As PFC CSKA Moskva celebrate their 100th anniversary, former captains Sergei Olshanski and Sergei Semak spoke to UEFA.com about the success they enjoyed at a club they felt honoured to represent.
Founded in 1911 as OLLS (Amateur Society of Skiing Sports), the club went through five name changes before becoming CSKA (Central Sports Club of the Army) in 1960, by which time they were already a force to be reckoned with. Having finished fourth in their debut Soviet Top League season in 1936, they triumphed in the USSR Cup in 1945 and followed that up with championship success 12 months later. It was the first of five league titles in six years, the Army Men clinching doubles in 1948 and 1951.
CSKA's players were also gaining recognition on the international stage, representing their country at the 1952 Olympic Games before lifting the USSR Cup once more in 1955. The capital outfit then had to wait 15 years to claim their next major piece of silverware, winning the title and qualifying for their first European Champion Clubs' Cup campaign.
"We had a great squad," recalled former CSKA captain Sergei Olshanski, who joined in 1976 having previously turned out for city rivals FC Spartak Moskva. "
Our coach Vsevolod Bobrov was an excellent psychologist who not only helped with football matters but did his best to assist the players off the pitch."
After more than 20 years without a trophy, the Army Men won the double in 1991 under Pavel Sadyrin, but it was not until 2003, with Valeri Gazzaev at the helm, that they finally reigned supreme in the Russian Premier-Liga. As they returned to the limelight, the club set about building a side given an edge by promising young foreign talents, with the likes of Ivica Olić, Vágner Love and Miloš Krasić complementing homegrown players such as goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev and the Berezutski brothers.
The experienced Sergei Semak played a key role during his 11 years on board, which ended when he joined Paris Saint-Germain FC in 2005. "I had butterflies in my stomach when I played my first match 17 years ago, a UEFA Cup fixture against Ferencváros," the midfielder told UEFA.com. "It was a dream to wear the jersey of the club I've supported since my childhood. I started to play football because of this team. I do not consider myself an icon of the club but I have so many ties with the red and blue colours."
CSKA have won two further titles since 2003, alongside five more Russian Cups, but arguably their greatest achievement came in the UEFA Cup in 2004/05, when they became the first side from Russia to win a European title after battling back from behind to beat Sporting Clube de Portugal 3-1 in the Lisbon final.
Now coached by Leonid Slutsky, who took over in 2009, they reached the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals for the first time in 2009/10 and will contest the group stage again this season, having been drawn with FC Internazionale Milano, LOSC Lille Métropole and Trabzonspor AŞ in Group B. They are also celebrating their centenary level on points with FC Zenit St Petersburg at the Premier-Liga summit, although they slipped behind on goal difference following a 2-2 draw at Spartak on Sunday.
"Before the anniversary, I would like to congratulate all the people connected with CSKA", added Semak, who now plays for Zenit. "
The best gift the players can give is to do well in the Russian championship and the UEFA Champions League."
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