Author: Sanan SHAFIZADE
During my 17 years as a journalist, I often wrote about Igor Ponomarev. And I enjoyed this. After all, nothing could be more wonderful than communicating with the idol of my childhood. It is no secret that Igor Ponomarev is one of the most outstanding personalities of Azerbaijani and Soviet football. Everyone somehow interested in football since the late 1970s remembers Ponomarev well. He was a master of assists and an excellent penalty shooter. When an 11-meter free kick was awarded to the opponent’s goal, everyone would leave the space open, because the penalty was something only Ponomarev could do better.
Now the outstanding football player turned 60 years old - Igor Ponomarev was born on February 24, 1960 in Baku. On this occasion, we decided to talk with the hero of the day, who at the time of our conversation was in Spain.
"How do you feel at 60?"
"I feel young, beautiful, full of strength, energy, in a great mood. In a fighting mood actually."
"Is it easy to be outside the football industry. Do you feel better now?"
"It depends. Sometimes I want to live a football life, the one which I can do, which is close to me in spirit and where I can give a lot as a trainer and teacher. I still have a lot of coaching potential and experience. Sometimes I think why I need all these nerves and intrigues. Sometimes I don’t know which one is better."
"You said that you have business in Spain. In which sector?"
"In real estate."
"A successful football player can also be successful in business?"
"It all depends on your personal qualities. And you must be lucky, of course."
"What does Azerbaijani football look like from the outside?"
"Unfortunately, I can’t say anything good. The last time I worked with Khazar-Lankaran FC back in 2009. After ten years when I came back to help Sabah FC, it seemed that I was back at the 2009 championship. It seems that these were not ten years. I didn’t see anything new. It’s 2020, but the level is the same."
"Could you show yourself as a coach?"
“I think not. Although I had and have all the prerequisites for this. I made a mistake in my coaching career, at some point I decided to work only in Azerbaijan, I looked too narrowly, only one way. My loyalty to Azerbaijani football failed. I thought where I was born, and it came in handy there. But in my case, this turned out to be wrong - neither side won. I could be of use. And he would have developed, and under my leadership, good players would have grown. I am sure about that.
"AFFA continues the search for the head coach for the national team. Would you agree to the proposal, if any?"
“No one will make me such a proposal. When I was the head coach of the national team, I did not even have good experience, but I did not fail, which means I still have something to present. After so many years, my work is appreciated by people who love football, which is very nice to know.”
"Can you reveal the secret of success on the field of the invincible three - Javadov-Ponomarev-Ahmedov?"
"We felt each other. I could shoot the ball to a certain point, knowing that there either Javadov or Ahmedov are there. We trusted each other, did one thing and did it in the best way we could."
"What are the problems of modern Azerbaijani football?"
"Today we have much better conditions for the development of youth football. I mean good fields, football academies at clubs. Children have an interest in playing football, and every child dreams of becoming a new Messi. We have good conditions created for the development of youth football. However, it’s a shame that the Premier League is very small with 8 teams only. This is not enough for sure. Young people have fewer opportunities. Young people who need to play already do not have enough places in the teams. 50% of the teams are legionnaires. I am by no means against them; on the contrary, it is a healthy competition that should take place. But in the transition from youth to adult football, we are losing promising guys."
"Do you agree that your son’s (Anatoly) career isn’t as successful as yours?"
"My son does not look like a father, and that’s a good thing. I think everyone should be an individual. I am a man of my time, he is a completely different person; we even grew up in different countries, which means we have been shaped in different ways. He became the bronze medalist of the Swedish championship. He played for the national team of Azerbaijan and in many foreign clubs. I do not consider his football career a failure. I think that he received from football absolutely what he wanted."
"You were a master of penalties. According to eyewitnesses, when you approached the ball, the goalkeepers were more worried than ever. Can you reveal the secret of your shoots?"
"It’s difficult to describe. It’s probably about composure and your style. I was confident and never nervous before the shoot. I would say there are three main components of a perfect shoot: confidence, calmness and composure."
“Garabagh FC’s entry to the group stage of the Champions League is considered the greatest success of local football. Is it the maximum we can reach, or can we achieve more in Europe’s most prestigious club tournament?”
“Apparently, today it is the top level we can hit. Karabakh has no rival and are the best in the championship of Azerbaijan. When we have several stable teams of this level, then there will be competition and development, then we can achieve great results.”
"Can you share your thoughts and wishes for fans of Azerbaijani football?"
"Thank God, I was lucky: the stadiums were always filled with fans. The atmosphere during the game gives a certain mood to the players, a sense of responsibility, adrenaline rises, and as a football player you want to make the game a holiday for the fans. And so I want to encourage people to go to football. Parents, take your children, go with families, get together with friends - this is such a wonderful feeling, I promise you, you will get a whole bunch of emotions and a boost of energy. And in conclusion, I wish everyone good health and good holidays!"