- Alexander Geynrikh celebrated with a selfie after scoring against Syria
- Uzbekistan forward wants to retire after playing at 2018 FIFA World Cup™
- His side currently third in World Cup qualifying Group A in Asia
Impudence? Cheekiness? Individuality? It is difficult to find an adjective to describe a footballer who, in one of his country’s biggest games in 2018 FIFA World Cup™ qualifying, takes a mobile phone from a photojournalist and snaps a selfie to celebrate a match-winning goal.
Uzbekistan's Alexander Geynrikh scores v Syria, celebrates with a selfie! pic.twitter.com/6oddn0Lahl
— #WCQ (@FIFAWorldCup) September 1, 2016
Whatever word you use to describe him, Alexander Geynrikh is one of his country’s most revered players, and rightly so. Aside from audacious goal celebrations, he is closing in on a century of caps for Uzbekistan, and is also approaching his nation’s all-time goalscoring record. Despite these impressive figures, the first question FIFA.com had to ask: was the celebration planned?
“No, it came out of the blue!” Geynrikh laughed. “One photojournalist (editor’s note: Nadirkhuja Yuldashev) offered me his phone to take a selfie and with those great emotions I took the photo there.”
— #WCQ (@FIFAWorldCup) September 1, 2016
There were instantaneous comparisons to Francesco Totti, who, around 18 months earlier, had celebrated an equaliser in the Rome derby with a selfie in front of the Curva Sud.
“I really like Totti, he’s a legend,” the Uzbek beamed. “I recently watched his last match and cried. I mean it, I cried watching him quit. I’m very pleased I celebrated a goal in his style.”
— AS Roma English (@ASRomaEN) May 25, 2015
Geynrikh will be hoping there are tears of joy at the end of Uzbekistan’s current World Cup qualifying campaign. Since independence from the Soviet Union in 1990, the White Wolves have yet to reach the global finals, despite some near-misses. With the side currently in third place in Group A, behind Korea Republic in the second automatic spot by a single point, the Uzbeks sense another opportunity. For the much-travelled Geynrikh, reaching Russia 2018 would represent a return to a country which holds fond memories for him – having won a Russian Premier League title with CSKA Moscow in 2003.
“I really want to go to Russia for the World Cup,” Geynrikh said. “I know what a World Cup is like, as I played in the U-20 World Cup in the UAE back in 2003. I really want to go to Russia 2018 and finish playing football there.”
Russian retirement plans
Going out on a high at the global finals would be a fitting way to end the 32-year-old’s much-journeyed playing career. Geynrikh’s club career has taken him from Uzbekistan to Moscow, from Korea Republic to the United Arab Emirates. He is currently plying his trade for FC Ordabasy in the Kazakh Premier League.
“When I went to Russia, I was very young and realised that it was a big business to play football there,” Geynrikh recalled. “Big league, big players, big money. I have to admit that it was not easy to be the member of the main squad. In UAE, it was technically, physically and culturally very different. It was very difficult in Korea at the beginning to adapt to the local facilities, lifestyle, meals and also training sessions. I think, Korea was the toughest stop in my career. As for Kazakhstan, I've been here for six years overall and I really like it because Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are very similar in many ways.”
To reach Russia again, where he began learning about the global game, Geynrikh and Uzbekistan will need to come through some tough tests in what remains of World Cup qualifying. Up next is a trip to Tehran to face group leaders Iran, before a journey to Marcello Lippi’s China PR and finishing with the big one: a game against Korea Republic.
“It’s too early to talk about this [game against Korea Republic],” Geynrikh said. “To talk about the home match against Korea as a decider for second place, we must earn points in Tehran and China. Then we can call it a decider. We will do our best to qualify automatically. For this, we have to beat our main rivals. Everything is in our hands and I am very positive about this.”
And if he scores in Tehran, China or in that game against the Taeguk Warriors, how will he celebrate?
“You will see it on TV,” Geynrikh smiled. “This will be a surprise for you.”