The Kerzhakov brothers: childhood in Kingisepp, Aleksandr's scissor-kick goal past Mikhail, and connection with Nizhny Novgorod

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On 19 November, Aleksandr and Mikhail Kerzhakov will be rivals for the first time since 2013, only not as football players, but as coach and player.

Childhood in Kingisepp and departure to St. Petersburg

The Kerzhakov brothers were born in Kingisepp, a city in Leningrad region; Aleksandr in 1982, and Mikhail five years later. They also took their first steps in football there. The older sibling has been a forward since childhood, while the younger has always been put in goal. "There was no other choice - my brother was a striker and put me in the goal all the time because I'm younger," Mikhail said in an interview with Zenit's press service after returning in 2015.

The brothers trained not only on the street, but also in an apartment in Kingisepp. They put up an improvised goal, and the elder practiced his signature shots. "The sideboard was smashed at home," the goalkeeper recalled. “Sasha brought such a small ball from somewhere, I think from Finland. He put me down and shoot."

The brothers first separated when 11-year-old Aleksandr moved to St. Petersburg in the Zenit Sports School. They did not see each other for six years, until Mikhail himself entered the academy.

"Sasha even became a bit of a stranger to me during this time," Mikhail recalled. "As a senior, he often shoved me. Almost every day there are scandals, quarrels. I was offended, I cried. Sometimes my brother shouted at me for nothing, but it still helped me. During that year at the boarding school, I grew up a lot. Now I understand that he brought me up so that I would not repeat his mistakes."

In 2000, Aleksandr left to play in the amateur leagues for Svetogorets, and from 2001 he played for the Zenit main team. Mikhail got started later: in January 2004, the brothers went to training camps together for the first time, but they never played together. While the older brother scored in the first team, the younger one was playing for the reserves, and at the end of 2006, Aleksandr left St. Petersburg and joined Spanish side Sevilla.

Aleksandr scored past Mikhail more than once: a double in the second match and a scissor-kick goal in added time

Kerzhakov Sr. returned to Zenit in 2010 from Dynamo Moscow, while his younger brother was already on loan at that time to Volga Ulyanovsk, Volgar Astrakhan and Alania Vladikavkaz. On 9 July 2010, the brothers met in the RPL match between Alania and Zenit. Mikhail came on for Alania as a substitute in the 41st minute instead of Dmitry Khomich with his side already 3-0 down, but Aleksandr did not distinguish himself in the game as it finished 3-1. But on 31 October, the older brother scored a double against the younger one at the Petrovsky in a 3-0 win.

"Why feel sorry for him? Is he small?" Aleksandr said about his two goals past his brother after the game. "When my brother scored past me and ran to celebrate, my mother showed him her fist from the stands," Mikhail recalled in 2021.

After a loan at Alania, Mikhail left Zenit and signed a contract with Volga Nizhny Novgorod. Incidentally, Anatoly Kerzhakov, the players’ father, played in the Nizhny Novgorod region for Khimik Dzerzhinsk. In November 2012, the brothers met again in an RPL match, and in added time, Aleksandr beat his brother with a stunning scissor-kick. Kerzhakov's masterpiece goal helped Zenit win 2-1 against Volga.

"Sasha had a great shot," Mikhail said after the match. “I couldn't push off the slippery surface properly. After the game, I exchanged a few words with my brother. I congratulated him on his victory, but that episode was not discussed."

In May of the following year, Zenit again beat Volga, this time 3-1, with Kerzhakov Jr. in goal. His brother was a thorn in Volga’s side after giving an assist to Roman Shirokov. This was the last match when the brothers played against each other. Soon Mikhail left for Anzhi, for whom he played from 2013 to 2015, but he did not meet his brother on the pitch, because Aleksandr did not take part in the games against Anzhi.

Reunion at Zenit

In 2015, Mikhail returned to Zenit from Anzhi, and Aleksandr even greeted his brother with a post on Instagram: "And again we are together at Zenit!" However, the long-awaited joint match of the brothers was postponed for a year. Andre Villas-Boas sometimes put Mikhail in the squad instead of Yuri Lodygin, but did not count on Aleksandr, who was first transferred to Zenit-2, then sent on loan to Zurich. The forward returned to the squad after the arrival of Romanian head coach Mircea Lucescu.

Finally, the brothers played together on 27 August 2016 in a match with Amkar. Mikhail kept a clean sheet, while Aleksandr came on for the last 15 minutes and gave an assist to Domenico Criscito as their side won 3-0. "The first official match together! In our native team! My brother just couldn't fail to keep a clean sheet. Happy victory," Aleksandr wrote on Instagram.

The brothers played together three more times: against Orenburg (1-0) and Terek (1-2) in the RPL, and also the 2-1 win against Dundalk in the Europa League. In the winter, Mikhail went on loan again, continuing the 2016/17 season at Orenburg, and Aleksandr finished playing at Zenit and ended his career.

The brothers meet after a long break

In July 2017, the ex-striker became the coordinator of the Zenit Academy teams. Later, Kerzhakov embarked on a coaching career. In 2018, he took charge of Russia’s under-17, under-18 and under-19 teams, and in 2020, for the first time, he became head coach of a club, Tom Tomsk, who were then fighting for survival in the FNL. Although Tom finished the season in the relegation zone, the team remained in the FNL-1, and Kerzhakov was given the chance to guide RPL newcomers Nizhny Novgorod. Together, they surprised everyone at the start when they took seven points from the opening three matchdays, and even rose to sixth place, but as they meet their coach's hometown club, they are already in 13th place.

Mikhail remained at Zenit after his brother's departure as a player, but experienced different situations. He did not play at all under Roberto Mancini and went to play for Zenit-2, and with Sergey Semak at first he often sat on the bench (making four appearances in all competitions in the 2018/19 season), but later became number one because of injuries to Andrey Lunev and improved form. Thanks to three championships in recent seasons, Mikhail even caught up with his brother in the number of RPL title wins.

Zenit announced the upcoming confrontation of the brothers with the help of nostalgic footage from the ceremony honouring Aleksandr Kerzhakov after the end of his playing career. His brother Mikhail also warmed up for the clash: "Sanya, hello! Ahead of the confrontation of our teams, may the strongest win in a fair fight. I fought, I fight and I will fight!"

Photo: Vyacheslav Evdokimov / Zenit St. Petersburg


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