“My role in the team is the same like everyone else, we live like a big family and spend more time together then at home.”
Midfielder Eduard Ramonov scored the winning goal that helped Russia claim the London 2012 Paralympic gold medal. While he has been a key component since, even assisting Russia to their third straight World Championship title, Ramonov’s ticket to the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games is still up in the air, according to Russian national team head coach Avtandil Baramidze.
“Ramonov is one of the candidates to go to Rio,” Baramidze said. “He is a very good player but no one has a guaranteed place on team. He like everyone else needs to prove his form every time.
“It will take hard work and everyone understands that. We will have a mix of veterans and newcomers, and it will be very hard to choose only 14 players.”
But the case for Ramonov is strong.
The experienced 32-year-old looks to make his second Paralympic appearance and it is something Ramonov does not want to miss.
“The Paralympic Games is very special tournament,” the FT7-classified player said. “It is so different from the World Cup or European Cup.”
Ramonov has played for Russian football club Lev Chernoy Olympia, which won the national title in 2015.
Named the Most Valuable Player of the 2015 World Championships, Ramonov’s leadership and experience can impact the team.
“My role in the team is the same like everyone else, we live like a big family and spend more time together then at home,” Ramonov said. “It is very important to fight for each over on the field and be good friends in life.”
Ukraine is expected to battle Russia for Paralympic glory. The last two Paralympic finals have featured both teams on the pitch, and Ukraine is poised to take back the gold medals they won in Beijing 2008 and Athens 2004.
Paralympic hosts Brazil could also surprise the two European nations in Rio, having claimed the 2015 Worlds bronze in Burton-upon-Trent, Great Britain.
“In Rio, all opponents will be very strong,” Ramonov said. “Defending out title will be harder than when we won it, so we need to be better than year ago. [We need to] only work hard and do your best on the field. Every team can win and we will try to be that team.”
The 2016 Pre-Paralympic Tournament held in in early May in Salou, Spain, featured seven of the teams heading to Rio and was the last major competition before the Games; Ukraine won the tournament.
Russia did not participate because it coincided with their national Championships, which was an opportunity for Baramidze to help finalise his roster for Rio.
“We watched all games in Spain, but it was at the same time of the Russian National Cerebral Palsy Football Championships,” Baramidze said. “All the teams [heading to Rio] are very strong. There are a lot of good young players.”
Aware that football 7-a-side will not be part of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games programme, Ramonov said that will not stop him and his teammates from playing the sport.
“All the guys are disappointed,” Ramonov said. “As I said it is a very special tournament for any player. But sure we still will play football because we love this game.”
Russia was drawn in Group B for Rio 2016 with the 2015 Parapan American runners-up Argentina, the Netherlands and the USA for the Games.
Editor’s note: Each sport on the Rio 2016 Paralympic programme will have a dedicated week of featured content published on paralympic.org. Every week a new sport will be featured and the series will run until September’s Games, helping the public understand more about the 22 sports being contested in Rio.
Sport fans from around the world can now buy their Paralympic tickets for Rio 2016 from authorised ticket resellers (ATRs).
The IPC’s Global ATR is Jet Set Sports, and Rio 2016 tickets and packages can be purchased on the CoSport website.
Residents of Brazil can buy 2016 Paralympics tickets directly from the Rio 2016 website.