While on the face of it, musicians and footballers do not have that much in common, but the two professions do share one obvious trait. "I love performing in front of an audience more than anything else," said footballer-turned-DJ Ruslan Nigmatullin. "My career in football always gave me that opportunity, but now I've got my own audience and I love working in front of them."
The Kazan native is no stranger to performing in front of massive crowds. In his playing days, the former goalkeeper turned out for KAMAZ Naberezhnye Chelny, Spartak Moscow, Lokomotiv Moscow and Italian clubs Hellas Verona and Salernitana. He was also picked as Russia's No1 for the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™. After calling time on his career in 2009, he discovered a new talent and is now a successful DJ playing throughout Russia and abroad.
"I understand that this is a totally unexpected step for a retired footballer," Nigmatullin explained in an interview with FIFA.com. "Working as a DJ is very difficult for anyone who used to play football. You can't just stand behind the decks and try to make money out of your popularity. You need to really live the job, it's a lot of work."
The 2001 Russian Player of the Year did not turn to music simply by chance. "I studied at a music school when I was young and played the guitar. I had two dreams growing up: music and football. Eventually the time came when I had to make a choice and football won."
In his childhood, Nigmatullin listened to the rock ballads of Gary Moore and Scorpions – "I preferred more melodic music, nothing too heavy" – although now he's involved in something completely different. His achievements in music are comparable with those he experienced in football. In 2014 he was voted best DJ in the country, while his 2011 song 'Symphony' made it to No.2 in the national charts.
*350 cities in seven years
*The height of a footballer's career is to feature at a FIFA World Cup, but what is the best a DJ can hope for? "The most important thing for any artist is to be in demand. I've had some success in this respect and I'm still touring. By the way, this was something I really liked when I was playing football: the team often went on away games. The music industry involves a lot of travelling too, every weekend I'm in a new city. I've visited 350 cities in seven years ranging from New York to Vladivostok! I'm just as comfortable performing in small bars as I am in huge city-wide events with audiences of 40,000 people."
Nigmatullin has crossed paths with Gaizka Mendieta, the former Spain international who also chose to go down the DJ path. "I recently played a match with Mendieta for a veterans team. I had heard that he'd also become a DJ, so I gave him one of my records as a present. However, we weren't able to chat about our work."
However, the former Russia player has not forgotten that it was his first profession that initially made him famous. The goalkeeper, who made 24 appearances for his country, has opened his own football academy which is grooming young players that might one day be part of the national team. He is paying particular attention to young goalkeepers.
"Playing in goal is a different art form and you need to focus on it from a young age," said Nigmatullin. "Yet many academies don't even have goalkeeping coaches. I only received specialist training when I was 21. That's why many young keepers at football academies come to me for additional lessons, I'm like a tutor!"
Nigmatullin initially opened his academy for his sons, whom he wanted to teach how to play football. It is not hard to guess his children's interests: his elder son, also called Ruslan, is a goalkeeper in the making while 12-year-old Marcel plays the piano.
*World Cup guests in for quality sound
*It is no coincidence that Nigmatullin was chosen to warm up the crowd at the launch ceremony of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ Volunteer Programme held in Moscow in June.
"Volunteers do a great job helping out at any sporting event. Respect to these guys. I was honoured to get involved with Russia 2018, even if it was nothing to do with football. I'll try to mix an appropriate anthem for the tournament."
And Nigmatullin makes no secret of the fact that he cannot wait for fans from all over the world to come to Russia in 2018.
"The World Cup is the culmination of any footballer's career. We didn't manage to get out of the group in 2002, but I can clearly remember the pleasure I got from this massive celebration of football. It was awesome. I'm really looking forward to the same celebration in Russia. It's a big responsibility, but our country does a great job organising big sporting events. I don't doubt that all the fans who come here will really love it."
Music fans will also find something to their tastes during the 2018 World Cup. "The nightlife is great in Russia," Nigmatullin said confidently in conclusion. "You'll be able to celebrate your team's victory in one of our nightclubs. We've got good music and quality sound systems. The fans won't be disappointed with our nightlife."