Created on Sunday, 25 January 2015

news 20150125Dmitriy SCHNEIDER: "Brazil, Argentine, or Uruguay we hope to see in St. Petersburg in the nearest future".

Paradox. Football matches have been passing in Peterburgsky SCC almost the whole January. However, the director of the both tournaments Dmitriy Schneider has hardly seen any football in the course of the month, though his cabinet in the SCC became almost his second home.

"Let's count how many minutes I've spent on the tribunes watching any of the non-stop matches here. I wonder how many!" – Schneider smiles and eventually puts aside his constantly ringing cell. – "Well, I've surely seen one half of the starting Commonwealth Cup match – RSA vs Lithuania. It was a splendid match! The both opponents looked fine – and I was quite surprised to see the Lithuanians among the outsiders in the end. Then I managed to snatch some time for the match of Russia which, alas, has disappointed us so much... I watched their playing against team Kyrgyzstan. That was a team which shocked! The Kyrgyz players suddenly remembered me the Chileans at the last World Cup in Brazil.schneider 01 As much persistent, prickly, hard-bitten – figuratively, of course. Moreover, they are not only physically good but also perfectly disciplined which is usually uncommon for southern teams. So I would name team Kyrgyzstan the main discovery of the tournament... And that's my whole deposit into the spectators' tribunes at the Commonwealth Cup. At Valentin Granatkin Memorial I devoted some time for a couple of matches with the Japanese who have performed such a success here last year. But here I was disappointed. It was quite a remarkable contrast with the last year's team Japan. So, summing up, there are a couple of matches at Valentin Granatkin Memorial and three halves at the finishing Commonwealth Cup. Three and a half matches during a whole month of football with a four-games-per-day schedule... Not so much, is it? There was no chance for more due to various organizational questions. There are maddeningly many trifles demanding immediate decision! But I will surely overtake in the last day of the tournament. Not too much, though – for the final day is always quite busy."

"Another Valentin Granatkin Memorial has finished, the Commonwealth Cup is coming to an end... Can we sum up the non-stop football January in St. Petersburg?"

"I would like to remind that beside the two tournaments mentioned we also held the Generation-2018 – a tournament for children from orphanages, secondary schools and special sport schools. schneider 02A good tournament it was, a real holiday for all the children, here, at this arena. And then we had competitions on the pitch to decide the strongest fan team among squads from St. Petersburg, Moscow, Sevastopol, Minsk, Smolensk... The latter became the winners of the traditional fans' tournament Hero-Cities' Cup. The tournament is held under the auspices of the FUR and has solidly entered our January football program, so we never have lack of volunteers to play. That is pleasant."

"You surely had no lack of volunteers to play at Valentin Granatkin Memorial 2015. 18 teams is the absolute record!"

"I would say this figure made me feel composedly satisfied. On the one hand, 18 youth teams at Valentin Granatkin Memorial is rather cool. Excellent geographical representation! From Slovenia to Japan... But there are two main goals the FUR sets: the geographical representation as well as care of the sporting quality of the tournament, for we need to have a really strong lineup of teams. The ideal variant would be gathering here teams of the six Confederations to show our amused spectators a competition of completely different football approaches. But unfortunately such an idea is still far from bringing into life. I consider perfect situation for the next year to be Valentin Granatkin Memorial of 16 teams. That's also the perfect format for the Commonwealth Cup. schneider 03This number is quite sufficient for the participants to feel comfortable when training and playing here in St. Petersburg. Of course there must also be Russia amongst them – it is logical, for the FUR spends money on this tournament and has to contribute it to the Russian team U-17 development providing it a good playing practice. I strongly wish to see team of St. Petersburg regularly at the Valentin Granatkin Memorial: it's a very good experience for both the Petersburg players and the spectators."

"So why was there a small "overrun" at the tournament?

"There were some problems connected with a sudden refuse from the side of supposed participants. But while there was a complete "misunderstanding" from the side of Albania, team Mexica at first declared their decision to go to St. Petersburg but later sent their apologies: "We can't come, for the team has to play in the qualifications of CONCACAF..." We started revising other variants after the refuse from the Mexicans – and received two faxes within an hour! So the number of teams became 17, and because it was not suitable for the schedule we had to add the "even" team N18."

"Commonwealth Cup 2015 passed by a more traditional scheme. But among the 12 teams there appeared two quite unexpected participating states – Finland and, more queerly, the RSA."

"First of all, we are happy to have another prove of the importance of the tournament in the face of Blatter and the FIFA representative delegation who another time attended the tournament.schneider 04 I guess it's quite clear that the tournament has broadened the conception of "the Commonwealth" during the years of existence of the Cup, considering the geography and level of the teams. Whilst we are talking here now, in the neighbouring room the fine RSA team are singing their songs preparing for the next match of the Commonwealth Cup. In our difficult times this tournament has become a good evidence of how football itself can unite devoted people all over the world into a real big Commonwealth. This, too, was emphasized at the press conference by Mister Blatter...

What for teams Finland and RSA appearing at the Commonwealth Cup, this tale is quite easy. First to receive the invitation traditionally and in advance were the Football Federations of 15 republics which had been the part of the Soviet Union. Within a month it became obvious that the teams of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia unfortunately couldn't come, though the negotiations were quite long. We were to decide the lineup and we made a proposal which was admitted by the FUR President – to hold negotiations with the BRICS states. I've talked to the Brazilians regarding the Commonwealth Cup still at the World Cup 2014, though at that time the minds of the World Cup hosts were occupied by other things. (smiling) The Indians held a voluminous correspondence but haven't given a clear solution. The Chinese agreed to participate but wished to bring a U-19 team instead of a U-21, which was not good in the prospect of the tournament: two-year gap is quite a significant difference for this age. But the RSA quite surprisingly responded at once and gave their agreement. More than that, their team treated our tournament very professionally. They arrived in advance to have time for adapting to the climate – and they produces a fine impression on our supporters. I really would like those talking about a "non-tolerance", or, "racism" schneider 05of russian supporters to visit the SCC and watch the match Russia vs. RSA and hear the applauses which were the award for the African team after their winning the home team 2:0! I won't make a secret that we were afraid of some incidents at that game, for it's hard to control all of the supporters which were thousands... But there were no problems at all, the whole match passing in the finest atmosphere!

Speaking about Finland, the youth team of our neighbours played at Valentin Granatkin Memorial and expressed a desire to bring an older team to the Commonwealth Cup. We supported such interest from their side and it seems we've chosen right. There will be teams Finland and RSA to play in the final match on Sunday."

"Are you content with the terms of the both tournaments in the SCC?"

"Quite content. I can't see any sense in changing anything. The record attendance registered at the resent Valentin Granatkin Memorial was mostly possible thanks to the academic holidays which permitted students to visit the SCC with their parents. The only thing – I'm now anticipating the events – there may be changes in the schedule of Valentin Granatkin Memorial 2016: we may hold the final on Monday, January, 11, for we are not able to squeeze the laying of the pitch, probationary trainings and the nine tournament days in the first decade of January."

"Appearing of the world football Finnish star Jari Litmanen produced a boom..."

"I wish we could do it more often. schneider 06The only football star sparking bright for the first time at Valentin Granatkin Memorial whom we managed to invite at the tournament was Oleg Salenko. Last year we could have had here Oliver Kahn – the famous goalkeeper. We had paid for the tickets already but at the last moment something went wrong. We for the second year have talks with the popular forward Eric Cantona's brother who administers his affairs. Eric's plans are fixed for 5 years, but one year passed, and we can wait for a personality like Cantona other four. (smiling)

"Have there been any other problems at the two tournaments?"

"As you know, he doesn't mistake who does nothing. But fortunately, it seems, we managed to avoid any serious problems. Each team had a liaison officer with the knowledge of English who cared about the team in the course of the tournaments and the cultural program offered to the coaches and players. The changing rooms were arranged as comfortable as possible, with mineral water and fruits... Of course there was something to treat the supporters in the cafes. There was an interesting football exhibition arranged for them in the SCC lobby. And those following the matches through the Internet were also satisfied: we made the official web sites of the two tournaments more vivid and entertaining adding specific interviews with coaches and football specialists to the reports on matches. The organizing committee and the press office, footbally speaking, have played as a team, operative and well-organized."

"And the last question. You've mentioned the talks with the team of Mexica. It seems to me that arrival of a Latin American team with a resounding name – including Brazil and Argentina – would make a good contribute into the spectators' interest to the Commonwealth Cup. Is that possible?"

schneider 07"Quite possible. But we have one obstacle here: in the Southern Hemisphere it is now summer, and the football calendar is completely different. States like Brazil, Argentina, or Uruguay find it difficult to adjust it to the January visit to St. Petersburg. But Brazil has not less than 60-70 strong players who could play for the youth team. One of the possible U-21 teams could easily come here. You know, we keep in touch with the Latin Americans and other football federations. What is important is coinciding of interests, a bit of political influence – and our guests understanding that the visit to the World Cup 2018 hosting country will be interesting and advantageous for them."

Interviewed by Alexander Kuzmin.


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