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“I watched the World Cup at work and never imagined that I would be playing in it one day”
Boris Nikonorov shares his incredible story of going from a super-fan to Russian super star
A big character and big talent, the Russian forward offers an inspiring insight into just one of the many complex roads that lead people from all over the world take to achieving their dreams.
Boris Nikonorov was born in Yaroslavl, north of Moscow on 3 April 1989. He has an older sister and his parents are both retired. After graduating in Physical Education, Boris worked at a factory for two years in his home town of Yaroslavl.
“It was a very dangerous and harmful job.” He recalls. “At any moment, we could inhale hydrogen sulfide and lose consciousness, possibly with fatal consequences.”
“It also paid very badly and I decided to quit and direct all my strength into being an athlete.”
It was a brave decision for a young man to make, even if it was less risky than the job he left. But his transition into beach soccer had already began…
“The first time I saw beach soccer was on TV when I was working at the factory. One day I returned home from my shift, turned on the sports channel and saw the guys running on sand with the Russian coat of arms on their chests.”
“It was the 2011 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup and the level that the team showed was astronomical! They won a brilliant victory that day. I was overwhelmed with a sense of pride…”
From this moment of discovery, and not knowing that one day he would play alongside his new-found heroes, Boris worked Russia’s World Cup matches into his work schedule.
“I watched the next World Cup games at work. I prepared in advance, looked for the time of the game and what TV channel it was on.”
“I found the highest point of the building, about 20 meters off the ground, climbed onto it and tuned into the broadcast on my mobile phone, and waited for the game to start.”
“There were awlays problems with the internet. The signal didn’t reach my small town very well. I can still remember having the whole factory and phone in front of my eyes, and on the screen was live beach soccer.”
“Who could imagine that in just a few years later I would play in global competitions shoulder to shoulder with these guys in the national team, and fight for the honor of my country?!”
“But at that time, it was unreal, unattainable... Around the Autumn of 2012, the coach of my football team brought the heroes of the world championship to Yaroslavl, the captain Ilya Leonov and coach Mikhail Likhachev.”
“Soon after, I attended a meeting when it was decided to create the beach football club "Submarine" Yaroslavl in my city. I remember my first game very well. We played against Dynamo Moscow, in which there were well-known players in the sport. And their coach was none other than Mikhail Likhachev, the coach of the national team.”
“We lost 4-3, but I managed to score two goals and get an assist. I remember a very funny moment: I ran from the very beginning of the game at full speed and gave my all. Everything seemed easy and simple, but after the first period, my legs just stopped and then I realised that on the sand my legs just couldn’t keep up the speed of other types of football.”
“After the match I was exhausted, but very impressed with the game. I think at that moment I realized that this was my calling. I asked myself: what can I do to become a real beach soccer player?”
In 2013, "Submarine" Yaroslavl and Boris qualified for the Russian championship and played their first season in one of the toughest leagues in the world.
“We finished in last place, but I was very impressed by the level of the teams and players. Sometimes they did such amazing things on the field that I didn’t even understand how they did it, especially the Brazilians from Kristall.”
“In 2014, I also played for the Yaroslavl "Submarine" but at the end of the season, the team broke up due to crises in the country. Joker, a team from Novosibirsk, invited me to play the next season with them. And after that, a momentous event in my career came when I moved to St. Petersburg to play for Golden.”
“Emil Jabarov, the coach of the team, helped me a lot. I started to score, and score a lot, in every match becoming stronger in all aspects of the game.”
“In the summer of 2016, we finished runners-up of the Russian Championship and after that I was called up to the national team. Unfortunately, at the end of 2016 that team also ceased to exist, but I appreciate what it gave me very much!”
“I received an invitation to go to the Lokomotiv Moscow, the most successful club in Russia. It was definitely a step up and since then, I’ve for Lokomotiv and Russia. I’m so happy that God gave me my dream job - playing beach soccer!”
It hasn’t been easy though, as Boris has suffered with the thing that every athlete fears the most…
“The injury that I encountered in January, a rupture of the posterior cruciate ligament in the knee, really shook me. I just wanted to walk normally again.”
“It seemed to me that I would never be able to run again, let alone play beach soccer at the highest level. But I knew, I had no right to give up.”
“I had come such a long way to the top, and I will not allow anyone or anything to lead me astray. Motivation books, videos, my character, hard work, desire, family, the best doctors in the country - all this helped me to return to the sport.”
“Anyone who faces serious injuries, I advise you to stay positive, never give up and overcome all obstacles with your head held high. Hard work pays off. I proved it to myself.”
And what does the future hold for Nikonorov?
“I want to play in the national team until 35, at least. I love beach soccer. This is my passion, my life. Every year it will be harder, but I will make every effort not only to keep my shape and develop myself as a beach soccer player and person.”
“I want to express my deep gratitude to everyone who participated in my life and beach soccer career, and helped me throughout. If it weren’t for you, there would have been no me. A low bow to you all…”
Often when we talk to our ambassadors and write about their journeys in beach soccer and in life, we do a lot of the storytelling. However, with Boris Nikonorov there is little for us to add to such a detailed and poetically personal account of one athlete's journey through this beautiful sport.
All that remains is to say that this player's beach soccer story is far from over...
Russian Championship and Mundialito de Clubes (Lokomotiv)
Euro Beach Soccer League, runners-up Intercontinental Cup Dubai (Russia)
Rising Star of 2017 (Individual Award)