Having put Kazakh football on the international map by making a shock move to newly-founded FC Lokomotiv Astana, former Russian internationals Andrei Tikhonov and Yegor Titov spoke to uefa.com about their latest challenge.
Wins in their first seven games of the season have seen Lokomotiv surge to the top of the Premier League standings, with former FC Spartak Moskva stars Tikhonov and Titov proving their presence in the team – formed with the merger of FC Megasport and FC Almaty at the beginning of 2009 - was no publicity stunt. The 38-year-old Tikhonov has scored seven times already and is now the team captain, while Titov, 33, has scored once – and earned the first red card of his career – and has been a crucial attacking player for the club.
uefa.com: Lokomotiv were only founded a few months ago but are already targeting a league and cup double. Is that too much to ask?
Andrei Tikhonov: We have very high goals but the club's management have brought in ambitious players and we have to get results. The first matches showed that we have a really good team.
Yegor Titov: Several famous foreigners as well as good domestic players were enlisted with the aim of being successful from day one. Some people say that we are a flash in the pan, and I don't like to hear that. It only gives me more motivation to prove that we are strong enough to beat any opponent.
uefa.com: What do you think might be done to make Lokomotiv even stronger?
Tikhonov: I think we have a strong squad. You can hire lots of stars like FC Bunyodkor in Uzbekistan, who signed Rivaldo and other Brazilians, but you have to have the right infrastructure in place before you can get famous players like that.
Titov: I would welcome anyone who can help Kazakh football to progress. I would be happy to have a higher level of competition. The more stars who play here, the more people will be at the stadiums.
uefa.com: Russian teams, and especially your old club Spartak Moskva, have huge armies of supporters. How does that compare to Kazakhstan?
Tikhonov: I know, that FK Aktobe [Lokomotiv's main rivals in the title race] have a lot of supporters but we have not played there yet. Our home matches have been played in Almaty, not Astana, which is why we have yet to have an organised supporters club.
Titov: We will play in Astana in the second part of the season so I hope local fans will come and support us.
uefa.com: What are your first impressions of the Kazakh Premier League?
Tikhonov: We cannot speak for everyone, but at our club we have everything footballers need. We live in the best hotels and only travel by charter flights. Maybe, the pitches could be better.
Titov: That's true, but the pitches could be improved everywhere in the world - in Russia, in Kazakhstan or any other country. I am sure they will get better here very quickly.
©UEFA.com 1998-2014. All rights reserved.