The Story of Andrey Arshavin, Arsenal Legend Ends Career in Kazakhstan

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“Once was one of the wonderkid in mainland Europe”

1NEWS – Maybe Kazakhstan is not a country that is synonymous with football, but Andrey Arshavin seems to end his professional career very happily during his three years with FC Kairat.

The former Arsenal player has indeed retired since 2018, and during that period, it was not Arshavin’s best performance in the Kazakh Premier League. His record of goals or assists is fairly ordinary, even his farewell is celebrated very simply.

Even so, that does not mean there are no stories to share from the career journey of an Arshavin. At that time, Kazakhstan was ranked 24th in the UEFA country coefficient, behind Scotland and Belarus, and Arshavin’s move there only appealed to Arsenal’s most die-hard fans.

However, believe it or not, the Russian’s time playing for FC Kairat is actually quite impressive.

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During his three seasons with Halyq Komandasy and turning 37, Arshavin still brings his own unprecedented talent, skill and uniqueness to the sixth most successful football club in Kazakhstan.

He consistently provides goals and assists, helping his club win the Kazakhstan Cup and increasing the number of fans for the club based at the Central Stadium.

With his career dwindling at the start of 2016 — and with rumors of his imminent retirement leaving Kuban Krasnodar in Russia — the 1.73-metre playmaker dispelled all assumptions that he was finished.

Rebuilding his career

In February 2016, Arshavin decided to leave the Russian football competition after his talent was no longer appreciated there.

The midfielder was recently terminated by Kuban Krasnodar after less than a season, his arrival (along with Roman Pavlyuchenko). Aged 34 at the time, Arshavin was clearly not attracting interest from Europe’s top clubs.

“If there is an offer to continue playing, I will definitely look at it,” said Arshavin.

“Otherwise, I will end my career.”

The potential for his retirement was discussed in many media, although most observers lamented that Arshavin’s immense potential seemed to have been wasted.

Fortunately, the offer did come, and it came from a former acquaintance of Arshavin, Aleksandr Borodyuk, Guus Hiddink’s former assistant for the Russian national team, who now manages FC Kairat in Kazakhstan.

The deal took place on March 18, 2016 and brought joy to the citizens of the city of Almaty and one less pleased person was Kazakh MP, Muhtar Tinkeyev.

“Look at Arshavin, they have given him a $1 million contract,” the politician lamented.

“Just think, over $1 million a year… Why isn’t this money spent on children’s sports? In building a playground?”

Back to actively playing with Kairat

The start of his journey in the Kazakh football competition itself was fairly bad after Arshavin’s new team had to suffer a 2-1 defeat, his manager gave up and resigned. And it was only in his fifth game that the senior striker could begin to adapt to Kairat.

In May 2016, Arshavin and his new team started to find their groove, where they were unbeaten in 16 matches and qualified for the league championship playoffs.

Of course, returning to the Russian national team was already impossible, considering he was not in top condition and he was 35 at the time, but his performances in the Kazakh Premier League were still commendable, and yes the fans loved him. Although Kairat is second behind FC Astana, Arshavin’s team scored 75 goals (eight of which belonged to Arshavin) in 32 matches.

The return of an Arshavin’s magical game made journalists spit on their own spit, A local football blogger named Peter Volikova had promised to shave his head if Arshavin scored more than seven goals for Kairat, and yes the man kept his promise.

At a higher stage, Arshavin was also successfully named the Kazakhstan Player of the Year 2016 and agreed to stay one more year.

Live healthy and live in Almaty

Unfortunately, such an achievement does not keep many European football fans watching the Kazakh Premier League.

In a 2016 interview with Arshavin, a UEFA correspondent used the somewhat worrying title “Arshavin lives well and lives in Almaty”, as suggesting a man who has attempted a coup against the Putin regime rather than a footballer scoring a beautiful chip goal.

“I’m starting to think that it’s always very hot here; now I know that didn’t happen,” he said.

“I think I played well here. I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. After six months without training, I played quite a few games, and that was good enough for me. But we didn’t win anything.”

Kairat and Arshavin repeated their high goalscoring record the following season, scoring 75 goals despite failing to win the 2017 Kazakhstan Premier League by a point.

Even so, Halyq Komandasy successfully claimed the Kazakhstan Cup and it was Arshavin’s first trophy in the country. In May 2017, the Russian wore the armband for two matches, scoring in the first, providing two assists in the second and winning both.

The Arshavin household is in the spotlight

During Arshavin’s time in Kazakhstan, he was often in the news for the wrong reasons, usually because of his marriage. A series of alleged extramarital affairs were reported in the media and one of the biggest was how his wife, Alisa Arshavina, threatened to cut off Arshavin’s finger due to his concubine problem.

Due to the serious nature of the threat, the Kazakh authorities filed criminal charges against Alisa.

“If Alisa is punished, then I will stop playing,” said Arshavin.

“It’s like cutting off my own hand. I’m sorry, to be honest. Please don’t leave me without football. I just want to do my job and make money.”

Despite the scandal, and despite being 37 years old, Arshavin continues to score at an impressive rate, racking up nine league goals in 2018 — his best tally in the country.

He even marked a bucket list item in 621 of his 623 career appearances – earning his first straight red card in club football, mysteriously kicking Brazil midfielder Rodrigo Antonio in the face.

And although Kairat still couldn’t beat Astana in 2018, Arshavin’s fans and colleagues didn’t forget to say a simple and fitting farewell.

After his last game, the club honored him by dressing him in a traditional Kazakh shapan and axe, which made him very happy.

(muflih miftahul kamal/muf)

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