The Estonian national team fixture on the 26th of May will carry a special meaning in the history of Estonian football as it will mark Andres Oper farewell game.
Oper is not simply one of the longest serving internationals Estonia ever had since regained independence (1991, 133 caps – the recordman is Martin Reim with 157) but is the ‘väravakütt’ (topscorer) par excellence.
No one has done better than his 38 goals, not even first-indipendence top-scorer Eduard Ellmann-Eelma (21).
His career has brought him to Denmark (Aalborg) Russia (Torpedo Moscowa) Holland (Roda JC and ADO Den Haag) China (SH Greenland) and more recently Cyprus (AEK Larnaca and Nea Salamina).
A series of injuries has blighted the last years of his career with the last one preventing him to continue (the consequences of a car accident while he was sitting in a taxi!).
He will feature in the game against Gibraltar on Monday evening when the A.LeCoq Arena will pay the due accolade to his hero.
Oper scored the first official goal at the Estonian main stadium for the Estonian national team when taking on Holland on the 2nd of June 2001 for a World Cup 2002 qualifier. A game that has been in the heart of many Estonian fans as the ‘sinisärgid’ (blue jerseys) were leading two one up fifteen minutes to time before Van Gaal’s XI took over and won the game.
Oper has released an interview to the FC Flora official matchprogram released for the Flora-Levadia derby on the 20th of May.
Flora was Oper’s first professional club before continuing his career abroad. In Estonia, he has also played for Tervis Pärnu on loan from the Tallinn’s club. He scored 44 goals in 73 games with the ‘white-greens’.
‘Rumori’ offers the most interesting excerpts from the interview Andres Oper had with Marek Tiits, one of main contributors to the richest match program in the country (32 pages!)
The original version will be available in e-format here in few days.
The interview started analyzing the difficult moment after the car accident (a bus hit the taxi he was in): ‘the most difficult time was after the accident, when I went under surgery, all this pain and these setbacks…’ and he goes on recounting about all the post-surgery problems that compelled him to take the decision to quit ‘quitting my career was not a choice I would have made (…) before the accident I was in form, I didn’t think at all about it’. The injury to the shoulder and a problem with spinal disk of his neck compelled him to make an undesired step before time.
If quitting his career like this is certainly a regret, albeit something he cannot change, he adds also the missed chance to be part of the Play-Off with ‘Eesti Koondis’ in 2011 (for Poland/Ukraine 2012 when Estonia came across Ireland): ‘I would have liked to take part or at least to be available for that game’ confesses the 36-year-old striker who feeds the hope to net a goal in his farewell game on Monday.
One of his best moments is instead the brace scored against Russia in 2002: ‘They remembered and very well. But never in a bad way, it never happened’ recounts ‘Opi’ talking about his transfer to Russia (Torpedo) following that feat that gave Estonia an unexpected win over the big neighbours.
In his career abroad he admits he has had most of the troubles in being paid in Cyprus and China. ‘At AEK Larnaca’ recalls about his period in the Mediterranean Sea ‘I remember one game against the city rivals when the fans stand was put literally on fire. We had to play an extra fifteen minutes and I scored a goal on 112’ minutes…’.
However it was not the most difficult football game he ever took part to ‘I remember my last game at Roda JC’ recalls Andres about his time in Holland ‘we managed to secure salvation in the top-flight. It was a very very difficult season, especially psychologically. There were a lot of changes, we fought and we managed to overturn the situation really at the very last moment. We were playing away, and there things went really crazy. Police, tear-gas and cobble-stones flying. The situation went really off-hand’
Andres’ farewell will be under a new national team coach, the Swedish Magnus Pehrsson, what does he thinks of his new plans? (Pehrsson has declared he wants to play with 4-2-3-1 against traditional 4-4-2 applied by the ‘Eesti Koondis’) ‘I don’t know!’ admits Andres who has not joined the training camp earlier in Spring ‘I know as much as I read from the papers. Even if I exchanged a couple of words with him, I cannot comment more. Maybe I will be more able to after the game’
Andres was asked to create his ‘Estonia Dream Team’.
The rule was that formation had to be 4-4-2 and he would be part of it.
He was free to include present-day and former internationals.
This is the result of his choice:
Substitutes: Sergei Pareiko, Raio Piiroja, Meelis Rooba, Maksim Smirnov, Marko Kristal
Coach: Teitur Thordarson