When Louis Van Gaal substituted Jasper Cillesen with Tim Krul and the latter saved a couple of penalties against Costa Rica, the World renamed the Dutch coach ‘Van Genial’.
Probably the names of Vjatseslav Smirnov, Oleg Andreev and Andrei Varavin will not tell you much.
However, they were the protagonists of similar event in 1991.
Estonia had just regained independence and it was the last time of the Estonian SSR Championship and Cup competitions. FC TVMK had clinched the last ESSR title and was about to close an historic double by winning the cup against Keemik Kohtla-Järve.
However, between coach Vjatseslav Smirnov’s men and the trophy, laid the drama of the penalty shoot-outs given that 90’ minutes of regular time and 30’ minutes of extra time ended just with a goalless draw.
Here comes the story as recounted by ‘Estonian Football – 100 years’ the book released by the Estonian FA in 2009 for its jubilee.
‘TVMK’s hero was substitute goalkeeper Andrei Varavin, who came on at the end of extra-time replacing injured Oleg Andreev. Varavin saved two penalties from two very experienced players’. One of them happened to be present-day coach of Kalev Tallinn, Sergei Zamolginõi.
TVMK won 4-3 at penalties and celebrated the double.
One of the protagonists of that episode, he is a well-known personage of Estonian present-day football.
Oleg Andreev is the goalkeepers coach at Premium Liiga side FC Infonet, probably the secret behind the quick rise of young goalkeeper Matvei Igonen (18 years old in October), one of the purest talents of Estonian football between the sticks.
Oleg himself was deemed one of the most talented goalkeepers in Estonia at the end of 80’s and start of 90’s.
He is also the goalkeepers coach for the youth national teams of Estonia.
Oleg, can you confirm this story?
Well actually, it is not correct. I was not injured.
Are you trying to say that Smirnov changed you with Varavin on purpose?
Yes, it was a tactical move. Exactly like the one made by Van Gaal 23 years after in Brazil.
Well, this makes a genius out of Smirnov too. Can you tell us what Smirnov told you at the end of extra time?
He didn’t tell me anything, he just did it. Exactly like Van Gaal with Cillessen, I was not aware this was going to happen. He just swapped us before the penalty shoot-outs.
Did you accept his decision? Weren’t you a bit sad of leaving the pitch just in that moment?
Yes I accepted, the coach is the head of the team and you have to do what he tells you. However, I can tell you I was very sad. Actually, I was very upset! I didn’t stay on the pitch to watch the shoot-out further, but I reached the internal hall between the changing rooms in Kadriorg Park Stadium…I was very nervous in that moment.
Did you give any advice to Varavin?
No, I didn’t tell him anything.
When you watched Van Gaal doing the same move in Holland-Costa Rica, what were your feelings?
After such long time I didn’t feel anything. This is professional football and coach takes decisions. It was a good move.
FC TVMK (which is the acronyms of Tallina Vineeri- ja Mööblikombinaat, Tallinn Plywood and Furniture Factory) survived to the end of Estonian SSR and managed to win a title of Estonian Meistriliiga in 2005 before being dissolved in 2008 following the financial troubles of its post-soviet patron, businessman Pjotr Sedin who went bankrupt covered with debts.
Vjatseslav Smirnov is mentioned among the relevant personages of Estonian football in the same ‘100 years’ book. He stayed at FC TVMK until it dissolved and was also a coach at TJK, Tallinn Football School, helping the growth of many future top Estonian players (among others: internationals Andrei Stepanov - 89 caps - and Maksim Smirnov - 39). He is a member of FC Infonet coaching staff.
Andrei Varavin is not mentioned among the relevant personages of Estonian football in ‘100 years’ having tied his name exclusively to that historic final when his saves helped the club clinching the cup and the double, the last ones of the ESSR times.