One of the most bizarre and mesmerizing transfers of the summer was Ethiopian international Gatoch Panom leaving his boyhood club Ethiopia Bunna to Russian outfit Anzhi Makhachkala in June 2017. Since joining Anzhi, the midfielder had not got the nod to play in the league but had his full debut for the club in a Russian Cup game where Anzhi were knocked out. Gatoch states it was his dream to play abroad. From Anzhi’s base in Dagestan state, Gatoch spoke to Soccer Ethiopia on his career in Russian league.
Your transfer from Ethiopia Bunna to Anzhi was probably one of the most talked and unexpected transfers of the summer. How does it feel to become the first Ethiopia to get transferred to Russia directly from Ethiopian Premier League? You were playing in the Ethiopian Premier League just last year and now you are faring at one of the top 10 best leagues of Europe so your assessment on the transition?
“The transition has been smooth but different. Here is totally different from Ethiopia. Because here in Europe evidently the way they are playing is different from us. So it has been different. But first and foremost I want to thank my family secondly I want to thank my agents David Beshah and Raso Bulatovic because they are the one who broke this deal for me. It feels like my dream came true and I am happy for that.”
How are you managing to cope up with life in Russia? Likewise what were the major obstacles or challenges you faced in your early days at Anzhi be it in the field and outside the pitch?
“I can say life is good in Russia thus far. Nothing bad ever happened in my three months stay here. The challenge I faced the most is language barrier. Most of my teammates don’t speak English so as the coaches. During the training sessions we had in early days of my stay at the club it was difficult for me to communicate. When I came to Anzhi that was the most challenging task I faced nothing else.”
It took you a while to start a game for the senior Anzhi side; although, it is understandable that you came from a poor football league. You have been also playing for the junior side and your assessment on that too?
“Yes, it took me while to play for the senior team because I am a rookie for the league. Secondly I didn’t travel with the senior side for preseason in Slovenia because of a visa problem. That had also an impact to some extent. So they only choice I had was playing and preparing for the upcoming season with junior side. I played there to adapt the Russian football and I find it helpful to play in the junior team. It was good for me because they way they’re playing are not that different from senior side. During my debut nothing different happened because I previously played many international games for the Ethiopian national team so I kind of contain the pressure.”
Anzhi are not doing pretty well in the league at the moment. They are crashed out of the Russian Cup to a first division side although you have got relatively better results the past two weeks against the reigning champions Spartak Moskva and giants Zenit Sankt-Petersburg. They have already also made a change in the technical area with a new coach handling the club since week 8 games. How do you analyze the first 10 weeks of the league and the poor performance of Anzhi?
“Yeah as you said our team is not doing well these days. We have been in a losing spree for the last weeks. Our league record is not even good as we are now in the relegation zone after losing many games. On top of that performance wise we are very poor. But I hope we can bounce back and get as many points as we can to avoid relegation. For me it is has also become a learning experience more from our poor form lately. Because I see the way they (my teammates) are playing plus the challenges that I will be facing when I am in the pitch and what I have to do for the team.”
Racism and East European Football seemingly are correlated. The bad reputation of the Russian League towards African players made some Ethiopian fans to think your move was wrong. Any response to this kind of comments?
“Definitely, we know Russia have reputation of racism against African players. But I have not come across to any incident in my stay here so far. Nothing bad now happened to African players nowadays because there are a lot of African players who pile their trade here in the league and nothing happened to them. I think they (Russians) changed their mind. That must be the main explanation on why racism in Russian football is declining.”
Some critics of Ethiopian football oftentimes claim the training that Ethiopian players are getting at home is one of the main thing that have hindered the development of local players. You have played in Ethiopia and also now piling your trade in Russia so you have a full picture about this thing. Have the training you are getting now changed the way you play football? Likewise what are your thoughts regarding the slim chance of Ethiopian players getting trials in European leagues?
“Yes, I have a comment on this issue. The only thing that our players don’t get is an opportunity to move abroad. If they get chance, I am certain they can make it. But we have to work hard on physical training. I witnessed that our main difference from them (Foreign players) is our poor readiness when it comes to physical fitness. We are fit enough to play full 90 minutes. Technically we are not different from them. We need also to find someone be it licensed agents or football intermediaries who can help the players to move to Europe for trials.”
“Yes, obviously of course the training is totally different here. The training can change the way you play and see football because physically they are fit and tactically very good. If you are physically fit, you can make whatever you want with the ball. In all honesty in Ethiopia the training we get is not good enough because we don’t conduct it by coaches who have the know-how what exactly football is all about.”
What are your plans for this season with Anzhi apart from avoiding relegation?
“My plan is to work hard until I get into the starting line-up. My aim is to fare for first team in a regular base. Now I am a member of the senior squad so I have to work hard that is my plan foe now”.