"The two Faced-Russia"

Here is the translation of the article taken from the French sport Newspaper "L'equipe".
translated by Lola.

By Jean Issartel, in MOSCOW

Safin,exeptionally gifted,nonchalant and a symbol of liberal/modern Russia. Kafelnikov,established champion and a real product of the Communism. Cross portrait of two team-mates that everything separate.

In order to know,in order to be sure,the best thing would be a head to head,in Moscow,in the huge Olympic Stadium.In such a case,we would see, as a radiograph of the Russian society, all the nostalgy and all the divides standing out a crowd who would probably cheer the eldest.

By the way,Marat Safin has no illusions.And the idea of a match against YK made Marat laugh: "Last year,the crowd hissed me, here, at home, because I had dificulties in finding my game. They put my head underwatter until I drowned myself. So I imagine easily that the crowd would support Evgueni if I had to play him here".

And yet,he has everything to be popular ,Safin.
He's young,exeptionally gifted, rich, nice, funny, tortured soul...He run his eyes and his disenchanted smile over the world around him and if sometimes he get angry with the journalists of his country "It's only because they get on my nerves with their questions which all concern my private life and the external signs of my wealth". Also maybe he starts to be tired of playing ,despite his ranking and his results, the supporting part behind "kafel",the idolized Olympic Champion, 6 years older than him.

Evgueni.His lengendary haircut,always looking busy,in a hurry. Never a smile,his words always come out as from a kalachnikov. "People in Moscow,as everywhere in Russia,likes very much what I made as a tennisplayer.Winning 2 Grand Slams,being the number one in the world and above all winning the Olympic Gold Medal gave me a legitimacy and the respect of all Russian people. I am the 1st of all of them who made all those things. And when you're the 1st to do something,you're the 1st forever. People knows that I stole nothing and that I earned all what I have by the sweat of my brow,by my work,by my gift.It's a big honor to reach this level for me and for my country.I feel a lot of gratitude from my fellowcountymen. Above all, I feel that they identify themself to me,I feel that they know we lived the same things,the Communism with it's good and his bad sides. Me, I didn't leave the country to early. I am their champion,the one they could have been".

Never being doubtful; a lot of ego and tons of certitudes. Modesty is just a front, a mask, an YK says that he never wears masks, "exept to go dancing". Even when he said that,he didn't smile."I am more under pressure than Marat,here.I won the tourney 5 times in a row,like BjпїЅrn Borg in Wimbledon. People are expecting a 6th victory of me.I take my responsabilities. I am a man.I don't do that for Yevgueni Kafelnikov. I do that for my fans,for Russia.So, I play better than if it was only for myself".

Of course when you read those words from Kafelnikov,only the arrogance stands out.By talking to him,the feeling is a bit different.
YK is a king who distributes his words when and where he wants.He doesn't say always the truth,but the essential for him is to believe what he tells.He doesn't want to charm,he doesn't care about it.What he wants is to win the talk as you win a tennis match. Sometimes he is honest,like in a a respite,because of his taste for he game.Then,he doesn't deny his taste for money or his relationships,which outside Russia everybody consider guilty. "Personally,I believe that I am well surrounded.I can rely on a few friends,and people who have networks that I need,and I'll use them more when I'll dedicated myself to my buisness and the Russian Tennis".

The Mafia's shadow cast a shadow over the aura of the character, as it cast a shadow over Russia.YK maintains"his country neither better nor worse than the others developped Nations, maybe Russia is just less hypocritical"...Kafelnikov himself may passed from his own myth and the reality. He always has four bodyguards(2 in front of him and 2 behind him)with him.YK always speaks frankly exept when he is tired with the truth. In that case,he lies.He lies about his social roots for exemple.In moscow everybody will tell you that he comes from a very poor family and YK confirms that his father,a bad volleyball player, worked as a taxidriver in Sotchi during summer holidays; that is mother was a cleaning lady and that now YK meets them very rarely.

But in the ATP's questionary that YK had copleted at the begining of his career on the ATP Tour,YK stated that is father Alexander was a volleyball coach at the University and that his mother had a High athlete level Status in the ex-USSR.

Marat Safin made no secret about his family, neither about the rest. Anyway his parents are here,in the crowd for all his matches and for all Dinara's matches. Sometimes his mother made herself scarce in order to go to the mosque. At the mosque she has her friends and she buys meatballs as in her area in the Crimea. She doesn't want to attract the medias but she always accepts interwiews with a beautiful smile. Her husband acts as her,kindky. First he is shy ,but step by step he tells in a few words all the things which separate his son from YK:

"YK is the last product of the soviet organsition of the Sport; Marat is the first tennis champion of the modern/liberal Russia. YK followed the classic/typical program and the Communist State helped him ; Marat started in the same way but the political upheavals meant we had to find a sponsor in order to finance his debut in the Tour. If Marat hadn't benifited from the help of a sponsor,he would not be where he is now". His wife interrupted him in order to clarify the unbelievable story of her kid :

"When he was 13, Marat was one of the most talented young boys in Russia,but the Russian Tennis Federation hadn't any more money .And we hadn't enough money to finance all Marat's training. So I asked the help of a friiend,Vladimir Pavlovic Tcherbakov, the President of the Russian Labor Union. He found Bruce Rappaport, a swiss billionaire. We had never seen him. We just met his daugther once in order to help Dinara. Now this is a very current way of funding in Russia. But at the time,only Marat and Anna Kournikova benifited of this funding. The only difference with the communist way of financingb is very simple. Before,everything was paid but you were not free. As soon as you had bad results,it was the end and you didn't have the right to travel anymore.
Today you almost can do what you want.There just one constraint: "you must pay back".

Marat paid back in 2001, that's why he played all those tournaments while he had a back injury , at the risk of his health and of his future on the tour. His mother explains:" He paid all what he had to pay and he also paid Dinara's debt. It was better to pay quickly because the debt started to be exorbitant. It's like at the Bank,the more you wait to pay the more you have to pay expensive...". Yes, but there is a big diference between banks and private sponsorship. The private sponsors draw up contracts as they want.

Yes, Marat Safin was right in paying his debt and his little sister's debt quickly...Now when he earns money,he earns money for himself.

...By the way YK, the symbol of the previous era has already marked out the good sides of today's disorganization, and although he hadn't need the help of a sponsor because the State helped him,YK took the decision to be a sponsor himself. From the side which pays/which is profitable. "It is sure that today without help it's very hard to be succesful. But, I am sure that if a young player is talented and well surrounded,he can find a sponsor to help him/her. Me I sponsorized for 2 years a young Russian player,Maria Kirienko,who won the US Open. Some friends talked to me about her. I took this as a bet.I love betting,it tallies with my mentality".

On the Tour, YK's fondness for the "bets" is very much commented.He earned a lot of money by speculating,notably in Germany."I like playing chess.In my life,in tennis, in my business it's like when I play chess. Sometimes I'm right,sometimes I'm wrong. If I had always been succesful in my buisiness, I would be the President of Russia!

To calculate,to bet,to bet all on one buisiness,I love this shudder...but well,for the moment I stop all those activities in order to think about just one thing: the Davis Cup. After,I'll see".

After.After the Tennis.YK has already a foot in this other life.His next job?An official, a self-employed,a reliable partner,a mad better...well in one word, he will revolve/move.For exemple he will move in the Russian Tennis,with his friend Shamil Tarpishev,the DC's team captain, the President of the Russian Tennis Federation, a buisinessman and one of the Kremlin Cup organizer who thinks that YK is "the glorious past of the Russian Sport but also the glorious futur".Tarpishev,suspected of having misappropriated for his benefit some millions of dollars which were intented for the Russian Sport,says that he thinks he is "YK's big brother" and he describes YK as "the product of the soviet organization,trained by our trainers,so he perfectly knows the strengths and the weaknesses of our organization". As an echo back, in front of Russian's journalists,Yevgueni answers cleverly that he meets Tarpishev only twice a year or three time a year. "I owe my level in the Tennis to the education I received when I was 15. Now I want to give back to Russia what Russia gave to me ,by winning the DC and after by developing Tennis in our country".

You can meet/see those people in Moscow at at a reception in honor of YK gave by Moscow's Mayor Youri Loujkov,intimate enemy of Boris Yeltsine who is by the way a big friend of YK.You can also meet them in the players lounge,they said that they are buisinessmen,sport's fans,official members of unofficial organizations.
They make up the "network" that YK talks about,those famous "connections in and outside Russia which are essentials to succeed in buisiness".

Kafelnikov attracts them as much as Marat Safin applies himself to keep them at a distance."We have not the same friends" pleads Safin.

In fact, Marat and Yevgueni seem to avoid each other carefully. "Well, I see him enouch on the tour,says the youngest. YK is my Davis Cup team-mate,period. We are not the same age,we do not feel interested in the same things in life. We attempt to not irritate each other. We are satisfied in playing together,we have a quite good relationship, we do our job... But after that,end of buisiness. Sometimes I see him in a bar, so we can have a drink, but that's all, nothing more. I don't know his life very much.

Me I like to sit down and to laze around, I can spend an entire day without moving of the sofa. That one, look at him, he can't stay sitting in the same place during more than ten secondes. Look at him, now! He's always doing something,he sits down,he stands up,he reads a leaflet,after he goes walking,he phones to somebody,he fiddles with his rackets. Yevgueni is hyperactive.Me I am quite passive,I like to see life flowing".

And that's true,in the players lounge guarded as Fort Knox, YK is agitated and he is always phoning.
He is about to play his first match. "I am one of the four owners of the tournament.To keep it in life today in Russia is a real bet. People in Moscow need a such event,they are expecting a lot of things from me.I am very busy,I have a lot of work with the sponsors, the organization.Year after year, I help this tournament by finding enough money for it,in order to keep people dreaming.But, I also have to play and to win..."

Marat is not worried about YK: "He is one of the best players ever,the best that Russia has ever had. He is a great singles player and a great doubles player. He has a big talent and has a lot of experience. When he realy wants something,it's very complicated to stop him".

Today YK's opponent gave him some troubles until this ace from Kafelnikov that the Umpire judged fault. YK, without protesting, did as if his ace was in and he appropriated the point to himself. The chair umpire was dumbfounded and he didn't protest against YK. Neither the opponent.
YK plays at home and as he said "it's important for the tourney that Marat and me win some matches".

Marat Safin knows perfectly well the stake. And it's a strain on him :" I try to have a normal life, but during the tournament it's impossible. Everybody wants something, a photo, an autograph. Me, my job is to play tennis. I don't care about popularity. I don't want to be invited to all TV shows, I don't want to see my mug in the front page of all the Russian's newspapers. I just want to live my life, to do my job and when my day at the office is finished I want to be a normal guy. Here, it's impossible. And Yevgueni who bores me in order that I make at least a semi final, in order that there is a lot of public/audience. I know what he wants: a head to head between him and me...".

YK swore that if he won the DC he would retire.
Marat Safin well heard YK's promise.And he will not miss the opportunity to offer him "a last pleasure,like a goodbye present"...