF Group. I am sure that today we will see something very interesting,” the Russian national football team’s official voice Alexander Yermolayev instantaneously started to comment on the actions on the stadium’s grass.
Perhaps, nobody can say where people worried more — on the pitch or in the stands, where the lucky players’ parents, friends and rivals were sitting. Meanwhile, tensions were running high. Attacks, counterattacks, chip shots and collisions. The ball was constantly out. Then in. And the orange and green wave was rushing to either one goalpost or the other again.
“It is said that the rules will change a bit soon. There aren’t enough balls for such a number of players, we will add a couple more,” Yermolayev warned about upcoming changes on the pitch.
And three whirlwinds of different colours were on the pitch then. The referees were perplexed trying to oversee the rules were followed. The commentator managed to see everything:
“Goooal!” he pronounced a minute after additional balls were in the game. The Greens opened the score.
The Oranges weren’t offended for long. The Russian national team’s ambassador Sychyov accurately shot the ball at the right corner a couple of minutes later. 10 second later, the second ball is in the Greens’ goal. 2-1.
However, friendship anyway won. The Greens again scored a goal a minute to the final whistle. 2-2.
Interestingly, Dmitry Sychyov had never managed to score the goal the one he did during the game for the Oranges in his professional career:
“Yes, I have had my first curl in my career. But you have good wind, it helped me,” he shared impressions after the game. As for the match, it was fun for me. And I think that it was also fun for such a number of children to play on one pitch, moreover, with the former Russian national team players. I could only dream about it as a child,” he noted.
“The 40x40 match reminded me of my first training. We also had one ball and 60 people. There was a crowd. A cloud of dust arose. One could see neither the children nor the ball. The peculiarity here is that there were three balls. This cannot help but please. All children are involved in the process, the game,” Yevgeny Aldonin agreed with his colleague.
Football in every school
The Football Class is a forerunner of a large-scale programme launched by the RFU in Russia to promote and popularise children’s football in the country. Football in Schools will kick off in three pilot regions first — Nizhny Novgorod and Sverdlovsk Oblasts as well as the Republic of Tatarstan — from 1 September 2021. The programme of the subject Football-Based Physical Culture was developed jointly by the RFU and the Ministry of Education, adopted on 24 December 2020 and added to the registry of Federal State Educational Standards.
The Football Class replacing the 3rd PE class is to be a unique starting platform to familiarise children with the number one sport. Schoolchildren — both boys and girls — will learn basic ball possession techniques and football combinations, they will learn more about football in their region, Russia and the world and upgrade their skills they will need throughout their life, namely, mutual help and mutual understanding, the skill of assuming responsibility and teamwork,” the RFU explains on its website.
“The RFU did a big job. When I learnt about the Football Classes, I immediately agreed to come here to participate in them. And I will go to different Russian cities to participate in classes and make our children happy,” Dmitry Alenichev emphasised in an interview after the matches with the stars.
Those children who will wish to play football after school can get more opportunities in football classes at school sports clubs. Еhe mastery in action can be tested in multi-level competitions (from municipal to Russian final) — the United Football League.
After the test in the pilot regions, the football experience will spread to all regions and republics of the country. However, those schools that don’t want to wait can join the initiative themselves.
“I didn’t have such gorgeous conditions. We played on asphalt, on the ground, not on such amazing pitches. No, we didn’t have such gorgeous conditions, but a desire, effort, self-dedication and love for football were at the forefront,” Alenichev kindly envied today’s generation of young football players.
“We played wherever we could — both on asphalt and bitumen. We just needed a ball. But the better conditions the more chances to show off. One needs just to wish,” Aldonin backed his colleague.
“I don’t stop repeating that our today’s generation has an opportunity to train and play in such amazing conditions. And good for the management of the RFU, Tatarstan that they make such conditions for children possible. It is correct. The education of the new generation mostly depends on high-quality conditions,” Sychyov added.
TAIF and RFU
TAIF Group has actively supported a healthy lifestyle, amateur and professional sport throughout its activity. Billions of rubles have been allocated for these purposes every year.
Until relatively recently, the support of TAIF GC was designed only for Tatarstan’s sport. But at the second meeting of the Russian Football Union’s Board of Trustees in September 2019 (with representatives of large businesses that united to support and develop Russian football), Adviser to the director general of TAIF JSC, Vice Director General of Nizhnekamskneftekhim PJSC, President of Neftekhimik FC Timur Shigabutdinov joined the board. In December, this area of social activity reached the federal scale.
“A memorandum of understanding was signed between TAIF and the RFU in 2019. TAIF became an official partner. And within this cooperation, together with our colleagues from the RFU, we implement projects to develop football in Tatarstan, develop football infrastructure and popularise football in general, create conditions for the greatest possible involvement of children and adults in the football ecosystem. This is the first Football Class we are offering with the RFU. The foundation has been laid. The work will go on,” noted acting head of the press service of TAIF JSC Leonid Kozlovsky in his comment.
“Kazan is considered Russia’s sports capital, and Tatarstan and personally our President Rustam Minnikhanov have always paid a lot of attention at all levels. Sport is something sacred for us. And the participation in the creation of the concept, approaches and systems for football promotion at federal level, across the country, I think is a unique opportunity for us,” Timur Shigabutdinov stressed immediately after the signing of the memorandum in an interview with Realnoe Vremya.
“Together with the RFU, we will use all the experience the republic has gained when hosting top international competitions, use the possibilities and competencies of the RFU to develop and promote sport across the country and in our republic in particular. We will focus on three areas: development of children and youth football, an increase of the amount of football — from engaging people in amateur football to creating professional teams as well as elaborating several infrastructural projects. Our goal is to make sure that football is not only a dream for Russian boys but also a reality to improve the training quality of athletes, coaches, to use correct training methods. We should bring our champions up, to create a decent sports substitution. I am totally convinced that football is a sport of the future, this is why we should take it to a qualitatively new level together,” he also noted then.
They kept their promise. In 2020, TAIF Group completed reconstruction and a major overhaul of Nizhnekamsk’s Neftekhimik team’s home stadium, actively supported the construction and opening of football venues. The Neftekhimik FC youth school, which is funded by Nizhnekamskneftekhim PJSC, obtained the status of the Children’s Football Centre in 2020. In late 2020, the memorandum between TAIF Group and the RFU was extended.
As for the Football Class that took place in Kazan, autograph signing and gifts for the best young players of the Kazan leg of the Leather Ball in 2020 became the logical end. On behalf of the RFU and TAIF Group, they received home and away T-shirts of the Russian national football team and balls. Both gifts were signed by all players of today’s main football team of the country. Also, all teams that reached the final of the Leather Ball 2021 will receive balls with autographs of Russian football legends from TAIF Group.