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
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
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
Of course when you read those words from Kafelnikov,only the
arrogance stands out.By talking to him,the feeling is a bit
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
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
...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
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"
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
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