A Russian coach working with a foreign team is, if not unique, then quite a rare character. Today’s opponent of the Russian national team in a friendly match in Bishkek is headed by our compatriot. A native of Krasnodar, Alexander Krestinin, who recently turned 44, has already devoted eight years of his career to the national team of Kyrgyzstan.
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Krestinin was not a prominent player, although he showed promise: in youth he became the top scorer of the championship and even played for the Russian national team. At the age of 16, he played in the Euro qualifying match against the Italians with Andrea Pirlo.
“To reach the final stage, it was necessary to win, but we got 0-1,” Krestinin recalled. – Pirlo scored the only goal, he then played under the attackers. The match took place in the city of Sora, 90 kilometers from Rome. It was Wednesday, but Sora had a day off, and the stadium was packed for the youth team match. They yelled so that we did not hear anything three meters from each other. After that game, we arrived in Rome for a day, and the city is polluted – due to the fact that the UEFA Cup match “Lazio” – “Borussia” took place there. Before that, we played a home match with the Italians in Selyatino. They offered to change shirts. “Can not. Our machine that glues the numbers broke down. In Italy they offered again. “Shall we change?” – “No problem”. After the game we approach: “Well, what?” “We can only change shorts.” “Nafig us your shorts. Grass, or what? It was my first trip abroad.”
Then, being a professional player, Krestinin traveled around Russia. He played in his native Krasnodar, Rostov-on-Don, Krasnoznamensk, Orenburg, Reutov, Tambov (by the way, together with Yuri Zhirkov), Novomoskovsk, Naro-Fominsk, Shchelkovo, Komsomolsk-on-Amur and Krasnoyarsk. I changed a dozen and a half clubs, flew to Kazakhstan, where I played in Aktau and Turkestan.
However, Krestinin did not reach the first Russian national team. What about the first team! At the level of the Premier League, Alexander also did not play. The attacking midfielder had some talent, but, apparently, other qualities were not enough.
The desire to stay in football and earn something unexpectedly threw Krestinin at the end of his career in Kyrgyzstan. At 32, he went to Kochkor-Ata. Where he suddenly became … a playing coach.
“In Tyumen, I tore a ligament, missed six months, even the press could not be downloaded,” said Alexander. – Having nothing to do, I decided to learn to be a coach. Find out how much training costs. Ten thousand? OK. He opened the chest, collected what was left, and passed the exams. I was 31 years old. There were no special offers, and I went to finish playing in Kyrgyzstan, in Neftchi Kochkor-Ata. There was no heating, because of the cold I had breakfast in a hat and jacket and got ready to go home. I bought my teammates goodbye beer, and then they posted to the head of the club: “We drank yesterday, and Sanya said that he had a coaching license. Maybe he will train us? I stayed and in the first year I made Neftchi a champion.”
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For “Neftchi” it was the first and only league title. Celebrated, according to Alexander, unrealistic. A year later, the team from Kochkor-Ata took silver and reached the final of the Cup of the country. After that, Krestinin briefly returned to Russia, and in 2014 he received an offer to lead the national team of Kyrgyzstan. Thus began his real coaching career.
In the summer of 2017, Krestinin became a part-time worker, like his colleague Valery Karpin is now. The Russian coach, in parallel with the national team, headed Dordoi from Bishkek. This is the most titled team in the country, which has won gold medals 13 times. Since 2014, there was a pause with victories, but then for four seasons in a row (2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021) Dordoi won the championship with Krestinin. In addition, he twice took the Cup and the Super Cup of Kyrgyzstan.
When in November 2021 it was announced that Krestinin was leaving the post of head coach of Dordoi, club president Askar Salymbekov said about the Russian: “His personality is a godsend for Kyrgyz football.” And he promised to remain in warm friendly relations with Alexander. Krestinin himself admitted that it was difficult for him to combine work in the club and the national team with his studies at coaching courses, so he was forced to decide to leave.
Photo: Matt Roberts/Getty Images
Under the leadership of the Russian coach, the national team of Kyrgyzstan has made some progress. For example, in 2019, for the first time in its history, it made it to the final stage of the Asian Cup, which was held in the UAE. Moreover, Krestinin’s team qualified for the playoffs after finishing third in a quartet with South Korea, China and the Philippines. It happened thanks to the victory over the latter – 3:1. And the Kyrgyz national team gave a fight to the favorites: the Chinese lost only with a score of 1:2, and the South Koreans – 0:1.
Then, in the 1/8 finals, Krestinin’s team almost created a sensation by knocking out the hosts. The main time of the match with the United Arab Emirates ended in a draw 2:2, and in the extra time everything was decided by a penalty kick appointed in favor of the opponent. Then the national team of Kyrgyzstan was at its peak and would certainly cause problems even for the Russian team.
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In Kyrgyzstan, Krestinin found his coaching happiness. Today they will learn about him or remember him in Russia. Surprise Karpin, perhaps he will soon receive a good offer from the RPL club.
The material uses quotes from an interview for Sports.ru