PITTSBURGH PA - DECEMBER 31: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals looks on during practice for the 2011 NHL Winter Classic between the Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins on December 31 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Okay, 27 questions actually. As a New-Years treat for their readers, the editors of Sport Express put together a collection of ....mmmm, interesting... questions for the two top figures in Russian sports, Andrei Arshavin and Alex Ovechkin. Boris Levin and Slava Malamud put the questions to them, and Andrei and Ovi provided the answers.
What did you most fear about going and working abroad?
Arshavin: The unknown. I moved to a totally different life, and up to the very end I couldn't imagine what was waiting for me there. That and I didn't know the language very well.
Ovechkin: The language barrier.
Right now, what is the number one thing you would advise to someone following in your footsteps to play abroad?
A: Theoretically speaking, the most important rule is this: the younger you are, the easier it is for you. And one piece of practical advice: if possible, absolutely talk to your friends and acquaintances living in the country where you are going. This will help avoid a whole lot of mistakes and most of the wasted expenses which you couldn't even realize before you left.
O: This is what I would warn about: learn the language. And it will be difficult.
What type of training do you dislike the most?
A: Cross country, running long distances.
O: Running. Of any type.
Can you cut your training short if you get tired or do you absolutely have to force your way to finish it?
A: I've never really cut short training due to tiredness. Coaches, it is true, sometimes say "that's it, you're finished, hit the showers". But it is extremely rare when I quit a training session before finishing it.
O: Of course I'll finish it! If you are tired, it's best not to train at all.
How fast do you run the 100 meter dash?
A: It's been a while since I've timed it, if I've ever timed it at all. Soccer players are interested in much shorter distances - 30 meters, or 60 at the most.
O: I don't know. I'm sure one of our coaches at Washington has that number, but I've never asked. I'm sure it's not under ten seconds. And that's a pity.
Where do you think the referees are more unfair- in Russia or abroad?
A: I haven't played enough time yet in England to objectively compare. Referees make mistakes everywhere, and the main thing is that there isn't any bias in their actions.
O: I don't remember now how it was in Russia. I've played a lot longer in America, so (I've seen) such things happen more often here.
In your sport, where do you get a longer vacation-in Russia or abroad?
A: If you look at the absolute length, then in Russia. True, the majority of the vacation is in winter, but I like that even better. It's nice to go from someplace where everything is frozen to heavenly warmth.
O: In the NHL, of course. As soon as the season ends, you rest. Sometimes even for 4-5 months, if your team doesn't make it into the playoffs. But in Russia they have training camp....
Is participating in television shows a necessity or a joy for you?
A: I don't participate in them very often, and right now I can only pick those which I liked. So-pleasure.
O: Pleasure. I love to be on television and meet new and interesting people. It's also fun to watch yourself later on the television and laugh along with your friends.
What games do you most enjoy playing during training?
A: I like it when the net is moved to one half of the field and we play 4 on 4 or 5 on 5. You don't run as much and there is more shooting and scoring.
O: Juice boy. This is where we have a shooting contest at the corners of the net. Then the loser has to bring juice to the rest of the team.
How many pages are in your contract? And what is the most unexpected part of the contract?
A: I think it is thirty pages. I haven't studied it thoroughly but there is a point about a reduction of payment if Arsenal leaves the premier league. Can you imagine that?
O: I never counted them. I just signed on the main page. And the points in the contract are your standard ones. Like to keep yourself safe, you can't participate in any dangerous hobbies. If you get injured off the ice, you're left holding the bag.
Who would you name as your best friend?
A: My mom.
O: I have several - three or four people.
What kind of car do you like best-SUV, sedan, coupe or convertible? And where is it easier to drive-in Russia or where you are currently living?
A: Of course an SUV. In London I became even more convinced of this. When the snow falls, everyone leaves their cars at home, and I'm in an SUV and feel quite confident, especially with my experience in Russia. I even take my teammates home. As to where it is easier, perhaps in England. The speeds are less and the traffic is calmer. But in Russia, it is much more interesting behind the wheel. You have to use your brain much more often.
O: It doesn't matter, as long as there is comfort and speed. As for driving, I love it more in Moscow. One hundred percent! In Moscow I just get a buzz being behind the wheel!
What did you collect in your childhood- stamps, pins or something else?
A: Inserts in chewing gum packets. Once I collected an entire collection of a certain brand-I only lacked a single one. But my principle was to not purchase the inserts specially, they had to come to me naturally. So I never got that last one.
O: Hockey cards.
Is there anything you would not advertise for?
A: Alcohol and cigarettes.
What produce do you dislike and can't stand to eat?
A: I can't stand cooked vegetables. Here in England, when they start to swoon over boiled spinach I am simply puzzled.
O: I love it all. I'm an omnivore.
Which refreshing nonalcoholic beverage do you prefer?
A: Until December 31-Pepsi Cola. And then I'll have to look at a new contract (smiles).
Do you love sweets?
A: Very much! And in any form-ice cream, cake, or pastries.
O: Very much!
Do you drink coffee at home, and which do you prefer- made in a coffee machine, Turkish, or instant?
A: I generally don't drink coffee.
O: I never drink coffee at all.
Can you cook and, if so, what can you cook?
A: I can't cook, but when I have had to, the concoctions I came up with turned out totally bearable and sometimes even tasty.
O: I can cook. Eggs.
Say you've got some guests. How will you entertain them?
A: I prefer being the guest myself. And bring myself for their entertainment (laughs).
O: I don't entertain guests. We just spend time together.
What's your favorite ocean for vacationing?
A: Here I don't have a preference. The main thing is that it is warm. I can't call myself an ocean connoisseur.
O: On any ocean where I will have good company.
Are you interested in the politics of your host country?
A: I'm not particularly interested, but as there are a lot of political topics in the press and in society, I sometimes unwittingly plunge into them. It is interesting to listen to, because here all topics are discussed openly and in great detail.
O: Not in the least bit.
What is the most difficult for you in the English language?
A: I can't say what is the most difficult, but the thing that a Russian guy can't understand is the lack of high-grade cursing (laughs).
Do you follow the performance of your colleague in this interview?
A: Yes. Especially since I always open up the Sport Express site late in the evening, and there is always either Ovechkin or Kovalchuk or Malkin. But I used to follow the NHL more often. Now I only closely watch hockey during the Olympics and world championships. In any case I wish every success to Sasha Ovechkin.
O: Of course. In Washington there are a lot of Europeans who love soccer, and we discuss soccer news. And how can you not support Andrei Arshavin? Our guy in such a well-known team!
Who are your favorite hockey and soccer players?
A: When I was really devoted to hockey I always argued with my dad: I liked Makarov, and pops liked Krutov. But Makarov scored more overall! As for soccer, if I was playing in Russia I would name Messi, but being here in England I'm not going to single anyone out. I used to like Ronaldo, and then Ronaldinho.
O: Soccer: Messi. Hockey: Lemieux.
Half a century ago, many well-known masters of the sport played both soccer and hockey. Could you do that?
A: When I was a kid and was taught how to skate and was taken on Sundays to the stadium "Sport", it was real torture. I was given figure skates, but I immediately said "I want to play hockey". You want to know why? Because then you were given a stick, and you could lean on that. So I could only play one role in hockey-stand at the far net and make a couple of passes. But try and get me to move from there!
O: That was a different time, and there were less pressures. Now there just isn't enough time for it.
Do you agree with the words of Pele: "Russia won't win a world championship in soccer any sooner than Brazil becomes the world champion in hockey"?
A: Maybe there is a grain of truth in Pele's words, but if you look at the distance to the world champion title, then Russia is incomparably closer in soccer than Brazil is in hockey.
O: Well at least we will play at the world championship. At a minimum in 2018. And when will Brazil make it to the world championship in hockey?