FC Shakhtar Academy Director has summed up our teams’ performances in the U-19 championship and DUFLU.
– Patrick, this season has seen the start of the U-19 championship. How would you assess its first steps our team’s performance?
– Yes, Ukraine finally has a championship that we had been looking forward to for years. Early in the season, when the championship was just beginning, I did not have high hopes regarding it, because a strange day was chosen for the matches – Wednesday. This allows the other teams to involve older players in the games. And every week we play with a new rival whose squad consists of players representing all ages. At Shakhtar we decided to create a U-19 team on the basis of U-17 squad of last year – a priori younger than other participants of the championship. In each match, we field three or four players from the youth team, who fall under U-19 age category. As for our performance, I think we played well in every game. We showed our football. We tried to orchestrate a lot of attacks, create and score goals. Our plan didn’t always work out, but the main goal of the team was to qualify for the first group, which we are now playing in. I want to congratulate the boys and the U-19 coaching staff on the football, which they managed to show in the first part of the championship.
– This year all Academy teams who are participating in DUFLU went into the winter break in first place. What is the reason behind such a success?
– The Academy coaches and staff performed at high level last season and started this season from that mark. You saw that all the teams performed well and played technical, combination football, with scoring a lot of goals. This is a result of brilliant attacks and individual skills of certain players. Each team has particularly talented players. Their skills and inclinations are already visible, but there is still a lot room for improvement. Together, we must continue to work in training every day to consistently raise the level of their skill. It concerns not only what we see on the field, but the work that we do with our player off the pitch. Each player has to understand why he plays for Shakhtar, why he was honoured to defend the colours of the club. The results of the work can be seen in the standings – all of our teams are in first place. It should also be noted that in our group there are very strong opponents, because now the teams from Eastern Ukraine set the tone for the development of football in the country.
– The youngest team – Shakhtar U-14 – are taking part in the championship for the first time, and this season the boys are guided by a new duet of coaches – Gennadiy Zubov and Oleksandr Alimov. How would you assess the performance of this team?
– As for Gennadiy Zubov, after spending several years as an assistant at U-17 and U-15 teams, it’s time to give his great experience and skills to young kids as head coach. I would say that he is doing well. He is an organized and responsible mentor. The team can perform at a high level with him. The tournament in Spain was a very good experience. I was expecting a better game from some of the players but we must not forget that for them it was the first experience of playing games at such a high level, with such rivals. I think that the tournament in Spain inspired the boys for such a successful campaign in the championship.
– Last season, the boys, who are now playing for U-15, failed to reach the final. Did you have concerns about their current performance?
– This year we have strengthened the squad a little; new players have arrived. Thanks to this factor, and the work carried out by the coaching staff the team’s game was up to the mark. First place in the standings can serve as the best proof of my words.
– This summer, Oleksandr Koval also took over at a new team. What can you say about Shakhtar U-16?
– Oleksandr has repeatedly proved that he can build a team, guide the boys to the finals. For him, it is time to move forward, to show all the knowledge accumulated at U-14 at a level of U-16. As we can see, they are confidently moving forward with the team. There are a lot of talented players in this team; together, they are showing a positive trend.
– Shakhtar U-17 have showed simply an unbelievable result: 55 goals in 10 matches. How could you explain such a performance?
– We knew that this is a very talented group. Many of the boys from this team are leaders of the Ukraine national team, and rightly so. In addition, the team have shown a high level at the International Youth Tournament, which was held in August. Not only did they win the competition, but also demonstrated excellent football in matches against top European teams. However, the talent is not everything. The boys shouldn’t overestimate their strength and head in the clouds. On the contrary, we have to work harder at every training session to show not only the individual skills, but also our teamwork.
– Do all teams have what it takes to finish first this season?
– Of course. All of them are the main contenders to advance to the final stage. We always go into the final aiming to win!