Interview of S.V. Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, to Channel One on 90th Anniversary of FC Spartak
Question: Sergey Victorovich, could you tell us about your fascination for Spartak? Have you ever been a fan of some other teams or this is your "once and for all team?"
S.V. Lavrov: I have never supported other teams. I naturally came to like Spartak. As boys, we, like many our peers, would kick the ball around and watch football on TV. I spent my early days in Norilsk. We lived on the outskirts and had a Spartak stadium nearby. That's why I naturally came to like that club. In summer, we would play football, in winter – hockey. That's how Spartak became my team. Even when Spartak had dropped out of the major league, I remained loyal to our club.
Spartak is more than just a team, just like football is more than just a game. It has a sort of spirit that to my mind shows the spirit of Russian people. Therefore, the fascination for that club came absolutely naturally to me.
Question: By the "spirit of people", do you mean the proverb "there is only one step from love to hatred"?
S.V. Lavrov: No. I mean a sort of rollicking style: when it has luck and the game "goes swimmingly", then nothing can stop Spartak. It really resembles some traits of Russian people. At the same time when the mood changes, then everything goes wrongly. I have never had doubts about my fascination for that club. Besides, this kind of fascinations does not follow from some deliberate decision. With me, it happened in an absolutely natural way. I just like this team and that's it.
Question: Do you think Spartak fans can see other "birds of their flock"?
S.V. Lavrov: I don't think so. If people are not wearing fan scarves, it is hard to figure out what team they support. I respect all my friends who support CSKA and Zenit. I love watching football games with other teams as well. Especially as many Russian football clubs feature graduates of the Spartak junior school as the leading players.
Question: Do you have "football talks" on the intergovernmental level with your colleagues? Can football fascinations affect interactions with foreign partners?
S.V. Lavrov: I would not put it this way. Football is discussed when our teams enter Euro Cups. Russian national team is playing the first match with the Polish team at the European Championship. My Polish colleague invited me to join the game that is scheduled on the 12th of June 2012. But this date falls on the Day of Russia so I guess I can't leave Moscow that day.
Question: Any friendly banters, jokes when Spartak plays with Ukrainian teams in Euro Cups?
S.V. Lavrov: There are much more friendly banters and jokes when Spartak plays with Zenit and CSKA. Many friends of mine support those clubs and we sometimes chaff each other.
Question: Now it looks like it is not about Spartak being a champion, but about a chance to keep on struggling in the League of Champions and rank second. Everyone we talked to - club members, fans, veterans, coach - equate the possible second place to defeat. Do you think this season is a failing one for Spartak or you do not turn to that kind of maximalism about it?
S.V. Lavrov: Spartak has set no goals but to rank first. However, not everything is up to the team. There are other candidates. This season makes it clear that at this stage Zenit is beyond competition. Of course, I would like Spartak to be the champion and enter the League of Champions as the first-place winner. But second place is also not that bad especially as the season is ambiguous. I wish our boys good luck. It is not the worst option for the 90th anniversary of FC Spartak.
Question: Do you divide Spartak's history in some periods? Which one do you like most of all?
S.V. Lavrov: I have very fond memories about the first Championships of Russia when Spartak was a hands-down winner for nearly ten years. And it was especially pleasant for me to know that it was Russian players who were the "backbones" of the team. Now there are much more legionaries and it is they who mostly set the tone, in Spartak as well. However, there are remarkable representatives of the Russian football.
I also have nostalgic memories of O.I. Romantsev's team when F.F.Cherenkov and Y.V.Gavrilov played. Several times, I had the pleasure and the good fortune to "kick" the ball around with them. Just a few days ago, we played with the Spartak veterans – Y.V.Gavrilov, O.I. Romantsev, Y.M. Kovtun, R.K.Nigmatullin and V.V. Kechinov. And I was lucky enough to be the one who scored a goal to R.K. Nigmatullin with the assistance from Y.V. Gavrilov.
Question: R.K. Nigmatulin seems to be the veteran of another team...
S.V. Lavrov: Nevertheless, we take him as Spartak-related as well.
Question: Thank you.
S.V. Lavrov: I congratulate all the fans, coaches and players of Spartak.