Published: Friday, 13 January 2017 21:07

Andres OPER: “They quickly explained me in Moscow what my last name meant in Russian!”

March 27, 2002. Estonia 2:1 Russia (goals: Oper, 11; 87 – Beschastnykh, 18). Arguably it might have been the worst defeat of the Russian team over the time it was headed by Oleg Romantsev. This is even more remarkable, given the fact that there were Smertin, Mostovoi, Karpin, Titov and Izmailov playing for the team in midfield and Sychev and Beschastnykh starting the match in offense! These stars managed to lose the game against “a small, but proud” Estonia that had Andres Oper, the then young striker, shining in the attacking line in his native Tallinn. Such a notable in the Russian language last name was used in almost all the newspaper headlines dedicated to that football match.

Nearly fifteen years passed since that memorable match that was joyful for the Estonians and sad for the Russians. Between now and then, Andres Oper scored 38 times for the National team of Estonia and became the best striker in its history. It is very fair to assume that this record will not be broken in the nearest future. As of Oper himself, he played in different parts of the world – from the Netherlands to China ending his career at 35 (unfortunately, injures took their tool). He then started working at the English club “Akkrington Stanley”. Last autumn he also accepted an invitation to be a part of the new coaching staff of the National Team of Estonia that is led by Martin Reim, who had played for years alongside Oper.

- Andres, you have played in six National Championships, but in one interview you mentioned that you have a special attitude to three clubs that you have represented – the Danish “Aalborg”, the Dutch “Roda” and “Torpedo” Moscow. 

- Yes, that’s true. I remember those times with great pleasure, as each of these clubs gave me a lot. The Danish “Aalborg” was the first foreign club for me, so that was an invaluable experience for a young player like me. I joined “Roda” being a skillful sportsman, I was 28 years old, and I started to prepare myself for a coaching career there. And I must say that “Roda’s” head coach of that time helped me – he shared his experience and made me adopt practices of other Dutch training specialists from different clubs. As of “Torpedo”… When I came to Moscow it was easy to blend into a very close team that was ready to take me in. That time it was impossible to call the club a big one, but the atmosphere there was much friendly, even… how can I say in Russian?... – homely. Yes, homely. And I cannot stop but mention that “Torpedo” was not much of a top club, but it showed outstanding performance during some matches. Very strong masters were a part of its midfield – Semshov, Zyryanov, Kormiltsev. These guys were capable of making convenient passes to us forwards, assisting to score.

March 22nd, 2002. A friendly match in Tallinn, in which Andres Oper scored twice. Estonia – Russia, 2:1

- But you did not score many goals for “Torpedo”, although being a notable person on the pitch…

- (sighs) Yes, you are right. I was thinking a lot about this – why did not I take all my chances? And then I figured out that I worked too hard during my training sessions. I was very eager to comply with other players’ performance, so I overloaded myself some time back then. I guess I should have taken this easier, to be freer and more relaxed. But there is no point in speaking about it now. However, I remember those seasons in Moscow with great pleasure.

- Did your fellows from “Torpedo” explain you what does your surname mean in Russian? (Remark from the author: a Russian word “Oper” means “Agent”)

- Oh, immediately! I remember an interesting incident: I was driving when I was stopped by traffic police. And my friend, who was sitting next to me, shouted: “Hey you, don’t you see an “Agent” is driving!”. So he just looked my documents through, laughed a bit and let me go.

- Andres, you scored 38 times for the National Team of Estonia. This statistics is really astonishing. Which of your goals you cherish the most?

- Don’t you know which goals I will mention the first? (smiling). Of course, that would be the two balls that I put in the Russian net during the match in Tallinn - they are both special for me and for my team. You can only imagine what it feels like for a young country to win against such a big one! Another double that is worth remembering is the one that I made while playing against Greece. And of course the goal I scored against the Dutch.

May 26th, 2014, Tallinn. Andres Oper plays in his 134th match for the National Team of Estonia, which was his last. Estonia – Gibraltar, 1:1

- It is hard to imagine that you represented team Estonia for the 18 years in a row!

- And I could have played more. But bad luck made its trick – I got into a car accident right before the upcoming match for Estonia. I took a taxi, and a bus crashed into that car, so it took half a year for me to recover and to heal the injuries. That’s a huge time period, and it was really hard to get back into the elite sport. Things were even worse, because I was in a good shape back then… I must admit that the emerald pitch still beckons me. I did not have enough time in my life to play (smiling). But everything is good in its time. I have been leading coach’s staffs of a couple of young teams in English “Akkrington Stanley”. And now I started to help Martin Reim himself. The work for the national team is a priority to me, so we constantly communicate with him, sometimes we see each other, and thus, we discuss the problems of the team. That’s why we all came here at once – Martin, me and also our wonderful goalkeeper Mart Poom. We have a lot of work to do!

- Do you think that the youth team of Estonia has a forward, who will once break your striker record for the team?

- It’s hard to answer. You know, when I nearly turned 35, the rivalry within the national team became very tough, so it was harder to get into the starting line-up. But I began to train with more effort, and my persistency paid off: our coaches admitted that many players are younger, but, yet, Oper is the strongest! (smiling).

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Copyright 2011 Мемориал Валентина Гранаткина / Valentin Granatkin Memorial - Andres OPER.
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