Our Dutch newcomer sat down with our press office ahead of facing Zenit. Gus was the main man last weekend, having scored the winning goal against Krylia Sovetov in stoppage time.
— You have scored your debut goal for Spartak and it was a memorable one. What did you feel in the moment?
— Everything at once. Netting a winner in such a tense game is always rewarding. Plus the win allowed us to catch up with league leaders.
— Some say it was not as much a good strike as it was the goalkeeper’s fault.
— Maybe he is to blame, in part. But a defender blocked his line of sight, he missed the moment I took the shot.
— Have you ever been lauded as much as you were after Samara?
— I have, when I scored vs PSV this May. These were most warm wishes from Ajax fans though, who thanked for the winner. Our 1:0 win basically ensured Ajaz won the league.
— How does it compare to your one and only cap for the national team?
— Well enough, the only difference is that I haven’t scored for the Dutch side.
— Based on your first couple of games, where you have already notched several assists, your next cap isn’t far away.
— I wouldn’t jump the gun. Let’s see how it goes.
— AZ have congratulated you on the debut goal for Spartak in their official social network accounts. That’s quite rare, for a club to do that. Can you say are a special player for AZ?
— I have spent my entire youth period there, 10 years. I’m their academy product.
— You have become their captain at such a young age too. Why do you think you were entrusted with the armband?
— Maybe that was the club’s way of showing that they value academy products, trust them. I became an example for others. My personal qualities told too. I enjoy a leadership position!
— Would you want to become a leader and captain at Spartak?
— It would be hard to achieve. First and foremost because of the language, I don’t know Russian yet. To become a leader in the true sense of the word I need to be able to communicate freely with all players.
— Was it hard, leaving Holland?
— Of course, I have never before switched clubs. All my relatives and friends stayed behind in Holland. But I took the plunge and I’m happy with that, I made the right choice. I’m happy to be here.
— Is Russian league’s level higher than Dutch’s?
— I have played very few games to jump to such conclusions. In Holland the type of game is based on technique more, here physique is more important. That’s all I can say for now.
— Five teams at once top the table right now. How’s that for competition?
— You also had a different champion the last fours seasons? That’s cool, supporters like this kind of thing. You never know how the table will look in May.
— Spartak won two emotional games on the bounce: against CSKA and in Samara. Did the mood in the camp improve after that?
— Of course, success always breeds confidence. The atmosphere at CSKA was unbelievable. I have never been part of such a game. Even at Feyenoord vs Ajax it’s more restrained. Maybe that’s down to the Dutch people, who are very serene overall.
— You have Zenit up next — another big game. What do you know about the team?
— I know it’s a team from Saint Petersburg, they have a big gas company as their flagship sponsor. I also know their striker Dzyuba. I also know they bought Malcom from Barca. I also know they have an unexpected suffered a loss during their last league match.
— Three years ago you were part of AZ squad which travelled to Saint Petersburg.
— Yes, we lost that game. I was on the bench, I was just being integrated into the first team.
— You lost quite heavily — 0:5…
— Really? I didn’t even remember the scoreline. It was during the group stages though and we met our goal of qualifying for the knockouts. We have beaten Zenit 3:2 at home, so no hard feelings. What I do want is to help my new team win. It’s going to be a tough game, an emotional one.
— Aleksandr Kokorin was one of the heroes back then, scoring a brace. Do you know what happened to him since?
— I know he got in a big fight.
— And now he is in jail.
— Didn’t know that.
— One can say you have a different profile: a smart player, with a good education. Why do you think it’s important for a player to develop as a person, not just as a footballer?
— For me, family comes first. I always knew you should have skills and abilities to help your relatives in the future. Not everyone is destined for a great football career. So it’s important to have a safety net, should you not reach the big heights in football. So I made a point of studying hard.
— What are you main hobbies?
— I like to play tennis… It’s mostly sports-based hobbies for me in the last couple of years.
— How do you spend your free time?
— With my friends, my girlfriend. I like to sit in the sun and enjoy a cup of coffee.
— Did you girlfriend move to Moscow already?
— No, because she’s studying in Copenhagen.
— How would you assess the start of your career at Spartak?
— I was warmly welcomed here. I’m here with how it took off. We hit it off in training, won a couple of games.
— Have you ever spent this much time flying as you did in the last two weeks?
— I haven’t. This was definitely a record. It was unusual to return home at 3 a.m. And I have had it easier than most: I haven’t played vs Thun and Braga, only trained with the team.
— Does this congested fixture list allow the team to bond?
— Yes, there are upsides to travelling this much. We get to know each other better, spend more time together.
— Anything stands out in Russian football for you?
— The stadiums I have seen are just marvelous. And the stands are mostly filled. I think the World Cup helped here. I did not think people in Russia love football this much. It was a pleasant surprise.
— Do you enjoy Moscow?
— Yes, I have already explored the city centre. It’s a nice place. Although the traffic jams drive you crazy. Hard to get used to it.
— You are staying at a hotel right now. Where are you planning to rent a place: here or closer to Tarasovka?
— That’s a hard question. If I have guests from Europe over, ideally you’d want live in the city, closer to the main attractions. On the other hand, spending a couple of hours on the road every day to reach the training ground is too much. It can negatively affect my performances. I also understand I don’t need an entire house, a small apartment will do.
— Did you talk to Quincy Promes before joining?
— We have barely exchanged a couple of phrases. I asked him whether Moscow was a good place to live in.
— What did he say?
— That I won’t regret my choice.
— How are Russian language skills coming along? Do you think you can master it?
— It will be hard. Russian differs greatly from the European languages. But I’ll do my best, I have learned a couple of things already: «how are you», «good», «thank you», «good morning», «good afternoon». I mainly use my driver as a lab rat. He’s my primary teacher right now.
— You were born in Zambia. The football there is based on athleticism and power. You could say these are your strong points. Your roots telling?
— Maybe! I can’t say Africa is in my blood, unlike my parents. Ma family left Zambia when I was three, so I don’t remember much. I liked my journey there last year, but my place of birth is mostly an interesting biographical fact, not much else.
— Not a fan of the national team then?
— I followed them through the AFCoN, but not beyond that.
— When are you relatives planning to visit you in Moscow?
— It’s not easy to get a Russian visa. I’ll visit my girlfriend in Copenhagen myself during the international break. My mom is here though. She’ll attend the game vs Zenit on Sunday. I’ll try not to disappoint her and the fans!