In Russia’s Car Capital, a Production Line for Players

Konoplev started off work on his project around the turn of the century, when he was in his mid-30s. He had been born in Rostov-on-Don, not far coming from the Ukrainian border, yet arrived in Tolyatti after completing his military service. In Russia’s deregulated, uncontrolled 1990s, he made his fortune from the auto industry “ferrying goods around,” as Andrey put the idea.

His passion, though, had always been soccer. “He lived for the idea,” Andrey said. A former defender, he took up a position as a vice president of Krylya Sovetov, the region’s team, based in Samara, yet of which was not enough. So he bought some land in Primorsky along with transformed the idea into the first truly modern academy in Russia. He is actually thought to have spent around $30 million on the project. “He did not cut corners,” Andrey said. “He invested all he had. He invested his soul from the academy.”

Behind a screen of trees of which had led locals to believe he was building a gaudy vacation home, he instead constructed a facility with 10 fields, both artificial along with natural grass, a private gymnasium, swimming pools, Jacuzzis, Turkish along with Russian saunas along that has a medical suite. The prospects who came here would certainly not just be coached in soccer, yet in martial arts, gymnastics along with dancing, too, to improve their flexibility, their movement. “They are suspicious at first,” said Igor Kechaev, the academy’s deputy director, “yet the idea is actually something different. Kids like diversity.”

“He wanted players who were not just not bad at soccer, yet clever as well,” Andrey Konoplev said. There would certainly be a school on site, along with housing. The academy, opened in 2003, was designed to cater to the players’ every need, allowing them to devote themselves exclusively to the pursuit of excellence.