Igor Akinfeev: biography
Igor Akinfeev is the Russian goalkeeper. From the very beginning of his career, he has been playing for CSKA; he is also the captain of the team. Since 2004, he has been the member of the Russia national team and its captain. In 2005, Akinfeev was awarded the title of the Merited Master of Sports of Russia.
Childhood and youth
The Russian soccer star Igor Akinfeev was born on April 8, 1986, in Vidnoye, Moscow region. His father Vladimir Vasilievich was a truck driver, and the mother Irina Vladimorovna worked as a kindergarten teacher.
The family was not wealthy, but the parents put their soul into their children, Igor and his brother Evgeny. At four, the father took Igor to his first practice in CSKA sports school. The boy was two years younger than other boys but asked to be a goalkeeper. He managed to catch the majority of flying balls; when his opponent scored, Igor got upset. After the second practice, the boy’s first coach Dezidery Kovach said the boy would make an excellent goalkeeper.
At seven, Igor was accepted to CSKA youth academy. The boy had to combine training and studies; there was no time for yard games and entertainment. However, the goalkeeper believes his childhood was happy, even though there were some challenges.
When Igor was eight, he had his first training camp in Chernogolovka. The conditions were harsh: the boys had to spend days in the rain. Akinfeev overcame all the ordeals; he even washed his socks and sports uniform every day which surprised his parents and the coach.
At 10, the young sportsman had his first tournament in Yugoslavia. After the game, Igor was invited to Miljanić, the head of the soccer association. The experienced coach and soccer player said he saw the second Lev Yashin in that boy.
In 2003, Akinfeev graduated from school and went to Moscow where he entered the Moscow State Academy of Physical Culture. In 2009, he successfully presented his diploma work on the familiar topic: “The technical and tactical actions of a goalkeeper during a game.” Thus, the CSKA youngest goalkeeper finished the university and became a certified specialist.
As a goalkeeper, Igor Akinfeev has undeniable advantages: he can hit the ball by his arms and legs. Besides, he has lightning reflexes. He is always confident, so his career has been splendid.
In 2002, Akinfeev and his team became the champion of Russia for the first time. In that year, he joined the youth national team. The team practiced in Israel. In the very first game, he drew attention: for instance, Sport Express positively reviewed his actions on the field and marked that the player demonstrated the mature and masterful style which made him look stronger than Veniamin Mandrykin.
At the end of March 2003, the sportsman played his debut match on the adult level: CSKA played 1/8 final against Zenith Saint Petersburg. Igor Akinfeev stepped in for Viktor Kramarenko in the second time; the game ended in a draw.
At the end of May, the young goalkeeper debuted in the Russian Premier League. In the match against Krylia Sovetov Samara, CSKA won; the score was 2:0. Akinfeev stood out for his last-minute penalty save. He was rightfully named the best player of that game.
2003 brought the breakthrough for the player: Akinfeev debuted in the Russian Football Championship and had 13 games in that season. He missed only 11 goals; CSKA became the champion of the country. It was the first significant achievement of the sportsman.
The debut in the Europe Cup was tarnished by the game against the Macedonian club Vardar: the Russian team lost. However, as the 1980s soccer star Rinat Dasayev emphasized, it was not Akinfeev’s fault: he did everything he could.
The overall successful year was marked with two more important matches. At the beginning of September, the goalkeeper debuted in the Russian Olympic team against Ireland; the score was 2:0 for the Irish team. Unfortunately, the game with Switzerland also ended with the Russian team’s defeat: 2:1. Still, the goalkeeper did his best during these games.
In April 2004, Akinfeev joined the Russia national team for the first time and became the youngest goalkeeper in its history. His number in the national team was 35.
On March 7, the Super Cup game took place. The sportsman spent 90 minutes on the field and missed only one goal at the 14th minute. Since that season, Igor Akinfeev has been the permanent first eleven member of the national team.
During the game with the Samara team, Akinfeev got a red card; he left the field at the last minutes of the game. As it turned out, it was the midfielder Ognjen Koroman started the fight: after Dzyanis Kowba scored a goal, he kicked the ball which later bounced back right in the goalkeeper’s face. Akinfeev was disqualified for five matches. In that season, he had 26 games and missed 15 goals.
Summarizing the results of that season, CSKA managed to win the silver medal; Igor Akinfeev was named the best goalkeeper of the country. According to Fox Sports, he was the strongest young goalkeeper. He placed third in the List of 33 best football players.
The Russian Cup struggle began for Akinfeev during the 1/8 final game. In the end, CSKA defeated Khimki; the score was 1:0. Thus, the team won the second Cup. In seven games, the goalkeeper missed only three goals.
Summer 2004 was hot for both CSKA and Igor Akinfeev. On July 27, the sportsman debuted in the Champions League and played against Neftçi (Azerbaijan); it was a draw. In the return match, the Militarians gained the victory with the score 2:0. CSKA also managed to defeat the Scottish team and got to the group stage. Akinfeev spent all six games on the field and missed only five goals. Eventually, the Russia national team placed the third and had the opportunity to continue to play in the UEFA Europa League.
By the way, Akinfeev had the anti-record in the Champions League: since November 21, 2006, he was missing goals in 43 matches in a row for 11 years.
2005 brought the goalkeeper the pleasant surprise: Akinfeev became the UEFA Europa League winner.
The next two years were also successful. In 2006, the goalkeeper protected the gate for 362 minutes. Some fans and soccer critics compared Akinfeev to the famous Lev Yashin. The sportsman’s prestige grew, and he was called the most promising Russian goalkeeper.
In summer 2007, rumors had it that Arsenal took an interest in Igor Akinfeev. However, the sportsman denied his transfer in one of his interviews and said he would remain the CSKA member at least for the next four years.
On May 6, 2007, Igor Akinfeev was injured during the eighth tour game with Rostov. As the goalkeeper was making a save, he fell badly and damaged his knee cruciate ligaments. Doctors examined the goalkeeper and anticipated he would be unable to go to the field until the end of the season. They were wrong: the player had the intensified treatment, recovered quickly, and came back to the team before the end of the championship.
In November, the 29th tour of the championship took place; CSKA played against Kuban. It was Akinfeev’s first game after the trauma. The Militarians won; the score was 1:0. In January, the sportsman extended the contract with CSKA until 2011.
The 16th tour of the Russian Premier League was the lest resultative for the goalkeeper: the game against Krylia Sovetov ended with a draw. Akinfeev became the youngest goalkeeper who managed to accomplish these fascinating results. In 30 matches of the season, he missed only 24 goals. CSKA won the bronze medal in that championship.
On April 12, 2009, Igor Akinfeev missed his 100th goal. In the same year, IFFHS included him in the list of five best goalkeepers in the world.
The season 2009/2010 was moderately successful, but in the next season, CSKA won the fifth Russian Cup. Unfortunately, Akinfeev had a severe trauma at that time: at the 30th minute of the game against Spartak, the goalkeeper and the forward Welliton collided. Akinfeev landed badly on his left feet, fell, and could not stand up. When the sportsman was on the stretcher, he was swearing at the Brazilian with all his heart. As it was discovered, Akinfeev’s left cruciate ligament was injured. In September, he underwent an operation in Germany and started training individually in February.
In April, Igor Akinfeev came back to the field in the match against Zenit. CSKA lost with the score 0:2. However, in August, CSKA defeated the Serbian national team (1:0). It was the landmark game for Akinfeev: after the game, he joined the symbolic “Igor Netto Club.”
In the middle of May 2014, Akinfeev broke Lev Yashin’s record and had his 204th shutout match; thus, he became the five-time champion of Russia. Moreover, 2014 was marked with another record: the player had the longest time without missed goals. For 761 minutes, Akinfeev did not make a mistake: it is the longest series in the history of the Russia national team.
Unfortunately, the regrettable failure followed soon during the game with the Belgian team. Fabio Capello stood up for Akinfeev and said that somebody was blinding the goalkeeper with a laser pointer. Belgium won at that time.
The game with Algeria also disappointed Russian fans. Russia lost, and La Gazzetta dello Sport included Akinfeev in the symbolic team of the players who failed the championship. After the infamous defeat, Akinfeev apologized to fans for the bad playing.
In 2015, the new misfortune occurred: although Igor Akinfeev managed to break Sergei Ovchinnikov’s record for the number of shutouts, one of the opponents’ fans threw a flare at Akinfeev during the game with Montenegro. The goalkeeper had severe burns and concussion. It happened at the 40th second of the game. Referees decided to disqualify Montenegro with the score 0:3.
In fact, the fan Luka Lazarevic accidentally threw that flare at Akinfeev. Video recordings showed he was trying to get rid of the flare than somebody had thrown at his feet. However, Lazarevic was sent to prison for 3.5 months. Igor Akinfeev did not claim against him.
In 2016, Akinfeev concentrated on preparing for the UEFA European Championship. The goalkeeper had three Euro-2016 games and missed six goals. However, he managed to break a new record for the number of shutout matches: the friendly game with the Romanian team was the 45th match.
Akinfeev is the highest-paid CSKA player. According to Footbnews.ru, his salary in 2017 was €2,2 million.
The handsome (his height is 186 cm., and his weight is 78 kg.) and financially independent goalkeeper has always been interesting to women. Once, a girl cut her wrists: a fake blogger who pretended to be Akinfeev insulted her. As Igor learned about it, he was depressed. Since that time, he does not speak much about his personal life: he is afraid to hurt his fans.
The sportsman had a long relationship with young Valeria Yakunchikov, the 15-year-old daughter of CSKA administrator. The girl never missed Akinfeev’s matches; she was the member of the behind-the-curtains soccer society.
Both Akinfeev and Yakunchikova were professional athletes and had common interests. The player was charmed with the young woman. She not only loved soccer but also was a professional dancer. The beauty often appeared in ads and starred in Timati’s music video. Valeria graduated from the Peoples' Friendship University of Russia.
Soccer fans were sure the marriage would follow soon, but the couple broke up suddenly. Some media reported that Igor had cheated on his girlfriend, and she could not forgive him.
In a while, Akinfeev’s personal life improved: his new girlfriend’s name was Ekaterina Garun. The beauty lived in Kiev, worked in the model business, and starred in videos.
On May 17, 2014, their son Danil was born; at that time, people got the news about Igor and Ekaterina’s marriage. In the next year, on September 4, the daughter Evangelina was born. The soccer star said he and his wife followed the Orthodox Church, but they were not going to impose their opinions and beliefs on their children: they should grow up and choose whatever they felt right.
The family is happy: Akinfeev is sure that every person may be happy, and they just need to wait for their person.
The popular singer and the frontman of the band “Ruki Vverkh!” (“Hands Up!”) Sergey Zhukov is one of the goalkeeper’s best friends; they have been friends since 2004. Igor is the godfather of Sergey’s daughter Nina.
Igor likes to play billiard and travel; he loves fishing. Akinfeev has his own Instagram page where he regularly posts photos from practice, matches, and, sometimes, family vacation.
Igor appeared in the ad of the Credit Bank of Moscow. In that video, the goalkeeper should make a difficult save, and Lev Yashin helps him do it. The soccer society’s reaction was positive.
In 2009, the goalkeeper wrote the book “100 penalties from readers.”
In 2017, under Stanislav Cherchesov’s guidance, Akinfeev and the Russia national team took part in the FIFA Confederations Cup. Russia, New Zealand, Portugal, and Mexico were in the same group. The debut game with New Zealand was successful: Russia won, and Akinfeev did not make a single mistake. However, later games were less resultative. The goalkeeper missed a goal against Portugal and two goals against Mexico. Consequently, Russia did not qualify from the group.
The players had a year to prepare for the domestic World Cup. The opening match against Saudi Arabia was good: Akinfeev did not miss goals at all, and the team won with the score 5:0. The match against Egypt was also successful. Although Russia lost to Uruguay (Akinfeev missed three goals including the accidental ricochet from Cheryshev’s foot that was considered the own goal), the country qualified for the 1/8.
On June 1, 2018, the game against Spain took place. The match was difficult. Both teams scored a goal during the normal playing time; Russia had its own goal from Ignashevich’s lower leg. Nobody could score during the extra time, although the Russian gate bar was hit frequently. Akinfeev was managing all the attacks; it was evident he was the game’s hero. The overtime also failed to identify the winner.
Throughout the penalty series, Akinfeev demonstrated his strong will and professional skills: he saved Koke’s and Iago Aspas’s penalties which brought Russia the long-awaited victory. The victorious save is worth admiration: the Russian goalkeeper kicked the ball with his foot and led the team to the quarterfinal.
Akinfeev was named the best player of that match; FIFA called this save “the moment of the day” on its official Twitter.
- 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018 – Lev Yashin Prize "Goalkeeper of the year"
- 2005 – UEFA Cup (in CSKA)
- 2003, 2005, 2006, 2013, 2014, 2016 – Russian Premier League winner (in CSKA)
- 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013 – Russian Cup winner (in CSKA)
- 2006 – Order of Friendship
- 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014 – The best Russian goalkeeper according to Russian Football Union
- 2008 – UEFA European Championship bronze medal (in the Russia national team)
- 2010, 2015 – Russian CSKA Prize "Golden Horseshoe"