– Presently we have five branches – Nevsky Front, Zenit-Moskovsky, Zenit-Lesgafta, Zenit-Fakel, and Zenit-Inkon. Their coaches have been working with players in six age groups over the course of the year. We decided to hold the first championship tournament between branches of our academy. Besides the give branches we also invited the Lokomotiv and Kolomyagi schools to take part. We`ve signed contracts with these two schools on cooperation at preparing footballers. They`re also held under our yoke. Thus, together with the team of the head academy, which sent footballers who were one younger to take part in the tournament, there were eight teams altogether. The players born in 1999–2002 played with each other team in one round. There were interesting results in the youngest age groups. Kolomyagi won among teams with 2002 birthdays, while second place went to Zenit-Lesgafta – a team which was formed starting only from June of this year. Third place was taken by Zenit-Inkon from Kolpino. Kolomyagi also won the tournament of children with 2001 birthdays, while second place went to Zenit-Inkon, and third place went to Lokomotiv. The deciding matches are still left to be played in the older age groups, and the Academy Cup will be held on December 18.
– What can you say about the level of competition?
The coaches have done a lot of work in their teams over a rather short period of time. This work is clear on the field, and the boys are showing a quite good level of football. The matches are very emotional, and there are always fans watching. These are the parents and friends of the players. So the children can see how they`re being supported. The scouting department follows each match very carefully, and the footballers know that they are being watched by specialists who are looking for young stars. The players are noted by the scouts so as to be led further, and be invited to practices of the head academy. The main idea of the tournament between branches is to attract as many players as possible to matches, and then find the most talented among them. I can say already now that we have such footballers, and at all ages. And starting from the new year we`ll invite them to work at the head office.
– So you can say that establishing the Academy branches was justified?
– The unexpected results that I spoke about already allow us to recommend several players for the head team. But I think that there`s no point waiting for an instant result. This is still a gradual job, which will definitely bring results. The need to create braches is totally obvious. Such competitions were already held many years ago. At that time there were branches in each city district. The thing is that there are only 18 players in each team in the Academy, but there are many more capable players in the city. Now young players can play football near to their home, and don`t have to go so far to get to practice. All our coaches use the same methods, and improve their qualifications through internships and communication with colleagues from the Academy. Thus everybody is working in the same direction, and I think that`s right. And the boys who put on uniforms with the Zenit emblem feel they belong to a big club.
– What does a player have to do to catch the eye of the scouting department staff?
– Nobody is going to force the boys to go for victory no matter what at their age. That`s not acceptable. Any footballer who performs well on the field can grab our attention. That kind of player can even appear in the team that loses more often.