We can only make guesses about the line-up of the national team for these games. However, there are no doubts about the keeper: Stanislav Cherchesov said numerous times that he fully trusted Igor Akinfeev.
As for the substitute keeper of this CSKA player — there is no certainty here. One of the candidates is Alexander Selikhov, who shows decent performance as a member of FC Spartak Moscow. Unlike his colleagues Andrey Lunev and Vladimir Gabulov, Selikhov did not play for the national team yet. He was summoned to the national team only for the second time in his career. Alexander told the correspondents of RG about his way to success.
— You were summoned to Russia’s national team again. Do you think that you deserved it?
— It was the coach’s decision. I am personally very happy, because it is what I wanted to achieve, it was my dream. Cherchesov let everyone know that Akinfeev is number one in the national team.
— So, you are going to exit to the field only in case of some emergency…
— I don’t really think about it. My goal is to train and to show my level. The rest depends on the head coach and the circumstances. Sometimes people get injured, there are also some other moments. I have no problems in this aspect: Akinfeev is stronger, so he is the one who plays.
— Is it possible to break through to the first team being behind his broad back?
— Of course it is hard, but there are no irreplaceable people: someone might replace him one day.
— Once you said that you admired Igor’s mental stability…
— Yes, I would be happy to have this level of mental stability and his experience. He participated in many tournaments, so he doesn’t feel pressure during all the decisive games. He is absolutely calm, look at how great he plays during the whole season.
— By the way, do you know him, are you in touch with him?
— We had a funny story. After we lost to CSKA this August I asked Akinfeev to give me his t-shirt. He said: ‘Alright, they will give it to you in a moment’. But nobody did. This December I met him at our stadium before the game, he said: ‘Hi, Sanya! I remember about the t-shirt, I’ll give it to you after the game’. The administrator of CSKA really gave it to me after the match. I was very surprised. I think this shows Igor’s character.
— Are you collecting t-shirts? Which of them are most precious to you?
— I think that Akinfeev’s t-shirt might be the most valuable one. I have t-shirts of Firmino from FC Liverpool, Rico (FC Sevilla’s keeper). I ask t-shirts of the players I like. I only have about 50 of them.
— Have you got any unusual, exclusive t-shirts?
— I don’t even know. I have a t-shirt of Martin Jakubko from the national team of Slovakia. He was my teammate when I played for FC Amkar.
Cherchesov didn’t change
- You got acquainted with the head coach of the national team Stanislav Cherchesov when he was FC Amkar’s coach…
— I can say that life brings us together all of the time. His son Stas was born the same year that I was born. We’ve been together in Spartak and Amkar. When Stanislav Salamovich joined the club, he brought some order. The training sessions were intense but interesting. I personally liked working during that period.
— How did your meeting with the national team go?
— When I was summoned for the first time, I met the keepers’ coach Gintaras Stauce, a member of Cherchesov’s coaching staff, in the locker room. ‘Well’, — he said. — ‘You didn’t know we would meet like this, did you?’
- What about you?
- I told him ‘I didn’t think that we would meet at all!’
— Has Cherchesov changed compared to his work with Amkar?
— There must be some changes in the training process, but he is the same man I knew. I think it’s for the best.
— Let’s discuss Spartak business. Is it possible to catch up with Lokomotiv?
— It will be very hard. We don’t have another game against Lokomotiv, so now we need to wait for them to make mistakes. Of course, we should not forget about our performance as well.
— Last year you yourselves were on Loko’s place. What is easier psychologically — to lead or to catch up?
— When you are in the lead, you have the right to make a mistake. Now the tournament table is dense, we all are about one point behind each other. If you end your games with draws, you cannot join the top 3. We will fight until the end.
— Which team do you think is the main rival of your team during this season?
— CSKA shows good performance and FC Krasnodar is a solid team.
— Zenit seems to be falling back …
— I do not want to make any guesses.
— You were eliminated from the Europa League very soon, but CSKA is still fighting. Does it mean that you have some advantage in terms of freshness and physical preparedness?
- I do not know. Maybe they really have to deal with some fatigue from the flights and the games. Maybe it will affect them. But I’d prefer participating in the European cups. Europe is Europe after all.
— Are you rooting for any Russian clubs that participate in European cups?
— I always support Russian clubs, since I am Russian. If we are eliminated then they should win. It helps us. I am not talking about Spartak, I am talking about the country.
— Do you agree that Spartak was not totally ready for the Champions League?
— We showed good performance during the tournament and we were able to feel its level. It was valuable experience. I hope next time we will play better.
— Which advantages does this experience give you?
— Well, take FC Liverpool for example: it is not like playing against Zenit or CSKA, the level is different. We need to act, move and think faster.
— Do you remember your debut against Liverpool? Were your legs shaking back then?
— To tell you the truth, it felt like it was a dream of some sort. There wasn’t much time to feel scared. I can tell you about a funny moment: when they understood that Artyom Rebrov was injured and was not going to play the rest of the game, they told me to prepare. A protector on my left leg didn’t want to tighten. I put my sock on and it fell off. I tried again and it fell off again. Then I saw Gianluca Riommi, the keepers’ coach, looking at me. I started thinking: ‘What if he thinks that I am shivering from nerves?’ It was a funny thought, so I looked at Gianluca as if telling him ‘It’s okay, no fear’. All in all, there wasn’t time to feel scared.
I swam away from the crocodiles and ran away from the tigers
— All in all, it feels like you are completely calm when you are defending Spartak’s goal. You look rock solid…
— I do not know, maybe I just had enough such situations on the field and in my life. My debut in Amkar happened during the game against FC Rostov, which was pretty solid. As Sychev, Amkar’s keepers’ coach, told me: ‘You swam away from the crocodiles and ran away from tigers’. I guess there are some people like me: the harder the situation is the better results they show.
— Do you agree that a keeper is like half of the team?
— Well, yes.
— Do you mean that you feel it?
— I really did not feel it during the game against SKA Khabarovsk (Spartak performed 39 goal attempts and Khabarovsk players performed none. — RG’s note). I was anxious and this feeling was stronger than at Anfield. I thought that we were going to attack during the whole game and in the end we will miss a goal suddenly. It almost happened by the way. Samedov helped me: our veteran had to run. Such games are very hard to play. You lose about three kilos because of having to keep your concentration and trying not to get frozen.
— Some people say clichés about keepers being special people. Don’t they make any such remarks about you?
— They do it all the time. I don’t think I’m special though. I am a calm and adequate person. Well, of course there are strange keepers who do silly things.
— What do you mean?
— Well, their life philosophy is strange. I saw them in social media and read their interviews.
— Do you read the press, including the stuff they write about you? Doesn’t it make you upset?
— I don’t really care about it, but my father does. When he visits me or when I come to Oryol, he opens his laptop in the morning and reads the news aloud to me like ‘this guy said this and that guy said that’. I’m trying to fight it, but this is how he lives. He knows everything about the news and the transfers. He also monitors all the websites.
I like it when people choose the direct approach
— When you transferred to Spartak, there were many negative comments about the head coach, Massimo Carrera, who supposedly did not need you. You spent a long time on the bench after that, but despite all that you are the main keeper of Spartak at the moment. Do you feel happy because you endured it all?
— To tell you the truth — yes, I do. I tried to avoid thinking about this situation. There were some bad moments, time after time I felt anxious. But it was my fault: they gave me a chance that I didn’t use.
— What can you say about your relationship with Carrera? Some people still say that he is still biased against you.
— No, he is not. I talked to him a while ago, when all these rumors about weight started. It was a silly thing, really. I had the weight that I was supposed to have, but they recommended me to lose more during the training camp. I was late, yes, but not for coach’s instruction. I missed dinner because I overslept. I only was two minutes late. That was it. When it all started, I posted a picture ‘Losing weight for Spartak’ as a joke. Massimo saw this picture and offered me to talk to him. It was a good conversation. I like it when people choose direct approach, because there is always a possibility to come to some agreement. Maybe my mistake was not talking to the coach when I transferred, not asking him to meet my agent and I. I also heard, though, that Alenichev wanted to see me. You can only make the coach respect you through the things you do. I hope I managed to do it.
— Have you changed during the time you spent with Spartak?
— Here’s what I can say: many people think that I did. People keep calling and texting me saying: ‘give/lend me some money’, ‘let’s start a business’ and so on. I changed for these people. They think I became arrogant. Nobody needed me before, and nobody helped me when I gathered empty bottles in Oryol. There are close people who accompany me in my life. I didn’t change for them. Well, people say that if you want to keep your friends, you should not lend them money. Of course I don’t mind giving people money if they have health problems, but paying for their cars, their business and so on is not good.
Spartak has its own ‘Big bosses’
— There was a video in the internet where you kicked the ball into the wall over the railway. Are you still doing such silly things?
— I can, yes. It was when I was a member of Amkar and lived in Sokolniki. We took the underground to go to some sports shop. I bought a ball. I was kicking it while I was walking, so I thought ‘what if I kick it into the wall?’
— Didn’t they detain you for disruptive behavior?
— No, they didn’t, everything was fine.
— You always felt at ease with the ball. During your time with Amkar you even performed penalties and had some corner kick training…
— I just know where to shoot to make it difficult for the keeper. As for the penalties — no, it’s no use in Spartak. We have Ferni (Fernando — RG’s note) to do it.
— Haven’t you tried having a competition with him after a training session?
— I tried, but I don’t do it anymore. I could do it in Amkar, I had some time to spend on silly things during training sessions and camps. It’s not like this here: there are ‘Big bosses’ here.
— Which players do you mean?
— Fernando, Promes, Samedov, Kombarov, Dzhikiya is good too, but he needs to perform long shots. He scored so many penalties in Amkar.
I’m watching football matches in silence
— There is another video in the Internet: you are a child who sits before the TV screaming Spartak’s chants. Didn’t you have a desire to go to the fan sector? Some players do it time after time…
— Maybe I’ll do it once as some support action, but I really like when it is quiet and calm.
— The players manage to become one with the fan community, if they do it…
— It is understandable, but you have to become one with the team on the field. The fans are rooting for us, so we need to make them happy. Then the relationship with the fan community is good.
— Are you one with the fans? They already shout your name from the tribunes...
— If five years ago a person said that they would sing my name at Spartak’s stadium, I’d reply: ‘Come on, wake up!’ (smiles) Of course I’m very happy because of it, it’s the best thing that happened to me.
— Do you reply your fans in social media, like in Instagram?
— I replied before, talked to them. I don’t do it anymore, because I understood that people are different. Modest people just congratulate me with a victory and I reply ‘thank you’. Other people can write ‘give me your t-shirt’. No politeness, just nothing. That’s why I only reply to those people I know personally. I mean my friends.
I became a goalkeeper instantly
— You said that you decided at once that you were going to become a keeper. How did it happen?
— When you are a child you always look up to adults and see how they play, what they do. Girls also came to see the games and it was interesting, too. But if you want to play with adults, there is only one option: you have to guard the goal. That’s why I did it. Of course later, when I joined the training group, I told people to guard the goal myself (smiles). I have a second cousin (from my mother’s side). Once his mother called my mother and said that they could help me join a special sports class in Oryol. When my father brought me there from our village Naryshkino, I was crying, saying that I did not want to go. They asked me where I want to play and I said that I was a field player. However, my father approached the coach after the second practice and said: ‘He is a keeper’.
— According to your interviews you father seemed to have firm belief in your success as a football player. Why was he so confident? Didn’t you ask him?
— We never really discussed this, but yes, he gave it his all. He was the one who bought me my first gloves, he paid for the tournaments and accompanied me to the games, gave me lectures.
— We know that you were 12 when you joined Spartak for the first time, but then you got dismissed because of some reasons that were out of your control. When was moving to Moscow harder: when you were a kid or now, when you are a grown man?
— It was harder when I was a little boy. I didn’t know anything, I didn’t know how to deal with people. There were boys from Moscow and we had some battles. I remember about it now and laugh because of how silly we were. We called each other names and even had fights.
— Haven’t people treated you as an intruder?
— They did sometimes, but Spartak had many people from other cities, so there was no division on Moscow players and others.
— You could not join Spartak, so you joined Zenit. How did it happen? Your father is a great fan of the red-and-white team after all.
— Well, what else should I have done if they did not need me? In addition, it didn’t happen in an instant. After they dismissed me, I traveled around Moscow. I tried to join FC Saturn from Egorievsk.
— Haven’t you received any invitations?
— They sent me to medical examination in Saturn, but I didn’t qualify because of some silly thing. I had some problems with my heart. I had them before, so they said that I could play for only half a year, if my father agreed to take the responsibility.
— What happened next?
— I came to FC Rubin, but it was like hell. I didn’t like it at all.
— The conditions there are not good: there was no place to live. Anyway, they didn’t want me as well. Of course, the situation is different there now. Then I tried to join FC Chertanovo. I participated in two training sessions. They offered me to stay, but I didn’t want to.
I was a bit crazy during the time I spent with Zenit
— Why did Zenit send you an invitation?
— My father’s friend lived in St. Petersburg. He offered me to join a football school there called Smena. Everything about it was complicated as well. The management changed, the name changed too, so they sent me home at first. 2-3 months later, when Zenit’s academy opened, they asked me to join them. I spent another year in Oryol, because they asked me to participate in the tournament of Russia’s regional teams. Only after that I joined FC Zenit.
— What felt better: being with Spartak or Zenit?
— I was in such an age in St. Petersburg when you want something else, not only football. I got a bit crazy. That was why they made me leave, I guess. Well, as they say — everything that happens, happens for good.
— Were you missing classes?
— Yes. I started partying. They once called me to a night club and I got lost. I spent every Friday, Saturday and Sunday there.
— How did your father feel about it? He put so much effort into you after all…
— My father had some health problems. We were low on cash, too. He couldn’t talk back then, so he called me and I told him about how I was doing. I’m very ashamed now that I lied to him. I said: ‘Yes, I go to school, everything is OK’. My lies didn’t end there. They gave me a chance to make amends in Zenit: I came from one school to another. Then they said that they got tired of me, so they asked me to leave. I called my father and said: ‘Dad, I’m going to drop out, because I’m too tired’. I told him I was going to play in the second league, said some nonsense. My father called Zenit and they told him everything about the real situation.
— What happened next?
— I visited the hospital and it was incredibly hard. I don’t even want to remember. My father cried, I cried. We thought that this was the end. My grandmother was there too, she keeps remembering that situation.
I haven’t been able to learn English yet
— Once you said that your father was a driver and your mother was a saleswoman. Usually when players start earning good money, they pay for their parents’ expenses…
— It’s true for our family, too.
— Have they agreed to leave work at once?
— Sometimes mom replaces other salespersons, if they ask her. When my father had some problems with fixed route taxis, I said: ‘Come on, stop it’. He’s caring for my brother now, keeping track of his studies and his driving training.
— Do you feel some gaps in your knowledge because of missing school?
— Yes. Here’s what you should write: everyone should go to school to get some knowledge. Knowledge is always useful. I’m older now; maybe my brains are OK now. Well, I’m not completely sure (smiles).
— When do you feel the lack of knowledge? Football players mostly train, play and talk to each other.
— Yes, I do, in Europe for instance. I like traveling, looking at other countries. There are smart football players, you know.
— What can you say about Spartak? Who is the smartest guy?
— I guess that Tyoma Rebrov is the smartest Spartak player.
— Who else is smart?
— Kombarov, Glushakov.
— You said that you took an English-Russian dictionary with you to the training camp. Were you able to learn the language?
— No, I wasn’t, I didn’t even open the book (smiles). I’m too lazy. I know some common phrases, some football terms. I can buy a can of soda, for example.
— You can enroll to some language courses, there are a lot of opportunities…
— That’s right. But when I come home at 16 o’clock after a training session, I feel so lazy. I’m too lazy to even open a book. A while ago I started reading one book, read one page, but we had to leave Bilbao and I left the book there.
— What was the title of the book?
— ‘I Will and I Can’. It is about psychology.
— So, are you interested in psychology?
— Yes, I want to know how it all works. I’m also interested in history.
I’d love to build training grounds in Oryol
— The mass media of Oryol published a worried article about the work of the local trade center being paralyzed because of the crowd that gathered at your autograph session. Are you a celebrity in Oryol?
— To tell you the truth, I didn’t expect it to be like that. When I entered the trade center, I was shocked. People sometimes ask me to give an autograph for their son or something like that. That was why I organized that autograph session: I wanted to bring them all together. I felt sorry for that corner, because the saleswomen were just standing there and looking at people shouting, everything falling, at all that fuss (smiles).
— What about Moscow?
— They know me here too, but I’m trying to avoid being noticeable.
— Do you drive a car?
— I do, but I use the underground sometimes because of traffic jams.
— You started your career in FC Oryol. It wasn’t the best period of your life. You kept saying that the club didn’t let you go to Amkar and got in the way. Do you follow the fate of your home team?
— I visited their website recently. They are looking for a sponsor. As far as I understand, the authorities of the region don’t want to give them money. Maybe they give money for the KFK (Russia’s amateur football league — RG’s note).
— Haven’t they tried to ask you for help?
— What if they do?
— It depends on the people who are going to ask. There are many people whom I can’t stand.
— It must be those you had to deal with yourself. Are they still members of the club?
— I don’t know the current management. There are many people I’d like to stay away from.
— Do you feel that people started listening to you more now, when you became a famous player?
— I do not know. I like my own company. I want to build training grounds myself. I don’t know when, but I hope it will be the nearest future. It will be a small field, because the big one is too expensive. I want kids to train there. I just do not want them to name it after me, because it is not for advertisement. They asked me to use my name in some tournament recently.
— In Oryol?
— Yes. I am always willing to help kids, but I do not want people to start saying ‘Selikhov this, Selikhov that’. That’s why my training grounds will be called ‘Oryol training grounds for children’.
— You admitted that one day you came to some hair salon and showed them a photograph of your idol, ex-keeper of Spartak Stipe Pletikosa. Which photograph do you carry now?
— I carry my own photograph. I just chose the one where I look good (smiles). It’s hard to explain something to the barber using all of these terms, so I show them photographs.
Alexander Alexandrovich Selikhov
He was born on April 7, 1994 in Naryshkino village, Oryol region. This player started out in the team of Youth Athletic Center No. 3 (Oryol). He was a member of the following clubs: Spartak (2006-2008, 2017 – present time), Zenit (2009-2010), Oryol (2011-2014), Amkar (2013-2016).
In August of 2017 he joined the extended line-up of the national team of Russia for the first time to participate in the training camp in Novogorsk.
He is a champion of Russia (2016/17) and the winner of Russia’s Super Cup (2017).