Official website of 16th FINA World Masters Championships 2015 in Kazan

Marat Zakirov: Spectators attending the Masters tournament have an eye for a good game

18.08.2015, 13:00 Sport
After winning the final water polo match at the World Masters Championships, two-time Olympic medallist and renowned water polo player Marat Zakirov sat down for an interview with a sports reporter of the Kazan 2015 OC’s Press Office. He admitted that he’s always happy to be back to Kazan and to see how the city is changing its appearance.

– Do you remember when the last time you came to Kazan was?

– It was long time ago. As a head coach of Moscow’s Dynamo WPC, I came to Kazan to play against Sintez, the local water polo team. If I’m not mistaken, it was two years ago. Of course, in the meantime the city grew prettier but the Kazan has already made us get used to the idea that it is constantly and rapidly developing. And by delivering the 16th FINA World Championships and the Masters tournament, the capital of Tatarstan made a huge step forward. Both competitions were held to the highest standard. Being one of those who were brought up and trained in Kazan, I’m happy for Kazan’s success.

– Did you hesitate a lot before accepting the invitation to take part in the Masters tournament?

– The first time I heard about this tournament was several months ago. My water polo pals phoned me and told me about an upcoming mega sporting event in Kazan, offering me to take part in it. I agreed at once but some time later I had to refuse because at this period of time my team was having pre-season training camp ahead of the national championships. But my friends didn’t give up on me and used every effort so that I could come and play with them in one team just like in good old times. I came to Kazan and I have not regretted it for one momеnt (smiles).

– According to your opponents from St. Petersburg, you were the best player in your team at this Masters tournament.

– The best one? I think it was not just me, the entire team did well. All my teammates cover for each other and you can feel it. I’m glad that I’ve easily merged with the team and we managed to achieve good teamwork. And the final score on the board is a perfect illustration of this.  

– You are a head coach for one of Russia's major sports club teams. When you are in a pool, do the feelings you experience now differ from those you had during your sports career?

– When we were playing in the pool, we were players who had had a long journey up to that moment and not head coaches or assistant coaches. In Kazan we wanted once again to enjoy the emotions we had constantly felt earlier in our lives: sporting spirit, passion. A flood of emotions from play was definitely a treat for us!

– The idea of the Masters tournament is that amateurs are allowed to take part alongside with Masters athletes. You are an Olympic medallist, how do you feel to play with non-professionals in one field?

– If these amateurs focus on preparation for this tournament in Kazan, spend many hours on training, it does not make a difference between professionals and non-professionals. After all, amateurs can achieve some results here, too. A Masters tournament offers a different atmosphere of celebration of water polo and communication outside the pool rather than show of the titles.

– Your former partner of the Kazan Sintez WPC, Irek Zinnurov, assured me that amateurs can punish professionals for arrogance and underestimation of the opponent.

– He is absolutely right. The Masters tournament proved one more time that professionals can sometimes meet the challenge from amateurs who can excel under lucky circumstances. Nothing is guaranteed in advance.

– Isn’t it a shame for former professional players to compete with amateurs? The Kazan 2015 Masters tournament highly interests former players of the national team so that they could have made a whole team.

– It is true that the Masters competitions attract attention of our prominent Masters athletes that they come here with great pleasure. In this respect we should pay tribute to Kazan. The format of the Championships impresses me much when athletes live in one Athletes’ Village and communicate with each other 24/7. One more important fact is that Masters events are held at the venues which have just hosted the World Championships. Such factors, embraced in a fantastic atmosphere, influenced my decision to apply for the participation. I think all the athletes are of the same opinion.

– I am inclined to believe that you were quite surprised finding out the names of your teammates. The USSR Tatarstan team seems to be quite titled and renowned.

– The truth is we’ve known each other for ages. Some of them were my teammates, others happened to be my opponents at the Russian Championship. They are all well-known athletes, very good people. What more important is that they are all true professionals. Since every single one of them not once has proved being a worthy athlete making it into the domestic water polo history I feel very proud having this honour to be their teammate. 

– The Irek Zinnurov-Marat Zakirov line brings Kazan fans nostalgic emotions of the past water polo matches. Have you personally felt this hearty hospitality from the crowd during the match?

– It was amazing! The crowd greeted us with a round of applause even when they were just announcing our names. What brings us joy the most is that the spectators are quite competent at water polo technique. I mean their reaction towards nicely performed elements which take place from time to time during the match. In general Kazan spectators have given thumbs up for the really beautiful game.

– In the final match you played against your colleague, a coach of the second team of the Dynamo Club, Sergei Garbuzov. Will the outcome affect somehow your working relations in the future?

– Frankly it is a great pleasure for me to work and play with Sergei Garbuzov because he is an extraordinary water polo player. Besides I must say that I have seen lots of successful and distinguished athletes as a part of other teams or other age groups. And you know I find it rather entertaining playing with or against them. All in all I had a really good time here in Kazan! 

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