Hosts on cloud nine after magical tournament

  • RFU players elated after home World Cup win

  • Boris Nikonorov dedicates victory to father who told him to “dream big”

  • Coach Mikhail Likhachev considers third crown to be most difficult

After RFU lifted the Beach Soccer World Cup for a third time, the feeling among the home team was understandably one of ecstasy, brought about by claiming the sport’s number one prize on home sand. caught up with some very tired but joyful RFU players as they explained in their own words how they secured victory.

Boris Nikonorov, forward

“I'll tell you a story that nobody else knows. I’m from a small town with a population of 2,000 people. When I was six or seven years old, there was an event for children at the local community centre. The kids were asked about their dreams. They asked the boy in front of me what he dreams of, and he replied ‘teddy bears’. They came to me next and I had nothing else better to say, so I repeated his answer. Everyone chuckled, and afterwards my dad told me: ‘You need to dream big, like becoming a world champion.’ My father has forgotten about that story, but I remember it as if it were yesterday, even though it was 25 years ago. And now, I can say: ‘Dad, I’m a world champion. I love you. This win is for you!’ I’d always wanted to play for my country, and that dream became a reality back in 2016. I was in the squad for the 2017 World Cup qualifiers, but we were the first Russian team in 10 years not to qualify for the sport’s showpiece event. It was a bitter pill to swallow, but I learnt more from that defeat than I have from any win. It was really tough playing at a home World Cup, but when I saw the other teams in action, that’s when I believed we could do it. We didn’t start too well, blew hot and cold for a while, but in the end, we overcame every obstacle. We’ve developed as a team, as well as individually, during the tournament. There’s nothing better in beach soccer than taking the title in your own backyard. Although winning abroad is amazing, doing it at home is out of this world! I honestly don’t know what my next target is.”

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - AUGUST 29: Fedor Zemskov of Football Union of Russia celebrates following his team's victory in the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2021 Final match between Football Union of Russia and Japan at Luzhniki Beach Soccer Stadium on August 29, 2021 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Octavio Passos - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

BSWC 2021 | Match Highlights | RFU v Japan 5-2

29 Aug 2021

Anton Shkarin, RFU captain

“I still can’t quite believe we came out on top. It just feels like a routine win; it usually takes five or six days to comprehend what you’ve achieved. I poured all my emotions into the semi-final against Switzerland. That was the most difficult game. After we won that one, we knew nobody could stop us, not even Japan.”

Mikhail Likhachev, RFU coach

“I’m incredibly tired, but I’m so happy. This is our third world crown. The first one was 10 years ago, and it was bit like having your first child. Our second triumph at Tahiti 2013 was very tough, but this one has to be the most difficult. I’m immensely proud of the team; they’ve come a long way and put in a colossal amount of work. The most important thing at these tournaments is to improve every game. That’s what we managed to do. After that really hard opening match against USA, we’ve played better and better. I think we deserved to win.”

Fedor Zemskov, RFU striker

“Everything has gone according to plan, so perhaps it was written in the stars. Just look at what happened in the quarter-final when three of our players picked up suspensions and we had to put our third-choice goalkeeper on the bench for the semi-final, who then comes on for the penalty shoot-out and is the hero! It’s a miracle. And today, Yury Krasheninnikov, who picked up quite a serious knock in the group stages, comes on, beats four Japanese players and pokes the ball home! Just unbelievable!”