KALTAN, Russia: When Russia plays at the World Cup, Kaltan looks like a ghost town.
The remote Siberian coal-mining town is the home of Russia midfielder Alexander Golovin, whose key role in the team’s run to the World Cup quarterfinals has made him a national star.
Golovin was tireless when Russia beat Spain on penalties in the round of 16 on Sunday, keeping his opponents under pressure all the way through extra time.
“The streets were empty and there was no one. Everyone was watching the game,” said Pavel Ivanov, the government official who oversees the local sports school where Golovin learned the game.
When the host nation won, the town rang out with shouts of “Russia” as locals let off fireworks.
Golovin’s World Cup performances have sparked rumors linking him with top teams in Italy and England, but Ivanov said when he was a child he didn’t stand out.
“No one would have said he would become such a great player,” said Ivanov, but added that soon changed because of hard work.
“I’ve got the feeling he never left the stadium. I wondered when he ate or went home. As a young kid he always played with the older groups and as a teenager he played with the men,” Ivanov said. “He could spend the whole day running and chasing after the ball.” —AP