Sport 15:26 27/02/2013

Henrikh Mkhitaryan: I never take the praise, if I know that I played badly

The latest issue of Shakhtar magazine has appeared on newsstands. Below is an interview with one of the protagonists of the January issue - Henrikh Mkhitaryan, published by FC Shakhtar Press Office.

- Henrikh, last year, you hit nearly all football top lists one can imagine - in Ukraine, Armenia and in Europe. Aren’t you afraid that such popularity can just blow your mind?

- I am not afraid of it, because I've always dreamed of it! I had to cover a very long way. And it was hard to accomplish. The same happens in life: it’s hard to achieve something, but you can lose it in one minute, just in no time. So I know the value of what I have achieved, and I hope that I won’t ever lose it.

- So do you purposefully control yourself not to be influenced by fame?

- No, I don’t. But at times, I intentionаlly listen to what they say about me. That’s pleasing and motivational for me to perform even better.

- Whose opinion is most important to you?

- First of all, I'm self-critical. I know myself when I played well, and when not, when I managed to do something and when I didn’t. And then come Lucescu with theory sessions, plus friends and relatives.

- How do you respond to criticism?

- If criticism corresponds to reality, then I respond to it very positively, because it proves the fact that I have the potential to play even better.

- And if, say, you are severely criticized by an individual who has never played football?

- Maybe we’ll have a discussion with him or her about this. After all, not everyone can see what happens on the pitch. Watching football is much easier than playing. When you take the field – that’s a totally different world. Therefore, I usually begin to explain why it happened that way in that particular situation. But dissatisfaction is expressed by a representative of football community, it is better to listen to them than to argue. Although you can listen first and then give your opinion.

- Is it possible to infuriate you?

- There is a point when I realize that we can’t continue like that any more, it just won’t help. I will still prove my point – by my performance instead of words.

- What game or maybe the missed effort do you kick yourself the most?

- There were many chances I failed to convert. But I try to work on that, because I know that in the game you can have just one chance, but a very important one. Perhaps, at 0-0 in the 90th minute, you may have that chance, and if you don’t covert it, the team will lose points. Therefore, I try to improve, especially as I had some problems in this regard.

- And yet what mistake was the most disappointing?

- I think it happened in the home game against Chelsea. I had five goal-scoring chances, but Cech just tipped the balls away.

- How do you feel about the fact that the Armenian fans, no matter how you play, still praise you?

- I never take the praise, if I know that I played badly. They're fans, this is normal. They are the people who just like you and support you throughout. I am thankful to them. By the way, the situation has changed now: when my performance is poor, my countrymen start criticising me.

- Henrikh, you just said you were mastering your finishing. But this is a common statement for players. Can you explain how you polish it in more detail?

- I can simulate the goalscoring situation in training. Yes, the goalmouth is clear, the goalie is not there. But you probably understand that I must hit the corner of the net instead of just making it on target. It is better to hit the corner three times out of ten than just fire the centre of the goal. That’s, actually, the performance.

- Do you practise free kicks?

- Yes, we stay with the mates for that after trainings.

- But in the game you never take them! Can’t dare?

- Simply enough, Mister just tells us who will do that. That's why I never step up for it.

- Are you an emotional man. What about the spot kicks, the nerves?

- I already took a penalty kick last year, in a match with Hoverla, and missed. But if I have another chance – I’ll try. Why not?

- Aren’t you afraid of getting injured on the pitch? After all, it’s always in your subconscious.

- No, I’m not. If a player takes to the pitch with such thoughts, he will surely get injured.

- Do your mother and sister often attend the games?

- The last one attended by my sister was the game with Juventus in Turin. And mom... (takes him long to recall) When Armenia played Lithuania! Speaking of Shakhtar, then at the game with Barcelona two years ago.

- But do they watch it on TV?

- Yes, always! Both on television and on the Internet they find broadcasts. They call immediately after a game, congratulating me and scolding sometimes.

- What has changed about you since your move to Shakhtar?

- I matured: I came when I was 21, and now I’m 24.

- You feel that you grew older?

- Yes, because I've got used to this team. When you join a new team, you try to adapt, and eventually you start feeling more at ease, just as an experienced man.

- Do you feel that you are gaining credibility in the team, your significance grows, you have the right to vote?

- I don’t have any voting right, because there are players who have been longer than me at Shakhtar. We have the captain and the vice-captain, who are entitled to vote. I can just do my job on the pitch - that's my right!

- How do you feel about your growing popularity among girls: many lady fans see a potential husband in you and want to meet you?

- Haven’t met anyone yet, no one came up to me. (laughs) Actually, it's nice to be the center of attention of girls.

- Nevertheless, you live at the base and don’t quite leave it...

- Why? Sometimes I go out. I just know why I train and play. I do’nt deny that it is possible to combine the two. But now, when I’ve become an idol and begun to score more, I do not want to forget about football and change my way. I have just one way, and I'm going to combine it all.

- Don’t the teammates gibe at you over the place of residence?

- At first – they did, even gave me a nickname of the President of the Base. It’s been one year now since they didn’t say anything, they just calmed down and got used to it. But... sometimes they tease me by asking whether I plan to go home or stay at the base.

- What about your private life? Honestly, if constantly staying at Kirsha, you’ ll have no chance to get acquainted with your future wife.

- Maybe, but it's fate, and there’s no escaping it.

- Are you a fatalist, you believe in fate?

- Yes, of course. The date of birth determined my fate. Just as anyone else’s, indeed. Life is a book, and we are actors who play according to what is written.

- But you yourself made that choice - to live at Kirsha instead of central Donetsk.

- Thus, the book has it so!

- Look, maybe you just save on accomodation?

- No! (laughs) No! I never had problems with money, and for me it’s in the last place. If you work, you have to earn. I chose Kirsha because I had to concentrate more on training and matches than on living in Donetsk. Knowing how gorgeous the local girls are, I chose to live at the base, while in my spare time I can go out socializing with my friends. I'm not a recluse! When there is a desire, I travel to the city to relax, get distracted from football and start the next day with a clear head.

- That is, you don’t experience any lack of communication?

- I don’t lack anything. Except for increadibly missing my friends and relatives in Armenia.

- Okay, let's dream a little. How do you see your future wife?

- Beautiful, intelligent.

- They all say so. There is no man who would say: I want an ugly and stupid one.

- Oh! There are some! For me it does not matter whether she will be blonde, brunette or redhead. It is important that she will be well educated, because if we have children, we must also must take care of them. She will sit at home, and I will earn a living.

- And what if she doesn’t wish just to sit in a golden cage, willing to make her own career or develop own business instead?

- Why? I will make a living.

- Well, she also might want to fulfill as a personality, she might need communication.

- Let her bring her girlfriends to our home.

- Why, then, do your mother and sister work?

- (Pause.) I asked my mom to quit her job, but she says she can’t do without it. She will just feel uncomfortable, because she was always busy doing something. Whilst modern young girls do not work. (laughing)

- Is your sister old or something?

- Not in this case. My sister doesn’t live in Armenia. She works at UEFA and wants to earn a living herself. I sometimes help her, but she doesn’t like it. Saying: “What you earn is yours.” But I tell her that there isn’t such thing as “yours and mine.” We are a family, and that’s ours.

- Have any curious or funny things happen to you since your move to Shakhtar? Maybe some unusual calls and stuff?

- I receive a lot of calls... from strangers.

- And what do they want?

- Money!

- What do you tell them?

- Of course, I refuse them. How can I give money to strangers or just borrow? I will never get it back.

- I can hardly imagine you at a nightclub. Perhaps, some stories happen at cafes?

- Sometimes. We call in at a restaurant or a café, people recognize us, ask for an autograph or a photo. For me, this is normal and nice, I never hide from the people, from fans. I do not feel like a star or kind of cool. I am a normal man.

- What do you order in a café? You have lots of delicious ethnic food, and our people often choose your meals. What do you prefer?

- Borshch and salo! (laughs) We have, by the way, almost the same - basturma.

- And you know how to cook?

- I can make spaghetti and semi-finished burgers. Well, scrambled eggs, of course.

- They propose different clubs to you, but you say that you think only of Shakhtar. In the future, would you like to develop here, together with the club, or to go to Europe?

- To be honest, I feel good at Shakhtar. But there comes a time when you want to change the setting. Not because it's bad here, just to test your strength in a different league.

- And if you fail?

- It means then that the book read it like that!

- But there are players like Darijo and Tomas, who spent almost their entire careers in Donetsk. How do you like this option?

- If possible, why not? I am also ready to spend my entire career at Shakhtar.

- Did you think of what would you do after quitting football?

- I had some thoughts. I won’t be coaching, that’s just not my cup of tea. I can try myself in this role, but don’t want to. That’s all about nerves, but I wouldn’t want my hair to get grey early. If everything goes well, I can see myself doing business. Still do not know the line, but in this particular area.

- Business in Donetsk?

- No, probably in Armenia. I plan so far to get back there when I retire.

- Don’t you want to live in Europe? You know so many languages!

- I don’t want to move there so far. And languages... We talk French only with our physiotherapist Clement Hazard. Oh, and with Mister! But with him, you can also speak English, Russian and Portuguese. Except Armenian. To be honest, I would like to have a good command of English, I always liked it.

- Have you got a higher education?

- Yes, I graduated from the Institute of Physical Culture in Armenia. Currently, I study economics at the Yerevan branch of the St. Petersburg Institute. I entered it because their degree is valid in almost sixty countries. When I graduate, I want to study there as a lawyer. And at the same time, I will master my English.

- By the way, usually Armenians speak with an accent. You don’t have it at all. How come?

- My grandmother is from Moscow. I spoke a lot of Russian with her at home. She still lives in Armenia - for almost 50 years now. Probably it’s by virtue of my grandmother’s assistance that I don’t have that accent any longer. And that's good! 

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