Vladimir Kovalyuk: "Ilyumzhinov behaved as an equal with football players"

The coach of the Ukrainian team "Prykarpattya", famous football player of the past Vladimir Kovalyuk gave an interview on the eve of his 45th birthday. Incidentally, the sportsman answered the question if he knew Kirsan Ilyumzhinov personally when he played in the "Uralan" team.

"I was his favourite. We Ukrainians did not know where we were going to when we departed to Kalmykia. We thought that there was a small town but found ourselves in the steppe. But there was no way out because the contracts had already been signed. However, by and by we got used to it. I played as the left midfielder," Kovalyuk said.

"Local fans loved me and they even gave me the nickname Bemba in honour of the Kalmyk national hero. Their liking caught the attention of Ilyumzhinov. Kirsan Nikolayevich didn’t go to our matches very often but when he went he never showed any sign of superiority. He acted in a most simple way. Later, I showed his photos to my relatives. They asked: "Who is this?" "A billionaire," I answered. "What kind of billionaire is he?" "Some ordinary Kalmyk."
Ilyumzhinov is respected because he actually controls the whole republic. But he lives pretty modest. At least, Kirsan Nikolayevich lived in a two or three rooms apartment and his child went to an ordinary school at the time. He preferred not to show his wealth in Elista. The only exception was his limousine.
Ilyumzhinov always supported football players. He paid generous bonuses and each player got a car when we moved to a major league. There was no such money in any club of Ukraine. You should note that just the victory prize was up to one thousand dollars. And the average salary was 1200 dollars in Kiev Dynamo in 1996. When I returned to Ukraine after two years of playing for Uralan, I bought two apartments in Ivano-Frankivsk," shared his memories the Ukrainian footballer.