Dmitry SHNEIDER, the Grantakin Memorial Tournament Director
For the anniversary Granatkin Memorial we want to bring a team of stars consisting of the tournament "graduates".
It's been nine years already that Dmitry Shneider is heading Valentin Granatkin Memorial, the traditional football tournament held in Peterburgsky SCC in January, but over this time Dmitry was able to watch only about twenty full games himself out of more than two hundred interesting matches. And it's not because he does not like football. Shneider is eager to discuss it for hours when he has free time. It's just that the key words in the last sentence are "has free time". It's not difficult to understand that having fourteen teams from all over the world as participants of a prestigious international youth competition, the Tournament Director has a big number of organizing issues to sort out. And many of them have to be solved right on the spot. But nevertheless Shneider got a chance to watch the strongest teams of the 28th Valentin Granatkin Memorial in action. And there was a lot to watch, indeed! A talk with Dmitry Shneider dedicated to the final results of Granatkin Memorial has more:
– First of all, I liked that almost all the teams were trying to play in a fast and spectacular manner throughout the tournament. I might have grown old (smiling), but it's likely that our tournament became more spectacular over the past several years. And those are interconnected – the faster the speed on pitch the more goals scored. I don't know the secret and can only guess that it's either good quality of the artificial pitch this year that lets the ball move faster or the teams themselves are demonstrating a high level of fitness. In any case, the fact remains the same – this Granatkin Memorial has seen a lot of goals scored and, hence, has almost beaten a tournament record by this indicator. And I see that spectators on the stands are very happy about it! And this, in turn, makes me happy was well.
– Last year's Valentin Granatkin Memorial featured an enormous number of teams – 18! This year's tournament has also gathered a representative list of 14 teams. And this is not a so-called round number again! That made group C one team smaller than groups A and B. Was it challenging to compose the tournament schedule with such a peculiarity preserving all the parties' interests?
– 14 is still an even number, and that's already good! (smiling) The thing is that the FUR took a truly gentlemen's decision: to take all the teams to the tournament which showed a great desire to take part in it. More than sixty Football Federations received an invitation to bring their national youth teams to Valentin Granatkin Memorial. Almost all of them were keeping in a vivid touch with us, but a clear confirmation came from 14 of them only. Finally all of them are playing now here in St. Petersburg in January.
Now regarding the second part of your question. Yes, the problem was not easy, we had to think and analyze the situation quite seriously. I spent many hours searching any analogues how to hold big football tournaments of a similar format with 14 participating teams. But there was nothing similar held. So I had to invent a know-how for the current Granatkin Memorial together with the FUR specialists. And, to my opinion, the scheme which we came for, with two groups five teams each and a third group with only four didn't give anybody a disadvantage and left equal chances for successful performance on the tournament to absolutely all the competitors. Anyway, I happened to hear an idea that the third group was a little weaker than the other two, but eventually a team of this group, Slovenia, has qualified to the final!
– Almost all the participating countries on this tournament were represented in the previous year as well. We just lack teams Korea and Greece. Have they received an invitation as well?
– Certainly. But even without these teams, the level of this year's Granatkin Memorial is quite representative and worthy. Let me remind you that neither the Greeks nor the Koreans are in the U-18 top list now. Moreover, it is not that rare that youth teams of countries like Germany, England, or France don't managed to break through to elite rounds of the most important tournaments, while the teams of Slovakia, Slovenia, and Bulgaria do! And all the latter are playing here on the tournament. This fact is quite pleasant for us. Though, since we lack team Korea now, there is only one Asian team present here – team Japan, whose matches attract special attention of the spectators. You see, different playing manner, other football style... That's why the Football Union of Russia is going to keep working on all the six football Confederations to be represented at Valentin Granatkin Memorial one day, sooner or later.
– This year we are seeing so many little children as never...
– And we've thought everything over here in the Organizing Committee. We tried to make the tournament as family-friendly as possible. Well, a mother, for example, is not interested in football, but she can explore the big shopping mall near the SCC (laughing). But a father will benefit from both watching football and entertaining a son. We have interactive games with Father Frost here, we can't cope without him in winter holidays, and we have football on gaming pads, and a kicker, and various souvenirs...
– Have the Organizing Committee faced an additional challenge in the complicated economic realities of the moment? Are there any reasons to worry about the nearest future of the tournament?
– Since Vitaly Mutko became the President of the Football Union of Russia it has considerably decreased its debt burden. And I would emphasize that during the last three months that he is managing the FUR there has not been a single issue on the agenda concerning any reduction of the tournament program. Our main task is the same – to hold Granatkin Memorial on a worthy level. Surely we have to optimize the costs, but in a reasonable volume. Having close cooperation with the FUR and business partners we managed to do it well.
– Haven't you thought that January international football in the snowy St. Petersburg is gradually becoming as much of a cultural and sports zing of the city on the Neva river as the famous graduation party the Scarlet Sails in the white nights?
– I confess I am caught not ready with an answer to this question! Still I think such a comparison is premature. But if we are really moving in this direction then I can say that we, the united team of likeminded people in the Organizing Committee of this tournament, are not holding the ninth Granatkin Memorial in vain. And the direction is right, indeed: in January of 1912 it was in our city where the first official football institution of the country was created, the All-Russian Football Union, the prototype of today's FUR.
I won't be judging if Granatkin Memorial has really become an important event for the whole modern St. Petersburg with its rich history and museums and theatres known all over the world. But the fact that our tournament plays quite an important role in the sports life of the city is out of question. That's a very pleasant fact. We'll keep taking care of the tournament's image. By the way, I will say the same words regarding the Commonwealth Cup which is starting in Peterburgsky SCC in several days. Its tournament program is not so intensive, for this year's Cup features only 8 teams. But I would remind you that during the 23 years of its existence this football tournament has always been developing and changing its format. Its latest image may be not the last one. I assure you that the FUR specialists are always thinking of making this tournament more attractive for spectators, keeping the necessary balance of interests of both the spectators and the participants themselves.
– As our talk is finishing I'd like to come back to Granatkin Memorial. As a tournament director where do you see possible growth of its attraction for the spectators?
– To be honest, I can see quite few real stars at this tournament. I'm not speaking about the 17-year-olds playing on the pitch, for they are only going to become stars. And let God help somebody of them to really grow up and to be a famous football player like Marcel Desailly, Éric Cantona, Andreas Möller, Oliver Bierhoff, Kevin De Bruyne, or Oleg Salenko, the best striker of the World Cup 1994 from Leningrad. I'm speaking about the living legends of the European and the world football. Like Jari Litmanen – can you remember the effect his appearance made here in the SCC last year?! It's in this issue – of inviting first-magnitude stars to the January tournaments – where we have to improve the situation. So for the 30th anniversary Granatkin Memorial which will take place the same year as the Football World Cup in Russia we will surely try our best to bring here a European team consisting of the most notable "graduates" of this tournament.