On the Spot: Andrei Arshavin | On the spot | DW | 19.12.2008
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On the spot

On the Spot: Andrei Arshavin

After winning the UEFA Cup Arshavin became the best-known russian player. But many children have also experienced his commiment off the pitch.


With the Bundesliga taking a break, we headed off to St. Petersburg.

Our guest is Andrei Arshavin - probably Russia's best-known player.

We met the 27-year-old father-of-two on a visit to an SOS Children's Village.

Andrei Arschawin

Why do I come here? The children are lovely. It's not often I encounter this sort of honest emotion. It's something new for me, and I don't come here often. It's nice to come here and talk to the kids ... to ask them how they're doing at school. My daily routine is different. I can switch off here. I like that.


Andrei, you're the best and most famous player in Russia. How do you deal with being called the Russian Maradona? Is there a danger of losing your head?

When I was moving from the youth team to the regular squad, people would often ask me: 'Do you have ambitions of being star'?" That annoyed me. One time I said: 'No, I was born a star' ... . That was the last time anyone asked that question.

He tends to let his boots do the talking.

Arschavin possesses the verve and silky skills of a classic playmaker.

He has propelled Zenit to the Russian league title and UEFA Cup glory.

It's the team he grew up with and the only one he's ever played for …

My propsects are limited in Russia. I've got nothing more to prove here. I want to move abroad and play in a stronger league.

But where's it to be?

Bayern, Tottenham, Real Madrid, Barcelona?

One thing's for sure: he won't come cheap.

You've been seen wearing a Barcelona shirt. Why are you a fan of the club? Why do you want to leave Zenit, and leave Russia?

I supported Barcelona as a boy. You could say I still do. I like the club and their style of play. Regardless of which coach or president they have, Barcelona always play fantastic football. I've got a favourite club in every league. In Germany it's Bayern. In Italy, Inter Milan. In England … I used to be a Manchester United fan, but now I prefer Chelsea. Where would I most like to play? Probably in England or Spain.

Would it be right to say that the Russian league is on a par with the Bundesliga or other European leagues?

The Russian league is nowhere near the other European leagues. The structure, the stadiums, the referees ... You can't compare them.

A lack of money, at least, does not seem to be the problem.

Zenit are sponsored by Gazprom – the world's largest supplier of natural gas and one of the biggest companies in Europe.

It has ambitious plans for the club …

Take the top three or four teams in Russia; they could all play in the Bundesliga, or in France or Spain. I can't say how high they'd finish - but they'd certainly be able to hold their own.

How about Germany? Which clubs do you like there? And what do you like about German football?

I don't watch the Bundesliga much - I prefer the Spanish league. But I know practically all the teams in the Bundesliga. My favourite, of course, is still Bayern Munich. Bremen and Stuttgart are also good.

German football is very physical. But they're scoring a lot more goals - like they used to. Now we're seeing games end 5:3 or 4:2 again.

And there's this team that have upstaged everyone. They're called "Hockenheim" or something. I can't pronounce it. I know the club is sponsored by a very rich man.

As for the Bundesliga in general ... we played against the German national team recently. A strong team with a lot of good players.

The Russians were great at the European Championships - better than anyone had expected. Were you surprised?

Yes, I was ... Even in friendlies we were playing poorly. Then we improved. But I didn't have the feeling that we had enough strength to win a big game.

But they did have the strength, and Russia were the surprise of the tournament.

They made it to the semi-finals, exiting to eventual winners Spain.

A major factor in their progress was their Dutch coach Guus Hiddink.

Foreign coaches are different from Russian coaches - they give the players more freedom. This helps to boost the confidence of the players. I've said it often in the past: right from the very outset, Guus Hiddink had more confidence in our players than they did in themselves.

You also studied fashion. Why? And how does that work out with being a footballer?

When I was 17 I wanted to study - but not at a sports institute. My friends recommended the University of Technology and Design. I spent 8 years there, and now I have a diploma in fashion design. It wasn't easy, but my teachers gave me fantastic support. They always made an effort to help me. They enabled me to graduate successfully.

Arshavin has his very own clothing line.

The man has style - both on and off the pitch.

In the West, a football player with a degree in fashion design would be considered unusual. How do you deal with that?

I'm not afraid of going against the grain. I've learned to speak my mind. I'm different. But I'm not trying to be eccentric. I always do what my inner voice tells me.

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