26.03.2020

Aleksandr Kokorin: "I received a letter from China. They wrote that they were worried about FC Sochi”

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FC Sochi striker Aleksandr Kokorin talks about how the friendship with Sardar Azmoun began, what countries fans write to him from, and explains why his new team should stay in Russian Premier Liga.

In February, Kokorin moved from Zenit St. Petersburg to FC Sochi on loan. He scored three goals, registered one assist and was named Man of the Match twice in four RPL matches in March, which saw him nominated for Player of the Month. He won the award thanks to the votes of Match Premier TV experts and RPL fans.

“Azmoun is like a younger brother to me”

– When the RPL announced the five nominees, you chose Sardar Azmoun as the best in the comments. Why him?
– I am good friends with him, we have been talking a lot lately. It was nice to be in this category with him in the first month after the resumption of the championship. I voted for him as a friend.

– You and Sardar periodically exchange jokes in social networks. How did you start it?
– I immediately became friends with him when we met, I saw that he supported me in social networks. We have a lot of mutual acquaintances. I'd heard that Sardar was a good guy, but I'd never crossed paths with him. We have a lot in common, we constantly communicated at training camps - we had plenty of free time.

– What interests do you have in common?
– He lived alone in St. Petersburg, and we liked to go someplace to eat or watch a movie after training. Sardar understands everything, although I was surprised that he speaks Russian. He is interested in the usual things, such as cars and computer games. He often plays Battleground on his phone. Our only difference is that Azmoun is very fond of horses. He has a lot of them in Iran. I didn't understand why he loves them so much.

– Did you joke with him about that?
– No, but we did tease each other about various things. I worked on his look and recommended him to cut his hair, now he looks very good. He's like my little brother, that's why I watched him so closely.

– How did the team react to your victory?
– They congratulated me with the tunnel at the start of training. Everyone is happy for the first time, both our manager and player were recognised as the best in the league at the end of the month. The mood was good.

– Vladimir Fedotov said that he was treated politely in the tunnel. How did you pass?
– The same. First I stood in the corridor to congratulate the coach and beat him on the shoulder. Then he passed. Everything was light-hearted.

– Did you notice anyone who was particularly vigorous?
– Anton Zabolotniy aimed specifically for the legs, but I expected it from him. Therefore, the main thing was not to run in the tunnel so as not to fall, but to calmly go and see who was trying to hit me. He doesn't do that now.

“There is a lot of attention paid to FC Sochi, and it's satisfying”

– After the first match for FC Sochi at the training camp, you said that you felt like you had been in the team for a couple of months. Why did it feel like this?
– Before that, I had heard a lot of comments about FC Sochi which were not very good. When I got to the club and personally encountered everything, it turned out that everything was normal. We only needed time to adapt, to understand the new developments and the coach's views.

It was nice to play with the guys, we understood each other well, so I said so. The atmosphere in the team was also great. I knew a lot of other guys, so I had a feeling that I had already spent a lot of time with them.

– Fans and journalists viewed every match of FC Sochi through your actions. Did you take it easy?
– Yes, I understand this and see how much attention is paid to the club. It's very satisfying. We try to meet these expectations. It is a pity that now the weather has cleared up in Sochi, the championship has stopped.

– Do you think the interest is solely because of you?
– I know that I have many friends all over the world. They do not have the opportunity to come, but they write to me. For example, that say they watched our football for the first time and now support FC Sochi.

There are a lot of such people. I'm sure other fans were watching us, too. After all, the team has recently been in top form. I think if it hadn’t been for the break, we would have seen a large number of spectators at our stadium right now.

– From which countries have fans written to you?
– I have received letters from Brazil, Germany, and I have many good friends in France. The last letter came from China. We were worried about whether to open the envelope - maybe it was some trick. There were cards which they asked me to sign, and they wrote that they were worried about FC Sochi. In the end, everything was signed, disinfected and sealed in an envelope.

– You were named Man of the Match against Arsenal, a game the team lost. Was it awkward?
– I said that at that time I did not feel any emotions from the award. There was a bit of positivity from the goal and our good performance. We created a lot of chances and didn't deserve to lose. A missed goal at the end of the game just blurred everything.

– So you didn't want to find Evgeniy Lutsenko and give the award to him?
– No. It is not us in the dressing room who choose the best player, but the experts. Everyone knows that the award is awarded some time before the end of the match.

– Fedotov said that the team quickly forgot that defeat, although there was some tension. How did you survive that result?
– The mood was not the best, but the big plus was that the whole team was already looking forward to the next match to improve. Everyone saw that we played well, and we managed to beat FC Ural.

– Dmitry Poloz took a penalty for the club in the summer and autumn. You scored one against FC Orenburg. Were you given the responsibility by your manager?
– We have two players selected - me and Christian Noboa. It was decided that the one who feels better is the one who takes it. I was very confident at the time and went straight away. If Christian had asked, I wouldn't have given him the penalty.

– Now you will be the main penalty taker in the team?
– We'll see what the situation is. If someone needs it more, and he is sure that he will score, let him take it.

– Noboa said that Sochi should not be relegated. Are you sure of that, too?
– We have everything to keep our place in the RPL. We proved, first of all, to ourselves that we can play well with strong teams. We will work to ensure that this continues.

– Name three reasons why Sochi should remain in the RPL
– First and foremost, the infrastructure and weather. It has always been a mystery to me that there is no football in a city like this. I have been to Sochi many times, and there should be a team here in any case.

Secondly, I like it when new good teams appear and get established. Flights to Sochi, accommodation and hotels that greet you – everything looks great. Lastly is the top stadium.

– What about the fact that Sochi has Aleksandr Kokorin?
– I can't say that, I like the whole team. Those people who at first miraculously followed us, now wonder how we could have been in last place. Yes, some things have changed, but in general, the team is very good. We are waiting for our star newcomers [Adil Rami and Giannelli Imbula], and I think they will also help us a lot.

“Fedotov did not panic - this is a big plus”

– The team have continued training during the break. Are there ways to diversify your sessions so that you don't get bored without games?
– We are trying, we have a lot of time for this now while training continues.

– Fedotov recalled that at training camps, the losing teams were given tasks.
– This also happens now. Anyone who doesn’t win can be given a forfeit. The coach told us to come up with everything ourselves.

– What do you remember?
– ‘Worms’ was the punishment for the losing team. They had to crawl across the field without using their hands. It's hard, I crawled like this once. There was dancing too, but I haven't had to sing yet.

– What can be highlighted in Fedotov that you hadn’t noticed in your past coaches?
– I used to see that in many struggling teams, there was a slight panic and a lack of understanding of what to do with it. We knew that we were fully committed to our work and were waiting for the right moment to show it.

Even though we didn't get a result in the first game against Arsenal, the coach didn't panic, which is a big plus. He explained everything calmly, did not shout, and continued to believe. This surprised me. The training process is very pleasant: everything is emotional and intense – as it should be.

– The coach noted your leadership qualities, that you lead the team. Do you give motivational speeches in the locker room?
– I try to help with my experience, I have been in good teams and the national team. I see how in some moments it is necessary to do the right thing. I only make suggestions so that everything will be good.

– Does anyone else stand out with these tips?
– Soslan Dzhanaev. He also has a lot of experience, as expected given his age. It’s the same with Noboa who can help or other guys who have played in strong tournaments or for national teams. If they say something, it is not to inflate their own self importance, but to help the team.

– On 19 March, you celebrated your birthday. Were congratulations from Paul Pogba and Cesc Fabregas a surprise?
– I was surprised that there were such warm words as if we had been communicating for many years. I know them, I have played against them, but we are not close friends.

– Were you able to respond to all subscribers as promised?
– I'm still answering. There were a lot of congratulations if you take all the social networks. I try to write to everyone over time.

– Euro 2020 has been postponed for a year. Do you see this as your chance that there is still enough time to prove your worth for the national team?
– In any case, this is a big plus for me. I will have a lot of time to train, play and get in shape.

– Are Stanislav Cherchesov's recent words encouraging?
– He was to the point when he said that if I am needed and am in good shape, the coaches will invite me. It would be bad if they said that they no longer want to see me in the national team.


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