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Russia’s Euro 2012 squad: Roman Shirokov

Published time: May 16, 2012 08:21
Edited time: May 16, 2012 23:43
Russia's Roman Shirokov (RIA Novosti / Alexey Kudenko)

Russia's Roman Shirokov (RIA Novosti / Alexey Kudenko)

He always says what he thinks and what he thinks rubs many people up the wrong way. Meet one of Russia’s most talented and definitely most hated footballers, Roman Shirokov.

­Full name: Roman Nikolaevich Shirokov
Age: 30
Position: Midfielder
Club: Zenit Saint Petersburg
Caps for Russia: 19
Goals for Russia: 4

“Roma, f**k off!” said a banner that appeared among Zenit supporters during the club’s away game at Rubin Kazan a couple of weeks ago.

The offensive words weren’t addressed to anyone from the opposing team, but rather their own player, Roman Shirokov.

The St Pete fans were outraged by the manner, in which their “hero” refused to present one of them with his jersey after the golden game against Dynamo Moscow.

A couple of days later a video was posted on the web, showing Shirokov’s chat with a group of Zenit supporters at Kazan Airport.

In his speech, mainly consisting of offensive terms, the Russian international promised to go up into the stands and beat the crap out of everybody there if such a banner reappears.

“For whom do you play football?” one of the fans wondered. “Not for scum like you,” the player replied.

Well, it’s true – Shirokov plays football for himself and, in fairness, does it at a very high level.

A straightforward person in life, the “enfant terrible” of Russian football displays completely opposite qualities while on the pitch.

Shirokov was instrumental in Zenit’s triumph in the Russian Premier League, being the brain in the strongest midfield line-up in the country.

He scored nine times in 26 appearances for St Pete last season, including the strike that made his team the champions.

Roman Shirokov scores the winning goal against Dynamo Moscow to make Zenit Saint Petersburg 2011/12 Russian football champions. (RIA Novosti/Vadim Zhernov)
Roman Shirokov scores the winning goal against Dynamo Moscow to make Zenit Saint Petersburg 2011/12 Russian football champions. (RIA Novosti/Vadim Zhernov)

If you’re not impressed by his achievements in the domestic league, it’s worth mentioning that the 30-year-old has been named the player of the week in the Champions League on two occasions.

Shirokov was part of Russia’s squad at Euro 2008, but played just a single game there. Guus Hiddink could only find the player a spot on the bench after his team was thrashed 4-1 by Spain in the opener.

For some reason, Roman appeared in defense in that one and was eaten alive by David Villa, making one TV commentator proclaim: “Shirokov is not a player of international level.”

But everything is different four years later as he’s now a key figure in the Russian squad.

Shirokov brought coach Dick Advocaat his first victory with the national team, netting the only goal in a friendly against Bulgaria back in 2010.

He played eight games in the Euro 2012 qualifiers and scored the winning goal in the crucial away clash in Ireland.    

Many experts consider Russia favorites of their group at the European Championships, with co-hosts Poland, Greece and Czech Republic being their rivals, but Roman remain very cautious about his team’s chances.

“When you have three equal teams, it’s the worst thing that can happen,” Shirokov told the Rossiya 2 channel. “Some will be dangerous due to the home fans’ support and, possibly, sympathy from the referees. We’ve just played the Greeks and it was a draw. The Czech Republic won’t be a walk in the park either.”  

Nevertheless, it’s Shirokov, not Arshavin, who’s really expected to mastermind the team’s creative football in Poland and Ukraine.

Russian fans just hope that he doesn’t say or tweet anything offensive that might see him banned from taking part by UEFA.

­Dmitry Gorshkov, RT

Shirokov tries to calm Zenit′s fans during the UEFA Champions League home match against APOEL in November 2011. (RIA Novosti/Aleksey Danichev)
Shirokov tries to calm Zenit's fans during the UEFA Champions League home match against APOEL in November 2011. (RIA Novosti/Aleksey Danichev)
Besides football, Roman is also pretty good at hockey. (RIA Novosti/Aleksey Danichev)
Besides football, Roman is also pretty good at hockey. (RIA Novosti/Aleksey Danichev)