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Alexander Hleb after joining FC BATE Borisov: I am happy in Belarus!

Today we have the opportunity to talk with one of the most famous football players of Belarus - Alexander Hleb.

Alexander, can you tell us about the time you fell in love with football?  Was it somehow accidentally?

Alexander Hleb, footballer:
I liked to play football when I was a child. We returned from school, threw schoolbags and ran outside to play. I did it well. But I never thought I would do it professionally. I was engaged in gymnastics, and then my cousin took me to diving. I did well there too. Everyone said: "He is promising!". They worked with me individually. But then my father (a football fan), he returned from Chernobyl after six months of absence. He said "only football." And he took me to a football academy.

You managed to play alongside the best players of our time. And you yourself have an amazing talent. But does football talent have an inherent nature or is it hard work?

Alexander Hleb, footballer:
I think it is something initial, natural. More from God, but it's still not the most important thing. I think that dedication, hard work, and the pursuit of your goal are the main things. I encountered in Germany, and in Arsenal with the players who were not endowed with super talent but they did very well playing in the top teams. Of course, my talent... And the fact that I lived football and abandoned education for the sake of football... Maybe this was help from God. In Germany, it was really hard for the first time. The first year was very hard.

You were practically a kid. It's like to send a child in the army!

Alexander Hleb, footballer:
Yes. That's it! -Yes! Yes! Besides, you do not know the language.   Without my brother, I would not pull it.  I was thinking: "I want to go back!". Because it's hard. But he did not care, he treated this like "I don't give a damn!". In his junior team, he was one of the leaders. He told me I would do very well. 'We believe in you!' he said.   
I demanded much from my brother. I always did. When he played well, I always knew he could be even better.      

You were in Europe and held the Champions Cup in your hands, which is a dream for many players.  You were not included in the final squad and you said in one of interviews that you cried when you found out that you were out.

Alexander Hleb, footballer:
It was a huge disappointment. It was really hard to breathe when I went to the field. Because for any player the final is something special. Then, of course, Guardiola treated me in a harsh manner.

Was it an educational aspect? Did he decide to teach you?

Alexander Hleb, footballer:
Probably yes. I understand that I might behave in the same way if I were a manager.  The last six months I worked with him, I was very annoyed. But he sought an approach: 'I believe in you, learn Spanish! Everything is fine! I chose you, you're here to play!' And I had a very difficult life stage. Psychologically. And yes ... I have myself to blame. 

I know very few people in sports and show business, who are so willing to honestly admit that they were in some kind of eclipse.  Why do you think that happened to you? Star fever? Faith in your strength?  

Alexander Hleb, footballer:
It is not associated with sport. It was personal problems. Family, friends...

It would seem that for a man to be in such a situation is a pinnacle! The best club! How can one be dissatisfied with life?

Alexander Hleb, footballer:
Well, it happens. But it does not have anything with football. Because I did not think about football, I had problems with Guardiola. I did not want to listen to anyone. I thought I was right. I thought everyone was to blame, but not me. So, football does not forgive mistakes. Now, with age I realize that this was childish. But we're all human beings. With our emotions and weaknesses.

Is there the most horrible mistake you made?

Alexander Hleb, footballer:
Yes. I remember it... Not often but sometimes. When we lost to Barcelona in the [Champions League] final.

Do you remember any of coaches with whom you worked?

Alexander Hleb, footballer:
Well, I guess I would note [Felix] Magath. Even despite the fact that I would refuse to work with him. Because his regime was harsh. He punished for everything.  Bullied us, you might say. Time passes and I understand what he saw I was capable of much more. He saw me as a leader (he said this himself some time later) and demanded much more from me. Therefore he treated me so harshly. Now I understand that. I am very grateful to him. I remember also Arsene Wenger, of course. This is the best coach in my career.

A team is a living organism, which is very competitive inside. Because everyone dreams to take the place of someone else. Because of internal competition performance suffers sometimes. Did you find yourself in a situation where your partners did not play for you?

Alexander Hleb, footballer:
Sure. I think everyone got in this situation. Especially when you are traveling abroad. You are perceived as a competitor, not as a friend. Over time you do to establish some kind of relationship. But from the beginning, no one helped me. But I was lucky to meet people who told me: "In football, there are no friends! Remember it!" I do not agree with this. Because in different teams I had good relations. Maybe it's due to the fact that friends were playing on my position? But it's hard. Of course, everyone wants to play, everyone wants to be in the first team.

How do you feel about FC BATE? How were you received by boys in the team? How do you feel in the national team of Belarus?

Alexander Hleb, footballer:
I have worked abroad almost since 18. But I always wanted to return. Even last year in Turkey, I flew to Belarus every weekend.  And having moved to BATE I really felt at home again, among friends. This is real joy. Joy because of atmosphere, the guys and the country. There is special aura in Belarus. I am not trying to say beautiful words. I catch positive things in everything. And it's great that BATE have qualified for the Champions League. I am happy at home!

Alexander Hleb, FC BATE footballer