It takes more than a few meetings before you can tell the Kombarov brothers apart and I still struggle sometimes, despite having interviewed them for years. Yet the identical twins are becoming more recognisable as their careers begin to blossom.
Dmitri, the younger by 15 minutes, is now a regular in the Russian national team under Fabio Capello having made his debut earlier this year. He's also leading by example as FC Spartak Moskva captain, scoring a fantastic goal against Fenerbahçe SK to help them through to the UEFA Champions League group stages; his career is going from strength to strength. Kirill, too, has been on the fringes of the first team, but life hasn't always been this good for the 25-year-olds.
The Kombarovs started at the Spartak academy, a five-hour round trip from the family's home in Domodedovo. The 'elektrichka' (electric train) would become a home from home for the duo as they would eat their packed lunches and do homework while going to and from training. They had support from their father, a former professional footballer himself, and their dedication was rewarded as they were snapped up by local rivals FC Dinamo Moskva.
Versatility has been one of the Kombarovs' greatest traits. Since they re-joined Spartak two years ago, they have been deployed in defence and attack, albeit on opposing flanks (Dmitri is right-footed, Kirill predominantly left) and the brothers couldn't be happier. "Our dream is to play football together for the rest of our careers," Kirill said. "We were born together and have spent our lives in each other's company. I want this to continue."
The twins have plenty of interests outside of football, including a restaurant they own in the centre of the Russian capital. The interior is very upmarket, the food equally as good. They spend a lot of their free time there, making sure everything is being run effectively, but you won't see either of the Kombarov's near the kitchen – they both confess their culinary skills are all but non-existent.
The brothers were quick to acknowledge that being identical twins has advantages, with Kirill recalling one particular episode from their childhood. "Dimitri took a geography exam for me when we were at school and I passed with a B grade. When he took the test himself he only got a C." They remain great friends and spend almost all their time together even though they have the odd quarrel from time to time.
The twins are popular members of the Spartak dressing room, constantly joking and laughing. Do not be lured into thinking they are not incredible focused and driven when they are on the pitch, though. That has been apparent throughout this year; and, I imagine, for years to come.
The opinions expressed here are the writer's own and not those of UEFA.
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