Valentin Granatkin Memorial Gathers Strong Lineup
13 December a press conference related to the XXVL Valentin Granatkin Memorial was held at the Baltic Informational Agency in Saint-Petersburg, the participants being as follows:
1. Nikolai Pisarev, sports director of Russian Football Union;
2. Boris Vakhrushev, first vice-president of the North-West Football Federations Union;
3. Dmitrii Khomukha, head coach of Russian youth team of 1996 date of birth;
4. Vladimir Kazachenok, head coach of the team of Saint-Petersburg;
5. Dmitrii Shneider, director of the tournament.
The press conference was arranged to discuss the preparation for the first tournament of the new year and briefly summarize the departing football year.
XXVI International youth football tournament perpetuating the memory of the FIFA First Vice-President Valentin Granatkin will be taking place from 3 to 12 January 2014 in Saint-Petersburg. Like the anniversary tournament managed to gather the record number of competitors, this one brings on the Neva banks 16 teams - those strongest in their age: teams of Azerbaijan, Belarus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Iran, Japan, Latvia, Moldova, Russia, Saint-Petersburg, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey, and Ukraine.
This time we will have only two debuting teams. It may sound ironic, but the youth team of Estonia is visiting Saint-Petersburg as a Valentin Granatkin Memorial participant for the first time. Meanwhile, their closest neighbours - the team of Lithuania which has been a regular participant at the tournament - this time are neglecting the competition, as well as the team of Italy which had a sensational loss to the team of Saint-Petersburg at the anniversary tournament last year.
"It is the disappointment after that loss," - joked the director of the tournament Dmitrii Shneider answering the question about team Italy. - "Well, speaking seriously, there is another reason. Had the Italians failed to advance from the group round of the World Cup in the UAE they would have been coming to us. Playing two tournaments on end is physically hard."
Another debutant is the team of Japan which represents Asia together with Iranian team. It is that very team which gained an insulting victory over Dmitrii Khomukha's team at the World Cup U-17 in UAE with the score 1:0.
"We are applying efforts to widen the geography of the tournament as much as possible, pursuing the strategy of development. We want the tournament to be represented sooner or later by teams of all the six Federations," - Dmitrii Shneider shared the plans for future.
Apart from this, the organizers are aiming to assemble at the tournament the strongest teams. "We are working at it," - Dmitrii Shneider stated. - "For instance, this year Germany signed a long-term cooperation contract with RFU. We hope that next year their team will take part in the tournament. We provided quite a strong lineup this year, too. It may seem that the national teams coming to us this time are not among the most interesting ones. But do believe me, we will have quite an imposing European contingent in their age."
A special attention will be devoted to the team of Russia. In the January of the current year Russian youth restored after three years the title of champions having won the final against... the team of Saint-Petersburg. By the way, the team of Khomukha, which is well known to Saint-Petersburg football fans after the games for FC Zenit in the mid 90ths, will arrive at the competition with the title of European Champion. It is unlikely, however, that the spectators will be able to see the continental gold medals holders.
"Our players have got an enormous international experience and extreme loading: they played first at the European Championship U-17 and then at the World Cup. Considering that quite a large group of players took part in both international tournaments and that the UEFA Youth League has just finished, sports director of Russian Football Union Nikolai Pisarev and I took a decision to test the first reserve team in Saint-Petersburg," - the head coach of the team confessed.
Which means, appearingly, that neither Dzhamal Khodzhaniiazov nor Ramil Sheidaev will come on the field of the SCC. "This is being discussed," - Khomukha said inspiringly. From the other hand, the team of Russia invited the goalkeeper of the youth Zenit Maksim Rudakov, as well as forwards Aleksei Gasilin and Pavel Dolgov.
Vladimir Kazachenok, taking once again the position of Saint-Petersburg head coach, does not reveal any grievance against his young colleague for these invitations. Youth have to play as much as possible in this age, he says. "Their age is a threshold, when after a couple of months they will have to enter the elite professional football. Participation in Valentin Granatkin Memorial is another chance for them. Our team will be formed by the traditional principle, involving those who showed best performance at the city championship", - Vladimir Kazachenok underlined.
The tournament saw future first-magnitude world football stars playing in its frames in different years. Andreas Möller, Oliver Bierhoff, Carsten Jancker, Marcel Desailly, Igor Kolyvanov, Aleksandr Mostovoi. This year the opening ceremony featured the best scorer of the World Cup 1994 Oleg Salenko who also played at the tournament in olden times.
"We will try to preserve this tradition. I cannot declare the name of the player who will arrive to the SCC in the coming January - not yet. But it will be a world star," - promised Dmitrii Shneider. - "I believe his example will show to the young players that the soul of a veteran does not get older."
By the materials of the tournament informational partner
the Baltic Informational Agency