Artem Dzyuba is Russia’s giant striker who is one of the players being trusted with ensuring the World Cup 2018 hosts don’t embarrass themselves. The Russians go into the tournament as the lowest ranked team at 65th in the world. Speaking to news agency Sputnik, Dzyuba, 29, attempted to rally the team’s fans. The 6-foot-5 target man said, “We want to make the country happy [with our results], we know that lots of people believe in us. I assure you that there won’t be any indifferent people on the football pitch, everyone will be fighting and struggling.”
Dzyuba added, “I’d like to ask you, the journalists, to support us. The tournament hasn’t even started, and you’re already acting so aggressively. Let the tournament finish, and make… conclusions then… Now I ask the whole country to unite… Many millions of people will root for us… We are preparing for the tournament, we want to win… For us, this is the main event in our lives, we need the support of the whole country… We will fight, we will struggle, and you will judge us then [after the World Cup].”
The striker concluded, “We have many experienced guys [in the team]… We are playing at home, on our home ground, it’s the rivals who should be afraid, we have the twelfth player [the fans]. I want this twelfth player to support us with his heart and soul… Root for us… and then, when the tournament is over, we’ll discuss it, you’ll say what you want, and we’ll answer you.”
Dzyuba has scored 11 goals in his 23 games for Russia. His team face Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Uruguay in Group A of the tournament.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. When He Was Left Out of His Team’s Training Camp in January 2018, Dzyuba Responded by Posting a 19th Century English Poem to Instagram
At the start of the Russian season in January 2018, Dzyuba was left out of his team, Zenit St. Petersburg’s, training camp. Futbol Grad reported at the time that Dzyuba was deemed not fit enough to travel with the team. The striker denied these allegations in his Instagram story where he posted numerous videos showing him training intensely at the gym.
He followed that up with a regular post showing his face accompanied by the poem, “Invictus” by Victorian English poet William Henley. The poem concludes with the lines, “I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.” Throughout history, the poem has been used by political figures as diverse as Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama.
2. His Wife, Kristina Dzyuba, Publicly Forgave Him After He Had Sex in a Car With a Russian TV Presenter
In 2015, Dzyuba was reported to have had sex with a Russian TV presenter, Maria Orzel, in her car. Despite this, his wife, Kristina Dzyuba, stood by her man, according to RIN in Russia. The news agency said that in the initial aftermath of the affair, Kristina Dzyuba had demanded a divorce but ultimately took the striker back.
RIN had earlier reported that in March 2015, Orzel and Dzyuba spent the night together prior to a Russian game with Montenegro. Orzel is also married. Dzyuba has a child with his wife, 5-year-old Nikita.
3. Dzyuba Paid Nearly $200,000 to Ensure He Could Play in a Soccer Game in April 2018
As a result Dzyuba being left out of the Zenit training camp, he went on loan to the lower ranked Arsenal Tula in the Russian league. In April 2018, Arsenal Tula were to play Zenit. Dzyuba had previously cited Zenit coach Roberto Mancini as the reason he left the club. To protect themselves, Zenit inserted a $400,000 fee in Dzyuba’s contract if Arsenal Tula wanted to play him against his parent club. FourFourTwo reported that Dzyuba paid nearly $200,000 of the fee with Arsenal Tula agreeing to pay the other half to ensure he could play. Dzyuba duly scored in the game and ran straight to Mancini to celebrate in front of the Italian coach. The goal made it 3-3 and the game finished a tie.
FourFourTwo quoted Mancini as telling Russian TV after the game, “I don’t regret that I broke up with Dzyuba for a while. I don’t feel anything like this. I’m happy for him, I’m pleased with the way he’s been playing for Arsenal. While Arsenal Tula’s general director Dmitry Balashov said that his club had two weeks to pay the rest of the $400,000 to Zenit.
4. Dzyuba Has a Thing for British Players, Citing Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott & Joe Hart as His Some of His Favorites
Prior to the European Championships in 2016, Dzyuba paid tribute to British soccer players in an interview with World Soccer. Dzyuba told the magazine that Joe Hart “is one of my favorite goalkeepers. It’s worth a lot to score against him.” When asked about leaders in the English team, Dzyuba said, “Still Wayne Rooney. I really like Theo Walcott. He’s very dangerous, but now he’s suffered too many injuries.”
Dzyuba went on to talk about Gareth Bale saying “Bale is [Wales’] main force. He is perfect. I don’t want offend Ryan Giggs, but this team is probably the strongest in Wales’ history.” Dzyuba seemingly went on to jinx Russia’s chances at the European Championships by saying that it was “impossible” for Russia to play worse than the European Championships in 2012 and the World Cup in 2014. Russia was once again eliminated in the first round of Euro 2016 after earning one point.
5. Dzyuba Defended Russian Soccer Hooligans During Euro 2016
The exploits of the Russian soccer hooligans at the European Championships was the most infamous incident of the tournament. The Russian soccer federation was heavily fined for the actions of their fans. Dzyuba disagreed with what he saw as the victimization of the Russian fans. The London Evening Standard quoted Dzyuba as saying, “I don’t really understand the reaction of the British media, who have this impression England supporters are like angels who just behave themselves. You have to be objective there is 50-50 in every conflict. I don’t see the Russians are the only ones at fault.” He continued to say that the players were worried that the team would be disqualified from the tournament, Dzyuba said, “We are not at a street fighting championship, we are talking about the Euro 2016 football cup.”