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Our team was considerably stronger

3 (2009)
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A legendary centre forward Victor Ponedelnik is convinced that in order to win European championships it is necessary to bring up actively young talents, who will later join the National team.

— The main football event of the year of 2008 was a final tournament of European championship in Austria and Switzerland. What is your opinion about it, Mr. Ponedelnik?

— The championship was perfectly prepared. All matches of our team I watched “alive”, the rest ones — on TV. Our team has gone a difficult way to leadership; however, it managed to catch a chance at the supreme moment. Though we divided the third and the fourth places with the Turkish, we played two matches on top level with the Swede and the Dutch.

— Did you manage to visit the Olympics in Beijing?

— No, I did not. I watched the games on TV. Of course, I remember the wins of our sportsmen. However, there was a deficiency in victories — they promised us more medals. In my opinion some Russian sportsmen showed good results in China due to the “safity margin’ gained in the Soviet Union. We are to change our training system as quick as possible! Look, what happened now. Many highqualitative coaches moved abroad and train successfully our competitors there. And our young tutors are not so experienced in comparison with them.

— Of course, you know what you are talking about. The USSR team won the Olympics in the year of 1956; however, you personally did not attend it. Was it disappointing?

— I was 19, and there was almost no chance to be promoted from “Rostselmash”, B class club, to the National team. And only in 1957, when at the end of the session I participated in the traditional tournament of the best second line players, the senior coach of the USSR team Gavriil Kachalin noticed me. Frankly speaking, it was almost the only case when the B class player was invited to the USSR team. I remember that before the World Championship in the year of 1958 at which Pele became a football star for the first time, I was at the two-month-team meeting in China. It was planned that I should go to the final match of the championship, but I hurt my knee in Ivanovo and did not go there.

— However, you joined the team when it won gold medal at Europe-60 championship.

— Oh, yes! The head of the USSR team Andrey Petrovich Starostin announced just after the triumph: «You even can’t imagine what you did for the country, its history and its future, having become the champions of Europe»!

— If you compare the team of the USSR-1960 and the team of Russia–2008, which one in your opinion is stronger?

— Interesting question… You know, my forward-mate Valentin Ivanov is telling everybody everywhere that our team was considerably stronger. I agree with him. And, believe me, it is not nostalgia. Let’s examine our team personnel. Every name is a personality, a genuine star. 6-7 people were the captains in their clubs, me, for example, was a captain of the Rostov SKA (sport team of army).

— There were enough stars in the European and World football in your times. Whom do you like most of all?

— Many of them can be named. I played against the Brazilians such as Pele, Vava, Didi, Garrinchi – great football players. The Germans were traditionally strong, only Bekkenbauer himself costed much.

— Who, do you think, can be compared with you in the present Russian team?

— Many times I heard that Roma Pavlyuchenko reminds a young me… I like a manner of Igor Akinfeev, Yuriy Zhirkov, Andrey Arshavin. I would like to mention also a center defenseman of TsSKA (center sport team of army) Sergey Ignashevich. Hiddink made his mind in a right time and in the end entered him into the final game at Euro–2008. Otherwise, I am sure, we would have lost the game. I am also impressed by Igor Denisov from St.-Petersburg and a quite young Alan Dzagoev from TsSKA. We should bring up young talents more actively, so that they will join the national team regularly. Only after that we will be able to achieve something considerable, for example, win European championship rather than take the thirdthe fourth places after two successful matches.

Legend shares its opinion about legend

«His credo is to keep feet ready for an action»

«There was hardly a case in the history of the Soviet football, when a player from a provincial team became a leader in the National team for a long time. Viktor Ponedelnik, a football player from the army command of the city of Rostov-on-Don, managed to do so. He merely combined a mastership of a bombardier and a charger. Victor headed excellently in, was impeccable in heating goals, and was in due time at a right place. Volume of his work on the field was not great; he preferred to direct all the energy only ahead, towards the gate of the opponent. He chose the shortest way through the center. You could hardly see him on the wings, considering, that lassitude is a bad assistant, when you score a goal. His credo was to keep feet ready for an action. Experts and spectators liked his outstanding athletic figure; it gave hopes for heavy possibilities of this centre forward. Ponedelnik justified these hopes many times. Just remember his headed goal that hit the gates of the Yugoslavian team during the overtime of the final match for the European Cup in 1960 in Paris. At that time this goal made the Soviet team the first honorable holder of the European prize.

He was the last large caliber «9», very pleasant to look at. It was more difficult to escape the guidance of the defensemen for him than for active and quick-moving forwards. However it was no need to secure him from the rough play of the opposite defensemen. He himself being a huge one inspired them a great honor…”

(From the book of N.P. Starostin «Stars of Great Football»)

Viktor Ponedelnik. Brief biography

He was born in the city of Rostov-on-Don in 1937. He is an Honored Master of Sports, European Champion of 1960, European Vice-Champion of 1964. Viktor Ponedelnik played for the teams of «Rostselmash», SKA (Rostov) and the USSR team. In 29 official matches he scored 21 goals in the National team of the USSR. Victor was awarded a gold medal «For Outstanding Sport Achievement». e is a corresponding member of the Academy of Art, a member of the board of the fellowcountrymen «Rostovites» association, Vice-president of Union of Football Veterans, an honorable worker of the «Rostselmash» plant.


Author: Konstantin Kukharenko