Look at the ca­reer of DANNY ARMSTRONG takes a and lead­ers... one of Rus­sia’s best-ever mid­field­ers

Late Tackle Football Magazine - - CONTENTS -

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.”

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