Kerzhakov: Scoring at a World Cup is an incomparable
Aleksandr Kerzhakov. Photo: zimbio.com
'After the 2018 World Cup, I'd like there to be photos of every player
in the Russian national team up on one of these stands,' mused aloud the
country's all-time leading scorer Aleksandr Kerzhakov on visiting the
FIFA World Football Museum in Zurich.
As the European qualifiers for 2018 FIFA World Cup RussiaT kick off in
September, the hosts are not only waiting with bated breath for the tournament,
but also dreaming of how they might actually get their hands on world
football's most coveted trophy. Kerzhakov, who spent the spring on loan
with Swiss side Zurich from Zenit Saint Petersburg, had the opportunity
to see the trophy in question from close quarters at the FIFA Museum.
'My only chance to hold it could be in 2018. However, I'd be really happy
if, in the near future, I'm able to see the Russian captain lift this
trophy above his head,' said the 33-year-old forward, who hails from the
city of Kingisepp in the Leningrad region.
The boots of the great players from the 1950s was what most impressed
Kerzhakov in the museum. 'I imagine what the stars of the 1950s like Pele
and Garrincha, who produced such miracles even back then, would have been
able to do if they'd had the boots we wear today. The reverse is true
as well: I'm not sure how many goals I'd have scored with Pele's boots
on. Ten times fewer, definitely.'
An incomparable feeling
Now back at Zenit Saint Petersburg, and not just because he is the national
team's all-time top scorer with 30 goals. He is one of only two current
Russian footballers who know what it is like to score a goal at the FIFA
World Cup. At Brazil 2014, he came off the bench in the 71st minute against
Korea Republic and took just three minutes to find the net and level the
scores at 1-1.
'Scoring at a World Cup is an incomparable feeling. When you're playing
in one of the tournament's matches, it's the only official game that's
taking place in the world at that time. This is a huge responsibility
and a huge gift, when the eyes of the entire world are watching you play.
"I was happy and proud of myself and my country, as well as for my
relatives and the people close to me. I'm happy to have written myself
into history as a player who managed to score a World Cup goal. I think
this goal will be replayed more than once by my children and, God willing,
my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I also haven't given up hope
that I'll score more than one and increase my strike haul at home in Russia
If Kerzhakov were to make the Russian line-up in 2018, then it would be
his third World Cup - something no other player in the current squad could
rival. 'I only played seven minutes in our final game at the World Cup
in 2002. That competition passed me by in a blur. I wasn't really aware
of what was happening and had only broken into the national team one month
before the tournament.'
A team to be proud of
It is not only the players who are excitedly anticipating the World Cup
in 2018, but the rest of the nation too. 'Everyone in Russia has waited
for this event for an extremely long time. I'm 100 per cent sure that
we deserve to be hosting this World Cup because of our desire, commitment
and generous Russian soul. I'm sure all the players and fans who come
to the competition will just be amazed both by the organisation and our
country in general.'
Kerzhakov insisted Russia has a lot to offer to fans from all over the
world, saying: 'Our cuisine is marvelous and suits everyone's tastes.
Every footballer who has ever come to us, from whichever country, has
always eaten Russian food. What more could you want? We have amazing variety
in our architecture, ranging from St. Petersburg to the old town in Moscow.
There are also the Kremlins in Nizhny Novgorod and Kazan. We have a blend
of different cultures here. Every single person will discover something
of their own, plus something Russian.'
By the time the 2018 World Cup comes around, Kerzhakov will be 35, but
he still hopes to be a part of the squad. 'I think that we'll be aiming
high, just like every fan will. It will be tough to win the World Cup
but it's also difficult to leave behind some good memories, so that after
the competition your fans can say, 'Yes, we're happy that this team represented
fifa.com, 23 Aug 2016