Published: Monday, 16 January 2017 20:04


“My son looked at all my injuries and left the goals to be a midfielder”

The best Estonian goalkeeper of the second half of the 21st century is the most famous foreign guest at the Granatkin Memorial this year. As a goalkeeper he spent 14 seasons in the English football playing for Derby County FC, Sunderland AFC, Portsmouth FC and even for the London’s Arsenal. Also he was playing for the National team of Estonia for 16 years. Poom is recognized for being the best player of the year in his native country for 6 times. He was named Estonia's Golden Player in 2003 and now he is coaching goalkeepers for the National team of Estonia.

By the time that Mart took this notable prize his son Markus turned four years old. Now Markus is 17 and he’s a leading midfielder of the Youth team of Estonia that is participating in the Memorial now. And his father is watching their team play (mostly the goalkeeper) from the stands, so the first question is obvious…

- Mart, it is clear that you follow number 10 in team Estonia with special attention. But why did not Markus follow your steps? Why is he a field player?

- He started as a goalkeeper. This was happening back in England. I was still playing professionally that days, and my family lived with me. So we sent Markus to practice football to Watford FC. He played as a goalkeeper for some time, but then decided that was too boring to him. So he just went straight to the field. Now he plays as a midfielder. I think that there is another reason for my son’s decision: he looked at all my injuries, recalled all my surgeries and recoveries and decided that he does not want a football fate like this.

- And how many surgeries did you have?

- Thirteen.

- Really?!

- Yes, indeed. I was not much of a lucky player.

- That’s dreadful. Mart, why did you have that many? Was it you who rushed to protect the goals? Or was it just bad luck?

- A goalkeeper should not be afraid of anything. Otherwise he will not be a player, at least in professional football. But I was unfortunate not only on the field. For example, two unsuccessful surgeries on my meniscus led to additional surgical interventions. It is easy to make an arthroscopy these days, but then… Moreover, they infected the wound and it took long and hard months to cure it. I would have been useful for my teams that time... But I can’t complain: I played football for a long time and on a high level, ending my career in Watford FC and the National team of Estonia at 37 years old in 2009.

- How old were you when you started playing in England?

- I was only 22 years old. Although I had experience of playing for Estonian teams and for the Finnish KuPS and Swiss Wil I was still a young player who came to Portsmouth FC and got in the whole new world. Everything was new in England, from the way of life to the atmosphere on football stadiums. Though I already knew the language a bit, including most football terms that are commonly used everywhere, there was still a lot to discover. Moreover, I faced problems with a working visa, and also I got injured which was my first “English” injury. So I spent only a year and a half in Portsmouth and then went back to Tallinn to play for Flora for a year. My second attempt to move to England was more successful, as I was more experienced and knew what to be ready for.

- I remember you had an outstanding debut for Derby County FC in the Premier League, but I can’t tell the exact date…

- I can do that – it was April 5th, 1997. My club was playing against Manchester United itself and even on their home stadium. My favorite Peter Schmeichel was playing in the goals!! Can you imagine how shaky I was before that game? But it disappeared right with the starting whistle. And we won – 3:2.

- Right! The Russian television broadcasted that match. The goals for your team were scored by forwards Ward and Wanchope (a future star and a head coach of team Costa Rica). And Cantona and Solskjær scored for Manchester…

- This is the most unforgettable match of all my seasons in England. Moreover, we exchanged our goalkeeper’s shirts with Schmeichel, and he congratulated me on a victory and on a good play. That’s impossible to forget!

- You played against a lot of football stars in England. Is it Schmeichel that you recall the first?

- For sure. But I also remember another famous goalkeeper – David Seaman. We both played for Arsenal.

- Who was the strongest forward you played against?

- I was lucky Thierry Henry played for our Arsenal, as he was outstandingly good on the field. I should mention Alan Shearer and, of course, Gianfranco Zola, an Italian player from Chelsea, who had astonishing technique.

- You could have stayed in England after the end of your career, but why did you decide to go back to your home Tallinn?

- I already said that I finished my career in 2009. After that I worked as a goalkeeper coach’s assistant in Arsenal and decided, that my football experience and knowledge are more needed in Estonia. And the home was beckoning me.

- You came to Saint Petersburg as a coach of goalkeepers of the Estonian youth team. Bus as far as I know, this is not the only football appointment for you?

-  Yes, I have been working for UEFA for several years and I’ve been going to different countries for goalkeeper’s training camps, carefully looking after players and submitting reports to UEFA. I spent a lot of time in my football school for children, the one located in Nomme (district in the West part of Tallinn). I am engaged in training process, and I am also a head of the entire school. Plus there are my honorable and accountable duties in the National team of Estonia… So I have plenty of things to work on – but I love it, because I work in my adored football world.

- This world is also loved by your elder son Markus. Do your other sons play football?

- The youngest, Patrick, is only 4 years old and he only plays “Lego” or cars. As for my middle son, Andreas, he plays a lot – but he plays the guitar, and he also sings. He is very keen in music. For the sport he chooses tennis. So I can say that the only elder son followed my steps. I hope that Markus and all his teammates will show themselves in the adult football. But it is too early to think about that, as the guys should work more on their skills… And that’s the only way to succeed.

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Copyright 2011 Мемориал Валентина Гранаткина / Valentin Granatkin Memorial - Mart POOM.
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