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Radzionau: back-to-back matches are pivotal

BATE forward and vice-captain Vitali Radzionau talks to UEFA Magazine journalists.

- Well, first and foremost, thank you for finding time to come and see us and willingly share your opinions about BATE's chances in this new experience in the Champions League,  although it's actually the fourth time. Firstly, I would like to know how you reacted to the draw and how you evaluate the team's situation?
- In my opinion, the group that we fell into is fairly evenly balanced without any outstanding favourites. Maybe you can speak about the outsiders and I'd imagine that most people would point the finger at us in this respect. Nevertheless, we firmly intend to show ourselves and maybe surprise a lot of people on the international stage with good results. Therefore, I have confidence in how our team and I have confidence that it will work out for us.

- In your opinion, what are the key matches in the group and which matches are you looking forward to personally and why?
- Usually, the key matches are the back-to-back matches, that is the away match followed by the home match against one opponent. I can say this speaking from the experience of previous group stages. Nevertheless, for our team, every match will be very important and, to a certain extent, key, regardless of the opponent. We will approach every specific match as if it is something special and we will try to make ourselves and our supporters happy with our good, determined play, as well as with good results.

- And personally, are you looking forward to any match in particularfor different reasons?
- For me, each game in the group stage will be equally important, interesting and difficult and I am totally looking forward to each encounter and I will try to show what I'm capable of.

- Tell us about the victory against SK Slovan Bratislava in the final qualifying round; you scored a goal in the return leg. How did you approach that fixture and what were your emotions at the final whistle?
- Well, I should probably have scored more against Slovan and, taking this into account, we should understand that, in principle, we got a good result in Bratislava but we could have even won. We had already played in front our home supporters and we understood perfectly well that, at this stage with the victory in this encounter, spurred on from the stands, we had achieved what we wanted to. Everyone was happy, myself included, you can never get enough of the victories we got in those matches. There was an unforgettable feeling of celebration from that match.

- You've touched upon a very important topic: the fans. In your opinion, what does it mean for Belarusian supporters that you're in the Champions League? How does playing in the tournament influence football in the country as a whole?
- Taking into account last year, when we were unsuccessful in getting into the Champions League, I think our supporters were longing for the group stages of a European cup competition. The fact that we achieved this aim has a huge meaning for our long-suffering supporters, who always come to matches, not only in the European competitions but also in our league. At the same time, we need to take into account that this year we have undergone some changes to the coaching staff. The team is in a transition period and the success we've achieved on the international stage is also important in terms of establishing this team. Establishing it and looking to the future. From this point of view, of course the victory against SK Slovan Bratislava was the most important, but not only against Slovan, the previous matches were important as well against Debrecen and the Albanian champions Skënderbeu, who we found very difficult. We fought to the last drop getting that victory. So, everyone is happy that ultimately we were able to complete the task we set ourselves and achieve our aim.

- Do the footballers feel added pressure in connection with the fact that, in the Champions League, you're not only representing BATE, but essentially the whole of Belarus.
- I don't look at this question in this way, that I'm representing the whole of the Belarus. For me, the important thing are the team's results and I'm sure that, if we get these results, then all of Belarus will be happy. So, I'm trying to concentrate on the team's results. That I might bring someone happiness by beating the best teams in Europe, I think, is an added success to this. So, in fact, there's already pressure and responsibility without this. The feeling that we should perform in European competitions for ourselves and ourselves only was inspiration enough and made us give everything that we had over the qualifying rounds. And again, ultimately, the feeling of the victory we achieved against Slovan was just unforgettable, in terms of the satisfaction it brought us because the pressure was already there.

- You play up front; what responsibility do you feel for the team and what aims do you set yourself as a striker?
- Concerning the European competitions, then our club already has some experience of playing in them, but nevertheless not to the extent to set ourselves large, grandiose aims. So, for me, there aren't any of these theoretical ambitions in European competitions. I only focus on the results of the team and I think that all the guys in the team have this mentality, that is: focusing on the team's game and the team's results. I think that, thanks to this, we have achieved what we have achieved today: getting into the Champions League group stage.

- Can you express, as a percentage, the value of a forward with respect to a modern football team? How important are they compared to other people in the team?
- I believe that the percentage would be 20% or 30%; the forward gives confidence to the team. It depends on how well he can take his opportunities and, at the same time, how effectively he knows how to play within the team. That is, how well he plays in other aspects of the game.

- Throughout your footballing career, starting from school, have you always played in attack or did you change positions?
- No coach that I have worked with has constantly rotated my position; in general I've always been played at centre forward or as the second striker.

- Have would you characterise your own style of play?
- I'm a player who tries with all his might to get the ball and waits for his opportunity, like a beast! And he's ready to take his chance!

- How did you start your footballing education? Who opened the door?
- It happened completely accidentally. I was studying at a normal school, I was in a lesson and a coach from a local sporting school came by and suggested that we started playing. At the start, the whole class went but, step by step naturally, the numbers were narrowed down. So, that was how then, by the traditional route, I fell into football.

- Who was your footballing idol in childhood, if there was one.
- I didn't have any idols in particular; there were many footballers. Of those that have always stayed in my memory, I would say Ronaldo, the Brazilian one, and Andrey Shevchenko. For me, it was in their genetics, they were born as strikers.

- What do you feel at that second when you see that the ball has hit the back of the net.
- Elation, happiness... It's an unbeatable feeling, but also it's a moment in a game that has a significant importance, in terms of the competition and the opposition. In other words, the level of the encounter with an opponent. The higher the level, the more joy you will naturally get from scoring.

- In principle, how important to you is the number of goals you score?
- It's important and... in general the number of goals that a forward scores is evidence of his ability; they are his qualifications. So , the higher the number, the higher the level of the footballer. Therefore, and I'm not saying anything out of the ordinary here, I strive to score more goals. But again, this is a secondary priority to achieving the team's aims.

- You've said that throughout your career you've tended to play up front, but throughout this time who influenced your development as a forward the most?
- Do you mean a coach or a player?

- Of course, it could be some episode, but probably a coach or a playing partner. Some factor that shaped you as a forward and shaped who you are as a player. How did it happen?
- Honestly, it's difficult for me to identify one person. For example, I believe that on my path I've met a lot of good people and good coaches. They all, to certain extents, have influenced my development and my establishment as a footballer. So, I am very happy to have been lucky enough to take this path, on which I've met a large number of good people. Really good people who helped me and who continue to help me in my professional and personal development.

- What other important tasks are there for you on the pitch, alongside scoring goals?
- Taking part in ball rotation, i.e. interacting with the team, and, of course, build-up to goalscoring changes. This can be by freeing up space for my playing partners. When you get to this elite level of football, everyone has their role and, of course, attacking players have to come to the fore.

- You played in the victorious match against Bayern Munich two years ago; you even scored a goal. You won that game 3-1. What do you remember of that evening and how can the experience of that huge victory helped the team to achieve new victories now?
- Summing it up in a few words, it was very significant day for the history of the club, in fact, and for the professional growth of each player and coach. Speaking with people after that game, I realised after a while that the city stayed awake practically all night, celebrating our victory and our success. Everybody was made happy by that event. So, at that moment on the day of the match or just after the match, some footballers didn't understand the meaning of this match to the people and our fans. But after some time, we understood that we'd achieved a success that would be remembered for a long time. So, I am very happy that I had a significant role in this match.

- You've touched upon another very important fact. Has the mentality in the club changed as a result of this victory? Is there now the feeling that you can beat the best teams in the world?
- Yes, there was a lot of euphoria at that time when people started to predict things about us and we tried to show our abilities in the following matches against great teams and great players. However, the following matches showed us that we weren't ready yet to compete at that level. And again, the experience we accumulated over that time has, I think, stood us in good stead.

- What does playing in the Champions League mean to you and what do you feel on matchday?
- I can say that on matchday there's a constant feeling of celebration. It doesn't even matter if you're alone or in a hotel for an away match or if you're playing someone at home. When we travel to the stadium, the feeling of a celebration intensifies even more. And... of course, it's an unbeatable feeling, which is hard to somehow put into words to make it understood to an ordinary person. I think you need to actually play in one of these matches in order to feel it and understand it. Again, we haven't yet got really used to these events, so I think that for us these days are hugely important. Perhaps for the footballers who often play in European competitions, these matches don't bring this surge of emotion any more, but for us these matches are unique. Although I've experienced six of these matches!

- Have you found out something new about yourself, thanks to Champions League matches?
- No, I haven't yet managed to!

- What are the strong points of the current BATE site? What do you need to do to surprise the public?
- I think that in comparison to last year... our team is more driven and at the same we understand better the coaches' instructions. This is a big positive, which I believe our team possesses. So, I think that thanks to this unity and thanks to the fact that everyone will give everything on the pitch, we can get some results. Results that may even surprise the European footballing community. I, at least, believe in this.

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