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A Poetic Soccer Player
Alina Horobets is an athlete, one of a great many women athletes in Ukraine, but there are just a few women who practice her sport — she plays futsal mini-soccer. The leading futsal experts who make their opinion known at futsalplanet.com, the most respected Internet site devoted to futsal soccer, called her the world’s best woman futsal soccer player of 2009.
Alina Horobets, 24, hails from the little town of Kotsyubynske, not far from Kyiv. She plays for the Bilychanka-93 futsal soccer club, a many-times champion of Ukraine. It was Ms Horobets, a good looking, slim young woman with a charming smile and sparkling eyes, who has contributed a great deal to her club’s victories. Alina is also a member of Ukrainian national team which ranks eighth among women’s teams, with Brazil being at the top.
Maryna GUDZEVATA, WU senior editor, met Ms Horobets at the award-presentation ceremony, during which the soccer player received a prize for her contribution to the development of soccer at schools. When asked for an interview, Ms Horobets kindly and modestly agreed to be interviewed.
Let me, first of all, congratulate you on your prize. Was it something that you expected to earn?
No, it was a pleasant surprise. Futsal soccer is not yet a very popular sport in Ukraine, compared, say, to Spain or Brazil where it is very popular indeed. It really came as something quite unexpected when I learnt that I had been pronounced the best woman futsal player of 2009.
If I did not know that you were a soccer player I’d never guess you are an athlete! You do not look what I would expect a soccer player to look!
I’ve been playing soccer for many years, and most of the people I socialize with are soccer players and coaches, and I’ve never actually thought what a woman soccer player is expected to look like. When I meet people outside the circle of athletes involved in playing soccer, they are usually surprised to learn that I play soccer professionally. However, for some reason, they never disbelieve me and start asking questions.
You said you’d been playing soccer for many years. When did you actually start?
I was a second grader in school when a friend of mine once said she was attending a hobby sports group where she played soccer, and she liked it. She invited me to join her — and I did. It proved to be a momentous decision.
(At this point, Ms Horobets’ coach, Volodymyr Kolok, joined the conversation)
Mr Kolok: I remember the moment I saw her for the first time very well. She did not look athletic, to put it mildly, but she did have that special I-dare-you look in her eyes. I thought I’d test her and she proved to have a lot of potential. It was at that time that futsal started to gain in popularity in our town and Alina was a fitting candidate for a member of a soccer team.
She was indeed a tomboy — she liked climbing trees and do risky bike stunts riding downhill. When she started sport training regularly, she made a quick progress.
(Back to Alina) Was it difficult to combine training, playing soccer and studies at school?
No, it was not. There was no problem for me to find time both for school, home assignments and my sport.
Did your parents support your decision to do a sport which is rather unusual for girls to go into?
They did not discourage me. Probably at first they did not think it would be something that I’d be doing in my adult life, but seeing that I went on training, year in year out, they must have realized it was really a serious involvement, and they gave me all the support they could. Futsal soccer became an unalienable part of my life.
Did you keep count of the goals you scored?
No, I did not! There were too many! Mr Kolok did try to do it but in seventeen years that I’ve been in soccer, I’ve scored too many goals to remember. But of course there were goals that I do keep in my memory.
Is the climate in your club supportive?
Very much so. We are a team, and we act and support each other as members of a team should. We are good friends too. We spend so much time together during training and then we socialize too, going to each other’s homes and meeting socially. My best friend is the captain of my team. When the girls learnt that I’d been pronounced the best soccer player they cheered so much! But it was thanks to them that I’d become the best!
Mr Kolok: I’m very happy to be coaching a team like that. The girls are ambitious, hard working, many of them study at college, they have no bad habits, they are leading a very healthy lifestyle. I’d say they are an example to follow! And Alina is not only a player — she also does some coaching work too!
Alina: Yes, I do that too. I began to help Mr Kolok in his training work when I was in the eleventh grade, but later I graduated into becoming a coach in my own right. I’ve been a coach for seven years now and some of the girls who have trained under me, have achieved very good results. In fact some of the girls have joined the Ukrainian national team I am a member of!
What is your number-one sport ambition?
To play at the Olympic Games! But first women’s futsal soccer must become an Olympic sport. I do hope it will be given the status of an Olympic event. Unfortunately, the next Olympic games in 2012 will not have women’s futsal soccer on its agenda.
Neither are there world or European championships held in women’s futsal soccer. There are all sorts of tournaments and friendlies that are played in various countries but official world or European championships would be quite a different matter. Championships of Latin America and Asia are held — why not the world or European? Ukraine has its women’s national team but we do not have an opportunity to play in important official championships!
Last year we went to Iran to play a friendly there. The Iranian women’s futsal team was getting ready for the Asian championship and they thought it would be a valuable experience for them to have our team as a sparring partner because they admitted we were better than they. The Iranian side footed our bills. It took us some time to get acclimatized and we lost the first two games but won the third with an overwhelming score in our favor. And I can tell you that the sportswear which the Iranians provided us with, and which we were obliged to wear on the pitch, hampered free movement and created additional problems for us. The thing is that the first two games were played in the absence of fans with only a few men — actually Ukrainian men who had come with us to Iran — allowed to be present at the game, and the third game was to be televised, so the Iranians made us wear what they gave us — shirts with long sleeves, long pants and headdresses that were similar to the kind our nuns wear. Don’t forget that Iran is a Muslim country with Muslim attitudes to women and women’s appearance in public… In spite of these small nuisances, we saw that it was the Iranian government that provided support and financing even for such an exotic sport as women’s futsal soccer. I wish the Ukrainian government would be more caring… But the sportswear we were given in Iran has come in handy later too — we put it on when we play against men’s teams in the tournament Kubok vyklyku (Challenege Cup) which is regularly held thanks to our coach…
My club Belychanka went to Portugal two years ago to take part in the Nations’ Cup tournament. Several national teams and clubs were invited. We did not win the tournament but we were the fourth. I think the overall result was quite a good one for us, especially considering many disadvantages — compared to other participants — that we were encumbered by. Incidentally, among the teams we routed was the US national team.
Mr Kolok: there’s one point I’d like to make clear here — our girls are professional futsal players but they play amateur football because they are not paid for their play. If we had more of official tournaments here in Ukraine and on the international arena, then the popularity of futsal would grow and that could bring desirable changes. Mini-Soccer is an exacting and dynamic game. It is mostly played indoors and thus it is not affected by weather. During the game itself, the rules forbid any bodily contact of opponents, and thus there are very few injuries compared to “full-sized” football. Futsal is an ideal sport for women. Like in hockey, substitutes can be regularly introduced during the game and it makes it not so tiring.
Now, an inevitable question — Ms Horobets, what do you do apart from training and playing soccer?
I deliver lectures on social issues such as smoking, alcohol and drug abuse, healthy life-styles at school. I like traveling for fun rather than because of necessity. In the past few years, I went both in summer and in winter to the Carpathian Mountains. I love the air, the sights, the whole atmosphere there. Skiing in winter and hikes in summer are great experiences!
Of the European countries I’ve been to I was particularly impressed by Germany and Austria. European culture is something that we must have too — and not only in the big culture sense but also in everyday life, in the way people treat each other. In Austria, when I took walks, I could not help having a feeling that I was strolling through a history book. Both in the buildings and the people I could see the great civilizing impact of the European culture. People have dignity and self-respect, things we should strive for in Ukraine… I write verses and regularly attend church too…
Any plans for the nearest future?
Training, playing soccer, traveling to places where futsal games are played to watch them and to support our men’s futsal team… I have no plans yet to marry and to have children. I’m waiting for the right person. I believe that each of us has “a half” and when I meet my significant other I will know it, and then my soccer will not be an obstacle to living a happy family life… And I’m planning to publish a book of my poems.
Bilychanka-93 futsal club — winners of Cup of Ukraine 2009.
Alina Horobets is fond of skiing. Winter 2010.
Alina Horobets during a game with the National Team of Iran. 2009.
Alina Horobets with her coach Volodymyr Kolok.
Alina Horobets has been awarded by the Federation of Football of Ukraine for her contribution to the development of soccer in schools.
Two best futsal soccer players according to futsalplanet.com — Alina Horobets, Ukraine, and Enrique Boned Guillot (better known as Kike), Spain.[Prev][Contents][Next]