Our volleyball players are always in demand, even now.
Some play in Europe: Maxim Sapozhkov is good in Italy, and in the women’s French Volero, five Russians often start at the start . Many, led by Arina Fedorovtseva, are in full view in Turkey. Troopers in Qatar, including Alexei Spiridonov . Dmitry Musersky enchants in Japan.
But we found a Russian trace, perhaps in the most unusual country: three at once in the Iraqi championship. How they got there and what kind of life in a country that survived the bombing only 20 years ago, we were told by the diagonal “Peshmerga” Yegor Popov .
War, trash, security
How did you end up in Iraq?
– Initially, I thought about Qatar, but in the fall the situation in Russia escalated and something had to be urgently resolved. There were several options on hand: Kuwait, Egypt and Iraq. According to the terms, Iraq was the most interesting.
– In the view of many, Iraq is something dangerous and it is better not to go there at all.
– We are based in Kurdistan, and although this is part of Iraq, it is a special territory. And as for security, I can’t even say where right now it’s calmer: in Russia or here. Judging by the conversations with the locals, after 2003 nothing terrible is happening here.
– Can you walk around the city?
– Generally calm. Here, if you look at the people, everything is Europeanized. No one, like in Qatar or Saudi Arabia, wears a veil. Sometimes you can meet people in traditional clothes, but the vast majority are in jeans.
Yes, Baghdad has its own atmosphere. Eternal screams – in every institution there is constantly noise and din. But that’s part of the mentality. No one, except for beggars, sticks. They might just ask to take a picture.
– You mentioned interesting conditions. Besides finance, what are they?
– We live permanently in a hotel, and when the family arrives, the club promises to rent an apartment. Food is included in the contract. We go to eat at the restaurant opposite the hotel. There is no limit. And in Gaza, I heard, they just give out 25 thousand local money per day (less than 1300 rubles – Sports.ru). This is not enough.
Yes, we have a great city. Baghdad, Irbil and Sulaymaniyah are places where you can live and have places to go. Here in Al-Zubair, where Sanya Petrov plays, full of horror. Around the ruins and dirt, there is nowhere to go. But in Iraq, dirt is generally a problem. For children, drinking tea and throwing cups on the ground is the norm.
– Such a culture?
– I understand that everything started with the war. People only cared about how to survive. Garbage was the 50th problem. This is not the worst. And since then, the mentality has not changed. I can’t throw everything under my feet, I always collect it behind me – and every time they look at me like I’m a fool.
The US bombed Iraq 20 years ago. What do they think of Americans now?
– Do you feel the echo of the war in the country?
– In Baghdad, the Americans left a hell of a lot of everything: military and police cars, weapons. You can easily meet a huge armored car with a machine gun on the road. If you come for the first time and don’t know the situation, you can freak out and think that the guys are preparing for war. But they just use the equipment left over from those times, like the usual auto industry.
– Can I meet people with weapons?
– And everyone has it. It’s legalized. Our guys from the team even carry with them.
– In terms of? On the road with “Kalash”?
– Well, not with “Kalash”, but with pistols easily. Friday is a day off in Iraq, and every time on this day there are many posts with the police. People have a rest – they also have clubs, and bars, and alcohol here. Nobody refuses anything. And to see how people take weapons out of the car during a car check is a common thing. Everyone takes it easy.
What can I say, we have a weapons store next to the hotel. Come in and buy whatever you want. Anyone can come: rifles, Kalash, whatever. No permissions needed.
– Doesn’t that make it creepy?
– What’s creepy?
– Well, you come to a bar, and next to you is a drunken man with a gun, and who knows what is in his head …
– It doesn’t bother me. Sits and sits. Moreover, visitors are treated with great respect. Somehow I was walking, freaking out with the guys and dragged myself into a policeman’s machine gun. Didn’t see him!
I thought I’d get a butt in the teeth. And he just started laughing. The second policeman once treated me to a tangerine. That is, there is no sense of insecurity. It’s dirty, a peculiar atmosphere, but definitely not scary.
– What is the attitude of the Iraqis towards the Americans now?
There are a lot of Americans left, by the way. In the same Kurdistan, I have seen more than once how their families come to a cafe. Although recently walked and again stumbled upon the police. When they found out that we were from Russia, they started: “Oh, Putin! Fuck America! But it was more of an attempt to make friends than any real political relationship.
– That is, there is no hatred towards the USA for 2003?
“Nothing like that at all. Never heard of such a conversation.
– They don’t say that the dirt around is because of Obama?
– Nope. At the same time, many here have a positive attitude towards Saddam Hussein, they say that it was great with him. In Russia, I always heard that he was hated. I remember a video of people tearing down his monument.
But here is a different picture. Many recall with nostalgia that it was supposedly clean under him and everything around was built and developed. Where is the truth, I don’t know.
– What is the agenda of the main channels of Iraq now?
– Never turned it on. But here are the local guys from the team – they, by the way, live in terrible conditions: in closets right in the hall – they constantly watch YouTube, football, sit in social networks. That is, everything is like everywhere else. They don’t care about anything in particular.
– One question: why do they live in these closets?
– Don’t know. Apparently, such a policy of providing housing for local children.
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One of the guys in the team got married at 30. And you can’t have sex before marriage
– A couple of tips for a person who is thinking of going to Iraq?
Don’t worry that something might happen to you. It is better to work out the route, because there is nothing to do in one city for a long time. Even Baghdad is only a green zone with Gaddafi’s swords and a few monuments to Aladdin.
– In Iran, because of the sanctions, there is a problem with the cards. How are you?
Everyone pays in cash. As far as I understand, the point is in the peculiarities of the business – they do not need to pay taxes at all. That is, if you want to open something, you just rent a room and go. The banking system is in its infancy.
– Relative to Russia, is it cheap there?
– Compared to Moscow – for sure. Kebab – 2000 reais. This is 100 rubles.
In general, do people live in poverty?
– It’s just different. In Sulaymaniyah, expensive cars pass through one, but at the same time it is full of beggars.
Also, by the way, you need to keep in mind that the whole country lives on generators. And even in hotels with some periodicity cut down the light. Not for several days, usually 15-20 seconds, but there is such a thing. Wifi – none. You can only save with a sim card.
– It is unrealistic to meet a girl in Qatar on the street. I’m not talking about bars. How is it in Iraq?
– I have not tried, I have a wife.
But I don’t think it’s a problem. We generally had situations when we were looking for a massage. They went inside. It looks like a normal salon. And you go further – a jacuzzi, a shower, blue neon. Already strange. And then they told us in plain text that there is massage, and there is sex. We left and decided to try another place. So there is the same thing, only in the Chinese theme.
– Oriental tricks.
– They are Europeanised. But there are those who hold strict views. Even in our team, some guys follow all the traditions. One got married at the age of 30 and only then tried sex for the first time. Before marriage, no.
What is the Iraq Volleyball Championship
– Who plays in Iraq from legionnaires?
– There are guys from Africa, a Slovene in Gaza, a Venezuelan in Irbil, a lot of Iranians.
– The Iranians are not particularly with Iraq.
“Political yes, but most ordinary people don’t give a damn.
– What about the conditions?
– There is no teraflex anywhere. In the Federation Hall in Baghdad, old, old parquet, cracks in the boards somewhere. The antennas are wrapped in plaster. Judging towers are simply prehistoric. I heard from a teammate that the Qataris offered to take Teraflex from them for free, but the Iraqis for some reason refused.
– What does the championship look like?
– Several teams are very strong, no worse than the Qatari ones for sure. But the system is a tin.
There are 15 clubs in the tournament. We divided into two groups: 8 and 7. And we played 6 games in 7 days. It’s like 1/16. Then we recover. The first four teams go further. And we play again for a week. So two rounds. Now we have the fourth.
– I’m almost confused.
– That’s what it’s about. And recently we learned that points earned in 1/8 go to 1/4. Such a joke. You can win the championship with a few laps to go.
– No playoffs?
– No! Foolish system! Everyone has been complaining for years, but nothing has changed.
– When does the championship end?
– Nobody knows! The federation talks about the next rounds a few days before they start. And it is written in the contracts that they end with the end of the championship. But when that happens, who the hell knows. It seems that the guys are playing backgammon, someone gets bored, and one of them says: let’s watch volleyball. And they appoint some kind of tour in the city where he lives tomorrow.
“At the same time, salaries in Iraq are higher than, at least, in our big leagues. Where do they get money from?
I won’t tell everyone. But we, as far as I understand, are somehow related to the Kurdish army.
In Indonesia, they scold for the blocks! They want to see the show
– You have played in different countries. Where did you get the most fun?
– Everywhere! There are people who come somewhere for a contract and do not leave the house – they train and watch TV shows. And I like to delve into the culture. So you came to the country – take the most out of it.
Greece and France are just a topper. Awesome climate, food, views, beautiful people. In Nancy we lived in an old house with huge arched windows and creaking wooden floors. Just immerse yourself in this environment.
Thessaloniki has beautiful prehistoric ruins all over the place.
Saudi Arabia is a gun. We were based in Mecca, Jeddah is an hour away. And I was lucky to meet many non-volleyball people. Stuck there due to the pandemic for 1.5 months after the season. With Sam Holt, brother of Max Holt (winner of the Olympic Games and the World Cup as part of the American team, he played for Dynamo for three years – Sports.ru), we drove somewhere every day. We were shown a lot of cool places, completely hidden from tourists.
– It didn’t go very well there. Zaleo is some kind of sovdep. I had an interesting experience, but I would put it last. I like Iraq better.
– Are there other championships in which you would dream of cutting yourself?
– I would like to go to Dubai. And in general, many Arab countries are curious. The Italian league attracts, but for Russian players – if you are not a supertop – it is now closed.
Already after I signed a contract with Iraq, I was offered to Indonesia – also interesting. Ilya Nikitin said that there is a completely different volleyball – a pure show. Some clubs, probably, have the task of winning, but the majority – just to make beauty. Ilyukha said that once, after a successful block, a coach ran into him: “Why the hell did you do it? If they play a combination – you need to let them finish it “…
Still would drive to India. The championship is also unique. They seem to be playing five games up to 15 points. But the country itself is interesting to see.
You are also the co-founder of a clothing brand.
Yes, we are in business. We develop, sew, the brand concept is connected with travel. We have a collection from countries. We do everything from scratch, we order fabrics from Turkey. We even have our own artist who draws prints based on our ideas.
– Who are “we?
– I’m with my wife.
– Is it profitable or rather for fun?
Everything is on sale! Although advertising, of course, is still needed.
– If you leave volleyball and deal with pure clothes, will you be able to live a normal life?
– 100%. I have two independent sources of income. I am lucky that I travel – travel and inspire. If you look at the prints of our clothes, there are many references to countries and life in them. We have an emphasis on quality.
Again, thanks to travel, I met the owner of a factory in Turkey. And he makes to order what we need. This is more expensive than going to a salon in Moscow. But it is exclusivity. After my career, I plan to immerse myself in this story much more closely.
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