27 september 2008

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin met with the coach of Zenit St Petersburg football club Dick Advocaat

At the meeting Vladimir Putin wished the coach of Zenit St Petersburg football club a happy birthday.

Vladimir Putin: The people of St Petersburg are very fond of you, so I would like to present you with a photo album devoted to this city.

Dick Advocaat: Thank you very much, I feel truly honoured.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Advocaat, I would also like to wish you a very happy birthday and congratulate you on your latest achievements. These are both the team's achievements and your personal accomplishments. As far as I remember, you were named Scotland's best coach in 1999 and 2000, but the results you have gained here in Russia are unparallel, with Zenit St Petersburg winning the Russian Football Championships, UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup. Coaching is hard work, since you have to be constantly with the players, travel around the country and be away from your family and home. How do you manage to do this?

Dick Advocaat: This is very hard indeed. But first, I would like to thank you for your kind words. I am honoured to be here next to you and I admire you.

When I was a boy, I was often told that I would have it hard in my life because I was short - as they say, only tall people achieve success in their lives. However, I have proved the opposite showing that short people can achieve great success as well, and this is what I have managed to do.

Unfortunately, I do not speak Russian, and only know a few Russian words. Still, people can tell whether I am satisfied or displeased with what is going on just by looking at my face. I think in politics it works in a similar way.

Being separated from my family is certainly not easy. As I am living in Russia, I have to travel a lot and I rarely see my family. I have to travel to other cities, with my work taking seven days a week. Politicians lead the same kind of life, and our jobs are similar in this regard. Both you and I strive for achieving the best in what we do. We are very determined, which is encouraging for the team.

Vladimir Putin: I know what you mean. You have mentioned that you do not speak Russian - still, people in St Petersburg and all over Russia are very fond of you, and you are well aware of that. I've heard that some fans even hang a picture of you wearing a Russian general's uniform. How do you feel about that?

Dick Advocaat: Once, I worked as an assistant to the Dutch coach Rinus Michels. He was nicknamed the General as he was always very confident in pursuing discipline, while I was called the "small General". Here, I am a real "General", I even have three general's garrison caps.

Vladimir Putin: What are your plans for the future?

Dick Advocaat: I have to make a very serious decision since my family wants me back home. This is a hard decision, as my colleagues say the team can achieve even better results. We have both an excellent team and a sponsor, and we are capable of a lot more. I am certainly full of plans and ambitions, but unfortunately I am not young anymore and have to consider spending more time home with my family.

Vladimir Putin: You live in the Netherlands, but your family is unlikely to see you there often either.

Dick Advocaat: That's true, the coach's job requires solitude.