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 A brand of our country is well-known all around the world

A capital “Astana” BC has completed its debut season in VTB United League: a team made rapid strides along the road of success – and the tournament newcomer stopped only one step away from the play-off, after having beaten a number of great experienced teams of Championship within the competition. As Valery Tikhonenko, the Olympic Champion and General Manager of the team said the fact of appearance of Kazakhstan squad on the sport map of basketball is a long onward stride, but both he and his partners are not going to stop at attained position.

 “Our capital has the rich basketball traditions: “Astana tigers”, the club that gained many times the title of country champion and was a basis for national team, had its headquarters in here, – noticed Valery Alexeyevitch, – the creation of the international brand – analogous to hockey club “Barys” and cycle club “Astana” – was the next step for popular game promotion. April, 2011 was a starting point for us. The republic cycle-track “Saryarka” was chosen as our headquarters, the capital management provided us with the playground, the necessary infrastructure for club foundation was formed. The coaches, players and other assistants were invited to form absolutely new structure.

As for staffing of the team, I think that our main success was inviting of Matteo Bonichiolli, the experienced and exacting coach. He became a real motor and generator of ideas. He supervised the foreign legionaries selection process. The Kazakhstan players joined them soon, firstly, they got a chance of getting an inestimable experience: the guys went through the millstone of a very intensive tournament of VTB United League, improved all their qualities. For example, Rustam Yargaliev became more self-confident when playing in stressful situations, began to act as a leader. The other players also showed a progress, for example: Anton Ponomarev, Pavel Ylyin and Dmitry Klimov. This can be useful for national team. Secondly, they had a tense timetable of competitions, and our home team used to play against the strong teams and attain the good result regardless of the competitor’s experience and fame.
“The first season of a big project called “Astana” BC is completed. Would you please to sum up the results and tell us about the problems you faced within the season?

“The situation was not easy. Some of VTB League participants didn’t approve the idea of a team from Kazakhstan being a member of League, they based their opinion on the fact that we had no the basketball traditions. But we proved with solid arguments, provided a financial guarantee, and only then we were approved.

The same situation was within the selection process. Each of the coaches and players would like to fight for getting the highest places at slid tournaments like the Europe League, Europe Cup or Europe Challenge. So, there were some frictions: the people had no idea of team they are going to join and of what to expect of it. The success of negotiations was based on personal qualities, financial guarantees, city infrastructure and other aspects. For example, Bonichiolli came to Astana, inspected the labor conditions, did the sights of the city –  found everything suitable and signed a contract. The legionary players joined us according to the same scheme, they trusted to me and coach and were happy with their choice, because their price increased during the season in “Astana” BC. Of course, it became easier to invite the new players now, our victory over Lituanian “Zalgiris” and Russian “Khimki”caused a real sensation and made our club famous and attractive.

The team’s background is one more weak joint in our armor, that is, the unavailability of sufficient training rooms – the team has not its own base, and this cause us to leave for training to other counties for long time. The sport complex “Sary Arka”, our home playground, is also out of order. It caused that our thrilling  match against “Khimki” took place in Russia – I’m so sorry that our fans couldn’t watch our brilliant victory! We would like our club to have its own infrastructure – a playground, training room, base and many other facilities. We don’t want to remain at the same place, we are moving forward!

We consider a possibility to increase the number of players as one of the ways to progress. Of course, the basic team body changes are possible to happen, but also we‘d like the idea to found a second team. The number of basic body of players is too small to realize the big plans – because of injuries, tiredness and other reasons. We want to make a team of young players of 16-22 years old and give them a possibility to participate at the highest level games against the world-famous masters of basketball. It will be the biggest school bringing the new players for number one team of our country. A rotation of players composition is not a bad idea: we have already got two new players and we look forward to watch them gaming for “Astana”.

I’d like to say, that our job is going to be easier the next season, we have stored the necessary experience and going to base on it in our further actions.

“Let’s talk about the coming season: have you decided what tournaments you going to participate to?”

“We are looking forward of VTB United league transformation into a new kind of competition. The tournament will transform into a new format very soon: a new timetable of competitions, the composition and number of participants will be announced soon; and we also going to appear there. And we also are going to participate in National Tournament and demonstrate that our high position was not occasional.

We plan to join to an international competition – The Euro Challenge tournament. It’s a large-scale international competition that associate all the strong championships of Europe countries. Usually 32 clubs take part in it, and it will make our gaming timetable quite intensive. Of course, it will influence to “Astana’s” deficient budget , but this step is of a high necessity – it will result by basketball and healthy way of life development. And as for the second team I mentioned earlier, it will help us to keep our team at the safety, and to participate to the National Tournament. The coming season’s distinguishing features will become more clear in the middle of May”.

“The final of National Championship is coming. What is your opinion, could you describe it in the whole?”

“Now is a stage of semifinals, but I hope that “Astana” will fight only for title of champion. The tournament progressed, of course, but the competitive rage of some games was of a very small level: some matches finished with 30 points difference!

By the way, as for Championship, I’d like to divulge you a secret – the legendary basketball player and world-famous sport star Arvidas Sabonis will visit the final part of Championship. It’ an honor and a kind ofexamination for us”.

“We’ll talk about the coming tournaments a little bit later. Let’s talk about the signing of new contracts with players: who of them will leave and who will stay for the next year?”

“We are very glad that Bonichiolli extended his contract for next two years – it’s our big transfer success. As the coach says, he thinks that there are the big prospects to form a club which will be able to achieve the most difficult goals. He’s a professional and can make the promising players to turn into the big stars of basketball.

The American sportsman Roul Marshall, one of the most successful players of VTB United League, extended his contract for the next year. He is a leader of our club and one of the key players bringing the success of “Astana”. Branko Cvetcovic also will stay: this Serbian sniper showed himself as a useful and irreplaceable player many times, we don’t want to let him go. The Kazakhstan players’ contracts are still valid, so, they are just preparing for a new season.

I consider that we managed to carry out a policy of dialogue – we offer all possible sport options for our partners. They feel themselves comfortable, improve their professional qualification. In the case if some of them would like to leave us – here I want to notice that no one of them showed such inclination - we can easily find a professional substitute of high level for him with no problems. And we’d like to keep the basic composition of the club at the same time. The names of other foreigners we will announce later, now we are negotiating with them”.