In the youth academy of the Danish champions FC Midtjylland, we find a young Russian. His name is Erik Braun, and he joined FC Midtjylland from Copenhagen based B93 in the summer of 2012. Midtjylland’s academy is famous for its high quality, and in the past years players like Danish international Simon Kjær, West Ham defender Winston Reid and of course the current starlet Pione Sisto have received their football education in the facilities in Herning.
The 18 year old Braun is a former athletic star, and among the fastest players in Denmark. Russian Football News talked with Braun about living in Denmark as a Russian, his strenghts and weaknesses as a player and of course about the dream of playing on the Russian national team sometime in the future.
Tell a bit about yourself and your background. How did you end in Denmark, and where did you start to play football?
I come from Moscow, and lived there for 11 years. I came to Denmark because my mother was getting married. I couldn’t play football in Russia, because I lived too far away from the practices, and my mother didn’t have the time to drive me. Therefore, I didn’t start playing football before I was 11, when I joined a small club close to where I lived in Copenhagen called Østerbro IF. I played for one year before some of my classmates asked if I would join their club because they thought I was good. Therefore, I moved to a better club called B93. At the same time, I started doing athletics because I needed more practice developing my strengths.
It went really well, and I started performing really well for B93, and meanwhile I became the quickest 100 metres runner in Europe. In the end I had to choose between football and athletics, and I picked football because I had a dream of playing on the Russian national team as well as in a foreign country. Therefore, I joined Midtylland where I have played for six years.
Midtjylland’s academy is famous for its quality. Can you describe how it is to attend it as a player?
It is very tough to be an academy player, as I have been. You practice probably seven or eight times a week plus matches, self-training and school every single day. Furthermore, I have been at Midtjylland both when the club went through a rough time, but also while they started to get success.
How do you think it has affected you that you received your football education in Denmark instead of Russia?
I think, I have had a hard time as a Russian understanding what a Dane want with my football, and I think that the Russians and Danes have different ways of both training as well as doing things, which have been hard to accept from time to time. However, I have developed a lot as a human as well as a football player through my short life as a football player.
Which differences do you see between Russian and Danish mentality and training methods?
There aren’t many differences in training methods, because everybody trains in similar ways. But their mentality is completely different regarding how they tackle problems. Danes often have the mentality that things need to go their way and nowhere else. Furthremore, the coaches tend to give up on players too quickly, and fail to provide them with the safety and development they need. I know, as a Russian, that we think and do things differently, and I believe that if I was on the Russian national team, the coach would understand me better as a player.
How would you describe your strengths and weaknesses as a football player?
I am a smart and very quick player. I am also very aggressive in my duels because I have a good physique, which I use. Furthermore, I have a good shot with my left leg, but I can also use my right.
You turn 19 in February, what are your plans and ambitions for the next couple of years?
I am currently on a trial with my old club B93, because I have talked with my agent about how I am a young player at a big club, who can’t get the playing time he need. Therefore, I will move and play on the first team for a slightly smaller club, so I can stay sharp and show myself for the Russian Football Union and other clubs.
Have you followed how your former teammates Izunna Uzochukwu [Amkar] and Sylvester Igboun [Ufa] have performed in Russia?
Unfortunately, I haven’t had enough time to follow them, but sometimes we write together and talk about how we are and so on.
Have you followed Dzhamaldin Khodzhaniyazov’s performances for AGF after he joined them from Zenit this summer?
It’s difficult for me to follow the Russian players when I live in Denmark, but I have seen him play, and I think he has done well.
You have stated that you are only interested in playing for the Russian national team. Can you elaborate why, and have you been in contact with anyone in the RFU?
I have been offered to play on the Danish national team, but I don’t have a Danish passport. I try to be as sharp as possible to show myself to the world and the RFU. It is however difficult as I have noticed that many players on the Russian national team plays in Russia, which means that they don’t look as much out in Europe where I am. I hope they will catch sight of me.
Do you follow Russian football and if so, do you have a favourite club?
Yes, a little bit. I support Lokomotiv.
Have you ever attended a Russian football game?
I have unfortunately never seen a Russian football match.
Could you see yourself play for a Russian club in the future?
Yes, I definitely could.
Author: Toke Møller Theilade
Brøndby supporter, groundhopper and more importantly Editor-in-Chief at Russianfootballnews.com. As a hopeless romantic, I still believe Fyodor Smolov and Viktoria Lopyreva has a future together.