Lighting up the M-Liga and already scoring in the RPL: superhero mask celebrations, champion with CSKA youth team, featured in three Storozhuk teams

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Meet Kirill Shchetinin, Egor Ushakov and Sergey Volkov: recent heroes of Russia’s youth championship, the M-Liga, who have started scoring in the Russian Premier Liga.

Kirill Shchetinin: celebrating goals in superhero masks, playing for Zenit at their training camp

Twenty-year-old Kirill Shchetinin was born in Kursk and started playing football at local side Avangard, but later left for the Lokomotiv Academy. In 2018, he made his debut in the Russian youth championship and the UEFA Youth League, and also helped the Russia under-17 youth team reach the elite round of Euro 2019, where he became the top scorer of the qualifying stage with eight goals in six games. The team reached the final stage of the Euros, but did not make it out of the group. For such a bright year, Shchetinin received the Golden Ball as the best player in Moscow born in 2002.

Shchetinin also celebrated goals in unusual ways, such as wearing Spider-Man and Deadpool masks. This happened even before Artem Dzyuba’s performance in May 2021 after Zenit were crowned champions, when the Blue-White-Sky blues captain lifted the RPL trophy in a Deadpool costume.

Shchetinin currently belongs to the St. Petersburg club having signed a three-year contract in August 2019. After his transfer, he began playing for the youth team in the youth championship and the UEFA Youth League, making 36 appearances and scoring four goals. Shchetinin also trained with the senior team under the leadership of Sergey Semak at the training camp in January 2021 and played in a friendly against Riga.

Shchetinin joined Rostov in the summer of 2021 on loan with the club retaining an option to buy. Before the winter break, the midfielder featured in three first-team matches, but spent most of his time in the youth team with whom he played a part in the record winning streak in M-Liga history with 13 consecutive victories. His contribution to the success of Rostov – who topped  group B in the first stage – is also significant: he scored five goals and was named in the competition’s best XI following the results of the first part of the championship.

The player's position in the senior team strengthened after the return of Valery Karpin and the departure of a number of foreign players. Shchetinin has started all five matches and has already scored two goals. The first goal against Nizhny Novgorod did not earn points (a 2-1 defeat), but a smart goal against former side Lokomotiv helped Rostov to a major 4-1 victory. Even the youngster himself was surprised by such a goal. "I don't train for such shots. I took the ball and thought I had to hit it. I didn't even see the goalkeeper. I'm still shocked, to be honest, that everything turned out this way."

Shchetinin hopes that Rostov will use the option of buying out his contract at Zenit. "If Rostov buy me out, I would be happy to stay. I really like it here."

Egor Ushakov: the CSKA youth team champion who had a dream about his first-team debut the day before the match

Nineteen-year-old Egor Ushakov started playing football at Zorky in his native Krasnogorsk, and at the age of nine he joined the Lokomotiv Academy. Five years later, he was kicked out due to "insufficient physical form", and he left for Torpedo, where he began training with the senior team at the age of 15 without ever playing. On 21 February 2020, he moved to CSKA.

Ushakov was the main player of Andrey Aksenov's youth team, which won the 2020/21 youth championship. The striker missed part of the season due to a foot injury, but returned for the decisive second-stage matches and helped the Armymen win the title fight. For example, Ushakov scored against direct rivals Krasnodar in a 3-2 win. After winning the title, the striker made his debut for the Russian youth national team.

In September 2021, Ushakov was again out for a long time after a metatarsal fracture. However, the injury did not prevent me from going to the camp in Campoamor in the winter. He returned to the pitch only in April, and immediately played for the first team. Against Ural, he not only played, but also earned a penalty which allowed CSKA to escape defeat as Yusuf Yazici made it 2-2 in added time.

However, his appearance for the first team did not come as a surprise. "Before the game I had a dream that I would play. Therefore, I expected it," Ushakov admitted after the game. The youngster didn’t forget about his doctors. "Thanks to Eduard Nikolayevich Bezuglov and Igor Stepanov, who put me back on my feet. I think they are top specialists in their profession," he said.

On the next matchday, Egor not only made his debut in the starting lineup, but also scored his first RPL goal. Despite his equaliser coming shortly before Yazici put CSKA in front, the Armymen ended up losing 4-2 to Khimki. Nevertheless, his former youth coach was happy for Ushakov. "Considering that this is his debut in the RPL, Egor played very well against Ural and Khimki. But it's too early to say that he is "lighting it up". Egor has good qualities, but he needs to get stronger physically in order to go on the pitch in every game and perform consistently well," Andrey Aksenov told Championnat.

Sergey Volkov: worked with Storozhuk in three teams, crossed paths with Goncharenko and Farke

Nineteen-year-old Sergey Volkov hails from Chita, where he played until 2016, until he joined the Krasnodar Academy. Before making his debut, the striker featured for the club at YFL, M-Liga, PFL and FNL level (the latter two for Krasnodar-3 and Krasnodar-2 teams respectively). Incidentally, current head coach Aleksandr Storozhuk worked with Volkov in the youth team and the second team.

Under the guidance of Storozhuk, Volkov first finished runner-up in the 2020/21 youth championship: that season, Volkov scored two goals and provided eight assists in 27 matches, and was also named the team of the tournament according to Transfermarkt. The coach and youngster continued to work together at Krasnodar-2, and in 23 FNL matches, Volkov scored one goal.

Volkov has managed to cross paths with all first-team coaches during this season. In September, Viktor Gancharenko took Volkov to Grozny for a game against Akhmat, but left him on the bench. In the winter, the striker went through training camps under the leadership of Daniel Farke, who became the head coach during the break, but left the club before the resumption of the RPL season. After Storozhuk's promotion, the youngster made the matchday squads for fixtures against Dynamo and Rubin, and it was in Kazan that Volkov made his full debut for Krasnodar, even scoring in the 85th minute. Thanks to the young debutant, Krasnodar earned a 1-0 victory.

Photos: Konstantin Rybin/RPL, Denis Tyrin/CSKA, Artem Gusev/FCRostov, Andrey Shramko/FC Krasnodar, Anna Meyer/Zenit


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