Look at the career of DANNY ARMSTRONG takes a and leaders... one of Russia’s best-ever midfielders
Russia’s inspirational leader
IN 1938, just a year before the bubbling unrest in Nazi Germany spilled into the horrors of World War Two, Donetsk Oblast, the easternmost province of Ukraine was cracked into two portions.
One was christened Stalino after Joseph Stalin; the other Voroshilovgrad in honour of the great military officer Kliment Voroshilov.
Three years later Voroshilov, a man of proud Ukrainian heritage, would valiantly counterattack advancing German tanks armed with only a pistol during Operation Barbarossa. This single act of bloody-minded defiance immortalised his iconic leadership.
It is perhaps fitting that Russia’s next great leader was born in the oblast that bore his name.
Sergei Bogdanovich Semak was a midfielder who was reserved but fervently reliable, industrious yet technically gifted. It would be Semak who would lead Russia into some of the greatest victorious battles in their footballing history. Born in Voroshilovgrad in 1976, Semak emigrated to Russia after the Soviet Union crumbled – later becoming a naturalized citizen – and began his career training with Asmaral Moscow.
Aged 16 he turned professional and broke into a first team that gained promotion to the Top Division. By the time the club were relegated the season after, Semak had attracted the attention of neighbours CSKA who bought him in 1994.
The slight teenager was soon a permanent fixture in the side and later became captain, guiding the club to a trio of domestic victories in the early 2000s, beginning with Cup and League wins in 2002 and 2003 respectively, and a Super Cup victory in 2004, ending an 11- year silverware drought for the club. As the relentless driving force behind CSKA’s success, Semak was attracting attention from abroad.
After his sublime hat-trick in Parc des Princes knocked Paris SaintGermain out of the Champions League group stage in December 2004, the French club signed him a month later. PSG captain José Pierre-Fanfan was quick to insist there were no hard feelings harboured: “He’s welcome here.We’re not angry with him at all.”