Estonian international goalkeeper Sergei Pareiko told UEFA.com he "dreams of great things" after defying expectations to captain FC Tom Tomsk to fifth place 11 games into the Russian Premier League season.
The Russian top flight now takes a break because of the FIFA World Cup and Tom have surprised many by climbing to within six points of leaders FC Zenit St. Petersburg and to within two of titleholders FC Rubin Kazan in third. PFC Spartak Nalchik are sandwiched in fourth and Pareiko, Tom's player of 2009, feels they are further proof that the natural order can be disturbed.
Nalchik's example shows it is possible to perform well without huge sums of money," Pareiko, who has four clean sheets already this term, told UEFA.com. "Real men compete on the pitch, not with money bags. Football players are the same as any other human, we dream of great things. So Tom is looking for the maximum result. The first part of the season was successful, we were lucky in some episodes. I hope the luck will stay with us."
Coach Valeri Nepomniachi, who has extensive experience working in China and South Korea, has been pivotal to the club's success. Pareiko, though, insists the disciplinarian image of the Russian that is often portrayed is not accurate. "Confidence among the players is the main thing for Nepomniachi," he said. "There is no tight control or fierce discipline at all. All the players are on their own.
"A short distance exists, of course, but Nepomniachi is able to listen to any player, help him solve some problems. His objective is to keep a nice atmosphere within the team. We respond with the good results."
Pareiko is looking forward to watching the World Cup, where he admits he will keep a close eye on Italy after he "fell in love with the country" during a spell with AS Casale Calcio earlier in his career. Estonia may have missed out on qualification for the finals in South Africa but Pareiko's pride at representing his country is undiminished.
"I am an Estonian patriot," he said. "Playing for my international team is not just a football fixture for me, but the protection of my country's honour. Our team is progressing, there is no doubt. We have stopped just battling and started to demonstrate attractive football. Most of our players play in foreign leagues. The experience they get in stronger leagues can only be good for Estonian football."
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