Double Olympic medallist, legend of the Kazan water polo, Irek Zinnurov, together with his former teammates decided to take part in the domestic FINA World Masters Championships. The distinguished Masters athletes make the USSR Tatarstan team and have already won two matches of the tournament.
– Irek, you are director of the water polo tournament and a participant as well. Why not watch the others play?
– Speaking about the Masters tournament, for me it is, first of all, communication with friends whom I have not seen long. We all enjoy it here. As for my participation, USSR team offered an idea to join the Tatarstan athletes. That’s why we have such a team’s name. Ambitions? I won’t deny that we want medals of the tournament, hopefully, gold (smiles).
– According to the first two matches, the goal is possible to come true. Isn’t it boring to play against amateurs?
– Not at all. Amateurs may sometimes punish professionals. In the second game our team underestimated the opponent and could hardly be beaten in the first quarter. The score 1-1 did not reflect the difference in class of the teams. You say we’re a team of professionals, but we are not an exception in this tournament. For example, our first rival, Bobry (Beavers) team, invited Sergey Garbuzov who just finished his international performance. Two more strong players have joined them these days, so they deserve to be considered as a rival. The struggle for the trophy in the tournament has just started.
– You have a collection of medals for many tournaments and of different value. Why do you need the Masters gold?
– Every time you come up to the start line, you want to win, no matter what tournament it is, what’s more, we’re participating in the World Masters Championships. As I said earlier, we have ‘Tatarstan’ in the name, so we cannot set other goals, but victory.
– I do not see Andrey Belofastov and Marat Zakirov, who are well known with the Kazan Sintez WPC fans, on the roster of your team though they have been applied. The first one is training the youth team of the country, what is the reason for the second to miss the tournament?
– The same. Russia’s Championships kicks off too early, and he is busy training his club for the season as he is Coach of the Moscow Dynamo WPC. If these two strong athletes had been on our team, it would have been much easier for us to play. We have just two bench players. It’s not much.
– Speaking of your team, when was the last time all of you were playing together?
– As for the USSR Tatarstan team pretty long time it’s been competing at the Masters tournament. We’ve got victories, we’ve got losses during our history of constant participation. Once I’ve retired from the sport I travelled to Australian tournament with this team where we grabbed silver which practically could have been gold.
– Nikolay Maksimov, your teammate is not going to hold back playing with the amateurs, what about you?
– We are the professional and professionals never hold back. Our goal is a complete victory every time and everywhere. It definitely taught us something.
– Can you imagine to swim in one swimming pool together with real Irek Zinnurov who has been seen only on TV before can be a life-time dream for some people?
– You are exaggerating (laughs). The Masters tournament first of all is about fun and joy not about seeing the former athletes to compete. I meant the entire environment is absolutely different. For example pushing someone during the World Championships seems to be a pretty normal thing, whereas at the Masters Tournament the first thing you do is to apologize.
– Being the head of this tournament do you expect any kind of advantages at these Championships?
– No, no way! Nothing like this is about to happen at the Masters tournament! Everyone competing here is determined to claim nothing but gold, especially Russian teams. Why do you think they still want professional players like Segey Garbuzov for example to take part in the Masters tournament?!
– Do you remember us talking about Viacheslav Fetisov, about his amazing comeback to CSKA hockey matches after a 10-year-break? Have you thought about your comeback to the professional sport?
– I’ve been playing water polo from time to time but not during the official games. I would like to be like Buric one day. He’s been postponing the day of his retirement from sport only because he really wanted to play together with his son at least one match. We’ll see, it all depends on my health condition. On the other hand I am coaching the young athletes who compete at Russian Championships. I guess I’m going to think over your suggestion from different perspectives. I believe a senior mentor alongside the youngsters in one swimming pool will be only in their favor.
Press Office of Organising Committee for 16th FINA World Championships