"After promotion to the RPL, everything changed at the club: salaries, bonuses." How Krasnodar started out in the elite

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March 2011 is a historic month for Krasnodar. On 12 March, the team played their first match in the RPL, drawing 0-0 with Anzhi Makhachkala, and on the 19th, the Bulls picked up their first victory in the RPL with a 2-0 win over Spartak Nalchik. The team's debut goal in the league was scored by Igor Picusceac, who played for Krasnodar since they were in the first division.

The forward played for Krasnodar for one season in the RPL, then left for Amkar ,and in 2017 returned to Krasnodar as a coach, working with the youth team and the second team. Now Picusceac is the head coach of Akron Togliatti in the FNL, but he has kept close contact with Krasnodar.

“At first I didn't know about Krasnodar and their ambitions”

You moved to Krasnodar in 2009 from Chinese side Beijing Hongdeng. How did this option come about?
– I've been told that I had been followed before, when I was playing for Sheriff. General Director Vladimir Hashig came to the matches of the Moldovan national team when I played, and the club was interested in me. Only at that time, Krasnodar were playing in the third tier, and I could not take part in the matches, as I was a foreign player. In 2009, when the team were promoted to the FNL, I was bought from Sheriff.

What did the club representatives tell you about the project?
– All the cases were handled by an agent, and when the transfer was arranged, I flew to Krasnodar from China and immediately went to the training ground in Chetuk. Of course, then it was not the same scale as today, but there were already cottages for the main team, the main building, a canteen, a rehabilitation center, pitches, and they were already of good quality.

What convinced you to believe in this project?
– To be honest, I didn't know what kind of club it was, what their ambitions were. I had a desire to leave Moldova.

You mentioned that the president of the club, Sergey Galitsky, talked a lot with the players in the early years. What topics did you talk about?
– We talked not only about football, but also about life and everyday moments. There was a lot of communication. He visited every training session.

How did Sergey Nikolaevich behave during sessions?
– He was reserved, just watching the training sessions. Sometimes at the end, he even went out with the management to kick the ball on the pitch. He didn’t express his dissatisfaction at any time.

Joaozinho recalled how Sergey Nikolaevich himself ran after the ball, only then he was told that it was the head of the club. What other stories related to Galitsky do you remember?
– I can't remember any funny cases, but the first year in the first division was very tense, because we were in the relegation zone. Sometimes, he would leave the match and walk in the park near the Kuban Stadium. We managed to improve the situation or even win, and after that he would come into the locker room with a different mood, happy. You could see how worried he was.

“Before entering RPL we've started to work with an eye on it”

When the team played in the first division, did the management set the target of fighting for promotion to the RPL?
– In 2009, there was no such target, because everything was still under construction. 2010 was a good year, and the team was decent. That year, we were all in the leading pack – second, third, sometimes even first – but the ending didn't quite work out. As a result we finished fifth, but it turned out that the club went up anyway. 

When we came back from holiday, there was a rumor that Saturn had gone bankrupt and would not take part in the new season. Then they were offered a number of clubs that were higher than us to take their place by, but they refused. A few weeks before the start of the championship, when we were at the training camp in Turkey, we learned that Krasnodar would take this place.

Did the managers communicate with the players on this topic?
– They came and just stated the fact, but we initially worked at the training camp with an eye on the RPL. Then Slavoljub Muslin came, while players with a lot of experience in the league were selected. There was no definite information that we would leave, but everyone wanted to play in the RPL.

Muslin had already worked in the RPL. How did he prepare the team for the season?
– The training was good: we ran a lot, the loads were slightly different from the training with other coaches. The vision depends on each coach; I have not yet seen one who would prepare the same way according to a template. He told us how he sees our football, how he wants us to play. We often discussed episodes from games.

Some players recalled that the Krasnodar players were afraid of Muslin, that he was a tough coach. How do you remember it?
– That's not true, he was quite fair. Given his experience, he was treated with respect. Everyone saw that he had good qualities. We tried to show a decent level of football.

How did the club change after joining the RPL?
– Everything changed: both salaries and bonuses, at the training center every month something was completed, rebuilt or improved. When they went to the RPL, a new backroom staff arrived with another doctor and a massage therapist. In general, the first season turned out to be successful: we finished in ninth place, and the quality of our performances was quite good.

What was lacking to get into the top half, to fight for the title and European competitions?
– Perhaps experience as a club, and quality players. Many guys moved to the club just before the season, such as Joaozinho himself from Bulgaria. The team grew and gained experience – the season was very decent.

“Galitsky wanted to beat Kuban, to prove that Krasnodar was a progressive club “

The team played its debut match in the RPL against the updated Anzhi with Roberto Carlos. How did the team feel before the debut?
– Of course, there was excitement, especially since we were playing away. During the game, we realized that we could play. There were a lot of guys who have come a long way in the RPL and various national teams, including me. There was no strong fear, I just wanted to go out and prove that we wecompetitive and worthy of playing in the RPL.

Roberto Carlos is a huge football player, a well-respected man, but there was an understanding that, most likely, he had come to finish his career and finish playing for a lot of money. We were not afraid to play against him, we acted on an equal footing with him, and in periods of the match itself it was clear that he was not the same as before.

In the next match against Spartak Nalchik, you scored the team's first goal in the RPL. How did the club congratulate you on this?
– There was nothing special – everyone congratulated me and rejoiced at the victory. It was very nice to score the first goal of the team.

You were the main striker at the start of the season. How did you know that Muslin trusted you?
– I think I proved it with my work. When Muslin first came, there was a little uncertainty. I did not understand whether I would be in the team, whether the coach would like me, but at the training camp I earned a place in the squad. I started the season well enough, but then I got an injury that knocked me out for four months. Yura Movsisyan was already in shape at that moment, and it was hard for me to catch up with him. In addition, four months without football is quite difficult to recover.

In those years the city of Krasnodar was only represented at the highest level by Kuban. How popular was FC Krasnodar in the city at that time and did the Kuban fans feel any aggression towards them?
– There was no aggression towards the players. Kuban is a club with a long history, and the city was mainly rooting for them. FC Krasnodar has developed, built a clear understanding of how and with whom in terms of fans to work, and put emphasis on this. Over time, the situation changed, Kuban went bankrupt, and the city began to acquire green and black colors.

Evgeny Shipitsin said that Galitsky was most worried about the derby. How did he show it?
– I think it's true, he wanted to beat Kuban, and us players too. Sometimes we were given increased bonuses for this match. Sergey Nikolaevich wanted to prove that Krasnodar was a worthy and progressive club, but he was probably worried in his own way.

How much has the attitude towards FC Krasnodar changed in the city after winning the first derby in the summer of 2011? How did the players communicate with each other?
– There were no misunderstandings between the players, it was much easier for us to relate to this. On the field, you want to win, no matter which opponent in front of you is. I remember when we arrived at the stadium for the first derby, everything was in the colors of Kuban. Then almost the whole city was rooting for them. So let's say it was a kind of football mini-war.

“The progress of the team was especially noticeable after the arrival of Kononov”

You have already recalled the injury that caused you to miss four months. Did it strongly influence your decision to leave Krasnodar for Amkar ?
– It was one factor. After that operation, I had another one and was out for three and a half months. In two years with Krasnodar, I had four serious surgeries, and I was recovering for a long time. It breaks the mind, and constant rehabilitation is very difficult.

Galitsky wrote a good post about you on Twitter: "Picusceac is a very good person, but he needs to play. We are waiting for him after the end of his career at the club." How did he react to your desire to leave the club?
– Calmly, since Muslin also said that I would get less game time. At that time, Movsisyan was deservedly starting. In fact, it was hard to sit on the bench and wait for your chance, so I had to change clubs. Everyone has different perceptions, but for me it was normal.

By 2015 Krasnodar had already finished third in the RPL and made their Europa League debut. Did you believe that the club would reach such achievements so quickly?
– Yes, it was clear how the club was progressing. It was especially noticeable in the 2013/14 season, when Muslin was replaced by Oleg Kononov. We fell just short at the end, so the progress was very good.

What are your most vivid memories of Krasnodar as a player?
– There are many of them. I liked how everything came from Galitsky, how he behaved with the players. When I played at Sheriff, there was constant pressure. Every match you had to go out and win, no matter who we were playing against. The president could have said after the victory that all of you, to put it mildly, are not very good football players.

At Krasnodar, everyone felt more relaxed, there was no such pressure. If we talk about everyday life, Krasnodar is a beautiful southern city, and my wife and I then decided to stay there to live.

“Sometimes at Akron we talk about how Krasnodar was built”

In 2017, you returned to Krasnodar to work in the youth team. How has the club changed in five years of absence?
– I had seen how the club had changed, because during each visit to the city I met with the management and visited the training ground. I still have a lot of friends there. I saw how things had developed even when I wasn't at the club.

What are the working conditions at the club's Academy?
– There are all the necessary working conditions and even more: insane pitches, gyms for recovery, various football bots. There are a lot of things that players need to grow up. This is very cool – I think there are no such centres in Russia anywhere else.

What have you learned as a coach during your two years at Krasnodar?
– You have acquired a lot of things: for example, an understanding of what the profession of a coach is. As a football player, you don't feel all these subtleties. I also began to approach the whole process in more detail, to learn and understand it.

You are currently coaching Akron, which was founded in 2018.
– Akron is a private club, goes its own way and tries to develop as much as possible. There are still some small similarities with Krasnodar – the president's vision, the construction of the entire infrastructure, and the club's development policy. The management wants to make a top club for Russian football. Sometimes we talk about Krasnodar: how it all started, how it was built.

Do you keep in touch with the management of Krasnodar?
– Yes, I sometimes call them up, and correspond with the management and many coaches. Sometimes we also talk about the players. I ask them who they can loan out, who they can't. When I came to Akron, Daur Kvekveskiri – who I had worked with at Krasnodar-II – was already in the team. We haven't been able to get anyone else yet.

Photo: Konstantin Rybin/RPL, FC Krasnodar, Amkar Perm, Akron Togliatti


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