Elmir Nabiullin: 'I became bolder on the pitch but in life I got used to being shy'

Young Russian football players should think about football. They don’t need fortunes, says Rubin-Kazan defender

Elmir Nabiullin: 'I became bolder on the pitch but in life I got used to being shy'

Omitting the journalist's professional interest, we can only admire the young starlet of Tatarstan football, Tatar 'Bale' Elmir Nabiullin. A shy, not talkative guy who reached the first team of his native club Rubin-Kazan due to his own labour and partially his talent. In an exclusive interview with the sports staff of Realnoe Vremya, 'Nabi' came out of his shell and told about all the stages of his interesting road. Moreover, Elmir told about coaches of Rubin of the present and the past, estimated the upcoming cap on salaries for young players in Russian football. In brief, he excelled himself in prolixity.

'I still give all the money to my parents'

You are one of the few local football players who managed to reach the first team of Rubin. Why so few?

It is a difficult question. It seems that we have everything, an academy was built, many people train at Rubin. Why are not they accepted into the first teams? I don't know. Probably they need to go through all the stages of professional football, play for the second team and other leagues. Those who will reach a necessary level will be accepted. Coaches are not enemies of themselves. If there is a level, there will be a team.

How did you start playing football? Why was not it, for example, hockey?

As a kid, I also played bandy in hockey rinks. I don't know, but I liked football more. I played at an Olympic Reserve specialised school. My first coach Renat Ibragimov enlisted players. He noticed me, talked to my mother – she was working at school. I was sick often at school. My mum was not in raptures about it. The coach persuaded her to try. My mum agreed. It is how I started playing football.

Did you start playing in defence as child?

No, I started in attack. Then I became a defender.

Why?

I don't know, the coach decided it.

Where did you like to play more, in defence or in attack?

When we were young, we all wanted to score as much as possible. Of course, I liked to play in attack.

About pupils of Kazan football: 'It seems that we have everything, an academy was built, many people train at Rubin. Why are not they accepted into the first teams? I don't know. Probably they need to go through all the stages of professional football'

Do you remember the moment when you became a professional football player? In other words, when you started to make money.

I do, of course. We did not have big salaries in the second team. About 15,000 rubles, no more.

Did you give them all to your parents?

Yes, I still give them all to my parents. They control my money.

'Few young players managed to join the starting line-up under Berdyev'

It is told that it was difficult to reach the starting line-up from the second team under Berdyev. Was that true?

Yes. I even don't remember young athletes playing. Few of them managed to do that.

Did you play with the first team at that time?

Yes, I trained only. Discipline was the most important thing to him. Berdyev is a strict coach.

Did you play in defence under him too?

Yes.

Did you have any moment when you were close to play in the first team?

We had cup games. I was invited to train. As far as I remember we played against Luch-Energia for the cup. Several young players were invited. And I was injured right before the match.

What attitude did older players have to you? Did they support you?

Of course. I had already known many players. This is why it was simpler. They advised and helped. I adapted quickly. Sharonov helped and advised me much.

Many people think that Bilyaletdinov paved the way for you to football for adults. What is your opinion?

Yes, I agree. Bilyaletdinov noticed and invited me. At first he started to invite to train with the first team. Then he said: 'Prepare for the match'. It was before an away match against Anzhi. I thought I would play for 10-15 minutes, but he fielded me from the beginning. I did not expect, of course.

About preparation under Bilyaletdinov: 'We had a very good physical preparation. This is why we ran more than almost all the team in the second halves'

Were not you weak in the knees when you appeared on the pitch?

I got the jitters a bit before the game. It all disappeared when the referee whistled.

You played in a flank together with Karadeniz, right?

Yes.

I noticed a long time ago he always says to you something during matches. Does he advise?

Yes, sometimes.

What happened in the first match?

He encouraged and advised me. Everything happened.

You were very active in attack from the very beginning, while it is said you are shy…

Well, I think to join an attack is my forte. This is why I like this job.

'Bilyaletdinov and Bondarenko prepared us well physically'

What was the strong point of Bilyaletdinov's team that finished fifth in the championship?

We had a very good physical preparation. This is why we ran more than almost all the teams in the second halves.

It was especially seen in that match against CSKA? Do you remember?

When we won 2-1? I do.

A former track and field athlete was your fitness coach. After Bilyaletdinov's dismissal, he was criticised quite much.

Yes, Bondarenko… I think he made his contribution to these victories. There were more advantages. We had a good physical preparation.

About superiority complex: 'I think I have never had this problem. And I won't have it. All my relatives will confirm it'

You became the best young player of Russia last year. What emotions did you have?

It is very pleasant when you receive such awards. And it motivates, gives more self-confidence.

Do you follow the career of other nominees? For example, Miranchuk…

We got acquainted a long time ago, in the second team of the Russian squad. Yes, Miranchuk is growing. It is seen he is improving both his tactics and technique.

Did not you have a superiority complex?

I think I have never had this problem. And I won't have it. All my relatives will confirm it.

'Gracia focuses on defence'

In my opinion, your help in attack and play in defence in the first season were more balanced than under Chaly. What do you think of it?

I think when you play the first season well, you are asked the same in the second season. Sometimes you can burn out, something like this happened. I think I need to keep in shape and train hard now.

From your point of view, what should you improve?

As a young player, I need to improve many things both technique and tactics, my mind.

What is Javier Gracia working with you on? What does he focus on?

He focuses on defence. He wants clearer acts in defence.

Why doesn't this always work?

Because we have started to improve just recently. Probably we did not pay attention to it before Gracia's appointment. Now we are trying to play better in defence.

About this season: 'We are gradually finding our style of the game. One at a time. Coaches and players need to adapt to Russian football. But we are already improving'

Both Bill and Chaly tested you in midfield, closer to the attack. Why did the experiment fail?

I don't know. I got used to playing in defence. Perhaps, last time I played in attack a long time ago. Perhaps, if there was more practice in midfield, I would improve this position.

You probably need more space to gain speed like in the case of back wing? (laughing)

Maybe (smiling).

In this season, Rubin started slow. Can we say you found your game?

We are gradually finding our style of the game. One step at a time. Coaches and players need to adapt to Russian football. But we are already improving.

Can you describe the character of the game of Rubin at the moment?

Now we have started to control the ball. Something perhaps goes wrong. But I think everything is ahead.

'I am very thankful '

Gracia has been your first foreign coach. I am sure he won't be the last. What new things have you learnt from this experience?

Javi supports young players very much, he gives them self-confidence. He motivates while making a mistake, so that the player will forget this mistake and continue playing. I am very thankful when Javi always advises and encourages me. Unlike Russian coaches, he is not authoritarian, he tries to explain.

Rubin is going to play against Rostov, which means a lot for many fans. Are you prepared for the match against Rostov in the team in a special way?

There is time before the game. But we are already preparing for it. We did not have not such talks, we have not examined the team yet. I have not felt any special attitude towards Rostov yet, though there is something in the air.

You are a young and perspective player. What are your career priorities? We omit Rubin because it is your native club. Are you ready to remain in the Russian Championship or will you reach Europe?

To play in the national team is the goal No. 1. It is very important for me to be there. I would also like to have a crack at the European Championship. I think the Spanish would suit me more.

About his girlfriend: 'I have a girlfriend. We have been going out for almost 2 years. <...> Her name is Zukhra. Plans? The most serious!'

Are you ready to earn less but play in Spain? For instance, Kokorin and Denisov refused.

To tell the truth, I find it interesting to try to play in Europe. I can say it was my childhood dream. In this case, money won't have a value.

In your opinion, what chances do you have of playing in the squad by the 2018 World Cup at home? Who are your major rivals?

Zhirkov, Kudryashov and Petrov are my major rivals. They are called up at the moment. What are my chances? I think we should ask the coaches. I would like to be there as soon as possible.

Do coaches of the national team keep in touch with you? Do they motivate you?

At the moment, no.

'Disappointed all Kazan girls? That's okay'

There are legends about your shyness. Do you have the same behaviour both on the pitch and in real life?

I had. Now I became bolder on the pitch. Both players and coaches see and note it.

So you are not a man of few words on the pitch?

I am improving in this aspect.

Why do you fall behind in life?

I don't know. Probably I got used to being shy.

I'm sure the next question is of concern for Kazan girls. What about your personal life?

I will disappoint them, I have a girlfriend. We have been going out for almost 2 years.

Tell me in detail. How did you know each other? What is her name? What plans do you have?

We went to my friend's birthday party. I saw her there. I could not forget her during a long time. I asked my friends about her personal life. As a man should do, I made the first step – asked her number. This is how we got acquainted, started to talk and go out. Her name is Zukhra. Plans? The most serious!

Oh, upped and disappointed all Kazan girls.

That's okay (laughing).

Do you still live with your parents?

Yes.

At the age of 21, people usually try living on their own, for general personal development…

Yes, I agree. But I got used to live with my parents. I will have to get ready for living separately very soon.

Are your parents ready for it?

I think they are not for now. But I suppose they will always support me. So, that's okay. We will continue talking the same way.

About cap on salary for young players: 'I think it will be fair. First of all, young players should think about football'.

Who is the leader among the players at modern Rubin? Karadeniz played this role earlier. Now he is almost playing.

Rochina, Jonathas, custodian Ryzhikov demonstrate their leadership qualities. In the changing room, Ryzhikov, as usual. And Karadeniz with Kuzmin, of course.

Who of the Rubin players helped you in your formation?

Sharonov, as I have said. When I started to play, Karadeniz helped me very much.

In what?

For example, while moving on the pitch. When something failed, he told I needed to do that another way. He explained it with the help of his interpreter. I gradually started to understand and improve what he required.

'Young players should think about football, not money'

You are playing more often with Tkachuk. What cooperation do you have?

Yes, he also likes to advise. He also helps me. It is mutual: he helps me in defence, and I help him in attack.

Almost a real fact: it is planned to set a cap on salary for young players with the 'passport' next year. What is your attitude?

I think it will be fair. First of all, young players should think about football. They don't need to make fortunes. They can get lost because of that. Everything should be done gradually.

Akhmetov has passed us by. Why is not he playing if we are speaking about lost players? (laughing)

That's not the case of salaries. At first he played. Then something went wrong. He shows himself during training. It will certainly yield its fruits. He will have chances.

Generally speaking, don't you have a rival in the first team?

Mavinga was during training. Bergström was also prepared for this position.

He played several games there and was not seen any more. What club do you dream of playing at?

To play for Real is my childhood dream (smiling).

All Spanish football fans are divided into fans of Real and Barcelona. Why did you choose the royal club?

The answer is in the question (smiling). The club is royal.

Do you have idols among left defenders in our and world football?

Marcelo from Real is my idol. Ansaldi was it in the Russian Championship. When I was a kid, I watched his games for Rubin.

'I would be sitting at home if he had not taken me to play football'

You made your debut in the squad in a match against Kazakhstan. How did you know about the call-up?

My mum told me. She read it on the Internet. It was very pleasant. It was my first call-up to the national team.

What do you do in your free time?

I try to spend more time with my parents and friends.

What do you do with your friends? What do shy Rubin players do?

I don't know, nothing special. We go to the cinema, café. I spend time at home, nothing interesting.

About idols: Marcelo from Real is my idol. Ansaldi was it in the Russian Championship. When I was a kid, I watched his games for Rubin

It is known that your deceased brother Adel had a serious impact on your football future.

I would be sitting at home if he had not taken to me play football in the street.

What happened to your brother? People say he was killed…

There was an unclear situation there. He was on the street corner. A man asked him what he was doing there. The man went. My brother caught up with him, he wanted to find out what happened. The man just turned towards him without saying anything and stabbed him in the heart with a knife.

Our common friend told me: I remember they (Elmir and Adel) came to visit their relatives for several days. And we played in the opposite street. He says they had a strong team. Nobody played with them except Adel. He was a powerful forward. Nabiullin always stood behind because he was small. Was that true?

Yes, we just played together when we visited their village. They had their own fields. It was interesting to play with the ball. Adel was the star. They were all older than me. It helped me much that I played with older guys.

By Artur Khalillulov, Zulfat Shafigullin. Photo: Oleg Tikhonov
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