Monday 19 September 2016, 12:01

Chishkala, a cool Russian customer amid the heat

Many players would react with unbridled joy to scoring their first goal at the FIFA Futsal World Cup, especially at the tender age of 21. Wild celebrations might follow, like kissing the badge on their shirt or seeking out the cameras to dedicate the strike to a loved one. Not so Ivan Chishkala..

"I'm quite simply not an emotional person," the youngster told a little while after his country's 7-1 win over Cuba, in which he made it 2-0. "I can't say that I felt anything special. I took it for what it was – just another goal. It's more important to me that we secured nine points and are through to the knockout stages."

This self-confessed cool-headedness may owe something to Chiskala's upbringing in Norilsk, Siberia, the coldest and northernmost major city inside the Arctic Circle. This is a place that is submerged in total darkness for 45 days of the year, where temperatures can drop below -50C in the depths of winter and winds frequently reach speeds of 25 metres per second.

What is beyond doubt is that being born in Norilsk had a big hand in him taking up the activity that has brought him to the warmer climes of Colombia. "It's extremely cold there. Futsal is the only sport," he said in reference to his hometown.

"I signed up for a futsal school when I was seven. At 14 I moved to Moscow and started playing for Dynamo, where I was spotted by national-team scouts and called up to the youth sides. After representing the U-20s I was promoted to the senior team, and here I am," he went on with a shy smile.

A keen student, not only of futsal During his rise up through the ranks, he won the 2014 edition of the World University Futsal Championship, to which Russia send youth internationals who are pursuing degrees. Chishkala was eligible because, as well as plying his trade for Gazprom-Ugra Yugorsk, with whom he recently lifted the UEFA Futsal Cup, he attends Moscow State Technical University of Civil Aviation, an institution that trains professionals to work in the transport sector, among other industries.

In his limited free time, he enjoys "playing Counter Strike on the computer", but not football video games: "No, I'm not interested in them. It's the same for watching football: sometimes I'll catch certain Champions League matches on TV, but I never go to a stadium."

Futsal is a different story: "I watch as much of the Italian and Spanish leagues as I can, although I don't follow the fortunes of particular players. But if there's someone who's really good or that I like, I do pay them closer attention."

Visions of the present and future Another thing there is no doubt about is Chiskala's vision. Indeed, his superb eye for a pass has been clearly visible at Colombia 2016, where he sits second in the assist charts having set up four goals. Not too shabby for the second youngest player in the Russia squad and the 12th youngest at the tournament.

Given his age and talent, the starlet looks destined to play a lead part for his country for many years to come and to take on further prominence amid their inevitable, and ongoing, generational shift. "There is a natural change of the guard and hopefully I'll have that sort of role," he said.

As for the present, he replied candidly when asked whether Russia's path through to the Round of 16 was as easy as they made it look. "We respect every team, but we know we have the edge over certain opponents. Our aim was to be ready when the knockout action came around. Now the really hard matches start."

As a case in point, the Russians face Vietnam, who promise to pose a tricky test, for a place in the quarter-finals. "You've got to beat whoever's in front of you, no matter who it is," was Chiskala's down-to-earth verdict on this tie.

He was equally matter-of-fact on the subject of his side being less hyped in the media than the likes of Brazil, Italy and Portugal: "That doesn't bother me. We're aware that we're in other countries' shadow, but we also know what we came here for."

To win the title? "I don't think we can talk about being contenders yet, but I know just how strong our team are. All we can do now is just keep playing our game."