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Vladimir Putin met with head coach of Russia’s national ice hockey team Zinetula Bilyaletdinov

May 21, 2012, The Kremlin, Moscow

* * *

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: I wish you welcome, Mr Bilyaletdinov, and congratulate you and the entire team.

Head Coach of Russia’S National Ice Hockey Team Zinetula Bilyaletdinov: Thank you very much.

Vladimir Putin: You gave us a magnificent victory that has made the whole country very happy.

This was your debut too in a way, and so I congratulate you as the team’s trainer.

It was not so much even the team’s play we watched with such pleasure as the battle they fought to clinch the champion’s title. I am sure that many people appreciated the skill and spirit that our players showed.

Credit for this goes to the many generations of coaches, right from those under who the team members started training when they were still very young. Of course, the players themselves are talented people who know how to pull themselves together when needed and put on their very best performance, which they did under your guidance.

Once again, I congratulate you all. Pass on my best wishes to the team. I hope that they will yet perform just as well as at this championship.

Zinetula Bilyaletdinov: Thank you.

The team did indeed show its spirit and showed that it really is a team. The players gave the best of themselves and took each match seriously. There were no ‘easy matches’ – they gave their best on every occasion. I thanked them and passed on your congratulations.

This was a team that was not easy to beat, and that was why we had such success.

Vladimir Putin: I think I woke you up yesterday.

Zinetula Bilyaletdinov: No, I was working at that moment, watching the game and going through some of the particular moments in the match. Then I got your call and we had our conversation.

We were set solely on victory.

Vladimir Putin: It’s wonderful that it all worked out. I cannot remember an occasion when a championship has gone so well, without a single glitch, not one, and not just winning the matches, but winning with very good results.

It was not so much even the team’s play we watched with such pleasure as the battle they fought to clinch the champion’s title.

Zinetula Bilyaletdinov: Yes, the team put on a strong, smooth and steady performance.

Vladimir Putin: They really worked like a well-oiled machine.

Zinetula Bilyaletdinov: That’s absolutely right.

They did a great job and worked as we hoped they would. They fulfilled their mission and did what we asked them. In this respect, they did well indeed, did everything they had to, and it all worked out. They felt this and believed in themselves, and this brought them the results they achieved.

Vladimir Putin: No one had any serious injuries?

Zinetula Bilyaletdinov: You can never completely avoid injuries. There were no serious injuries, but bumps and bruises are all part of the game, and no one pays them much attention. There was one point when we wondered if Semin would be able to keep playing or not, but he said, “Give me an injection. I’m going to play no matter what.” The players were in a positive mood and ready to fight.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, they were ready to fight. I had the same feeling the day before when I spoke with you, that they had their hearts set on victory alone.

Zinetula Bilyaletdinov: Mr President, on behalf of the team, let me present to you this puck from the championship. This is one of the real pucks, and you see here that it bears the championship’s emblem.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much. Let me congratulate you once again.

May 21, 2012, The Kremlin, Moscow