Aleksandr, how did your football career start?
I was sent to Dynamo football school in Barnaul back when I was seven years old. My parents wanted me to practice sports, and I choose football. You might say it was love at first sight, or first touch. I haven’t missed a single training session without a serious reason ever since.
Every achievement has its roots in the childhood. What did you dream about when you first started playing football?
I don’t think I had a big dream when I was a kid. I just didn’t want to leave the pitch. I didn’t let the ball go even at home. I learned new tricks in the living room. I hit the walls so hard my parents had to fix them quite often. Lamps were my frequent victims too. My friends and I used to watch the local senior team Dynamo and dreamed of reaching their level. I got even more motivated to train after I had been admitted to FC Lokomotiv academy in Moscow. I competed with stronger players of my age so I progressed much faster. I started thinking about a professional career and my future development.
Was this experience difficult for you? How hard was it to reach the top level of football?
My first days at Lokomotiv academy were quite hard as I was far from home, my family, and my friends. My parents could not afford flying over to Moscow often so I used to travel back to Barnaul only a few times a year during semester breaks. However, as time went by I became a part of the team. Many boys at the academy came from elsewhere. All of us lived in a boarding house so we talked outside the pitch as well.
Do you see football as an art? What would you compare the player’s work with?
If I’m not mistaken it was Ronaldinho who said ‘Football is a game, and all of us, no matter how old we are should remain children to play honestly’. It’s hard to compare football with any occupation. The only thing I know is to become a professional in any field one has to apply the maximum effort and love the profession.
What does playing at the World Cup at home mean to you?
It’s a great honour and a huge responsibility at the same time. It is most certainly a unique moment for any footballer. Nothing can be more inspiring than playing for the national team at the World Cup held in our country.
How ready is our national team for the World Cup? What are the goals of the team?
We have trained a lot for the tournament, and I’m sure it will pay off. The coaching staff analyses every player’s performance during the training sessions, and plans the work to bring each player to his maximum level. As far as results are concerned, I don’t like making forecasts. We have to be concentrated and aim for victory in our first match and keep moving forward.
You play for Russia’s top team — FC Zenit, an international squad with players from Argentina, Russia, Serbia, and other countries. How friendly is the team’s spirit?
It’saworkplaceatmosphere. Everyone does their best. No-one eases up on their partners no matter what nationality they are. We also talk outside the pitch. Sometimes we have family dinners. The Argentinians have learned a few words in Russian but still we speak mostly English with them. Those who have played in this country for several years speak the language quite well, Branislav Ivanovic for instance.
Youhaveplayedatmultipleclubsinyourcareer. How has your social circle changed recently? How hard is it to tell someone who is sincerely interested in talking to you from those who are around simply out a lucrative interest?
I’ve got good friends at all of the clubs I’ve played at. We often call and text each other; sometimes we meet during season breaks. I’ve got friends in Barnaul with whom I started playing football at Dynamo school. We’ve been friends for over two decades. I don’t remember ever being disappointed in a friend. I’ve been lucky to meet great people in my life.
How important is it to have the support of your friends and family in your day-to-day life? Could you please give an example of your friends supporting you when you needed it?
It is very important in fact. True friendship shines through in the darkest moments. However, my main supporter is my wife Veronika. We have been together for over 10 years. We have been through a lot. I love her and I’m also thankful to her for all the happy and not-so-happy times we’ve been through. I’d like to tell a positive story. On my birthday Nika brought together our parents and old friends, and each one of them made a short video with congratulations. Those to amounted to 30 minutes of footage. The videos were made in different parts of Russia and other countries. It was amazing and heart-warming!
What clothing style do you prefer? Who takes care of your wardrobe?
Veronika advises me on what to wear for different occasions. She hints on what I should buy at clothing shops. My usual style is casual or athletic both of which are comfortable for me. I love trainers, I wear them more often than any other type of shoes. Of course, if we attend a gala or an official event I wear classical suits. I’m not really passionate about brands, I just don’t think it’s an important factor when it comes to choosing clothes. If a T-shirt made by an unknown brand fits me I’ll pick it over a trendy branded item.
Not too long ago your son Fedor was born. What did it feel like to become a father?
I was ecstatic! I absolutely love spending time with Nika and little Fedya. Being a parent of the first child is a very emotional experience. We are learning to live a new life and take care of our child. Waking up to seeing him smile to his mom and dad gives me power.
Has your fatherhood affected your athletic performance?
I’ve always taken football very seriously so I can’t say I got any less concentrated. However, I was really happy to see Veronika and Fedya at the stadium for the first time. I scored a goal during that match. I believe my son brought my team luck.
What do you usually do at home? How do you like spending your leisure time?
Almost all of our spare time is dedicated to the child. We go outside, play, read books, and teach him. Veronika and I find time for one another to walk or have dinner. However, the season schedule doesn’t allow for much spare time. On tours I usually read books and watch films. The latest book I’ve read is ‘Relentless’, a study by an NBA coach on what makes an athlete great.
Charity and social projects are a positive modern-day trend. You arrange a children’s tournament in your hometown of Barnaul. How can it help little footballers become professionals?
Aleksandr Erokhin Cup in Barnaul is a great school of football and life in general. There are boys from all over Russia and some foreign countries who come to take part in the competition, make friends, play football and experience real emotions. A competitive spirit is very important for the development of young footballers. Lastly, everyone loves winning trophies. I remember all of the tournaments I took part in back when I was a kid and all of the emotions I felt.
Uruguayan singer and actress Natalia Oreiro who recorded an unofficial anthem of this year’s World Cup called you the sexiest player of the national team. What do you feel about this?
My friends and teammates have already joked about this. I appreciate it but I don’t take it seriously. I am concentrated on the World Cup.