Soccer fields, fresh air and beautiful pine trees form the landscape near the Metallurg sports base where teams in the East Group of the Gazprom Neft Cup will be staying during the Tournament. Buses carrying the players start to arrive from early morning. The staff gives them something to eat and show them where they will be staying. The first to arrive is the Yamal team:
“We got here OK,” the Yamal head coach, Vyacheslav Chibrov, said with a smile. “We have got the boys settled and had breakfast, so we are fine! When you go with the team to another city the main thing is not to forget anyone or lose anyone, keep your things with you and make sure the kids stay healthy — that is really important.”
After the northerners comes the Urals team, Avtomobilist, with a large support group, which the head of the team, Sergei Istomin, explained as follows:
"We have more parents than players! Some of them have brought their mum, dad and grandad... We can’t really say no! Yes, they got stroked on the head, called “my baby”... it was already going on the train: feeding them, stroking them, getting their bed ready...
— Will this get in the way of the sport?
— It might do... we all know how important it is to have good discipline. But we can’t chase the parents away.
— And what about having children from the other teams closeby — will that be distracting too?
— No, that’s very good! Let them meet, make friends! The last time they played table tennis and football, talked a lot. It gives them a break from their parents.
But the Avangard coach Mikhail Zlobin sees things differently:
“The children are already starting to keep a regime, they communicate less with the other boys. They see them as rivals and they want to win. The boys always take their cue from grown-up players.”
The Rubin head coach Denis Berezov is dividing his players between the rooms where they will stay. But discipline must be observed even in this, and parents get short shrift:
— A lot of them have come, but they are not with the team. They live separately. I don’t even know where.
— Is that good for the team?
— It certainly is! We didn’t come here for a holiday, but to take part in a serious tournament! The boys understand why they are here. We talk to them and explain, so there’s no problem with motivation. The discipline in the team is great.
Meanwhile, the ice at the Omsk Arena and Avangard hockey center is already seeing action: the teams are training and getting ready for their first matches. Traktor, Avangard and Sibir are already there: the ice machines don’t have time to finish their job before the kids are out there. The hosts are also feeling the big tournament atmosphere. According to Mikhail Zlobin, the Omsk Avangard team has booked into a hotel: “We don’t want the kids to get over-spoilt by their parents, so we decided to look after them ourselves. Let them focus on the hockey and keep a regime — we don’t even know what time they go to bed at home and what they eat...”
— But it’s still an advantage to be playing on your own ice, isn’t it?
— Yes, we’re playing at home on our arena with our fans. The other teams don’t have that. It’s a very important Tournament, the first big step for the children. This is how real masters, top players are made.
The head coach of Sibir, Sergei Akimov, fully agrees:
— You need goals and objectives for discipline. I expect the boys to understand that. The Gazprom Neft Cup is a very important Tournament. It makes you set your sights high.
April 20 is the first day of competition at the Omsk Arena and Avangard hockey center. Admission is free.