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Interview: RC Locomotive /   20:15  17.05.2020

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Jon Christie is one of the few English foreign rugby players in Russian rugby. He has played in different countries and loves rugby league. Russia has surprised him with beach and snow rugby, the last of which he considers a bit crazy. He got married in Russia, had a kid and seems to have settled in Moscow for a long time.


Recently he has joined the Russian Association of Rugby League Clubs and it was with a discussion of this matter we began our first detailed interview with Jon.




You have recently joined the board of directors of the Russian Rugby League Association. What prompted you to take this step?

- Rugby league is a passion of mine and I love the history of the game around the world. It is often seen as a game that is only played in Australia and Northern England but Russia has a rich and really interesting history in the sport. 


When I was asked if I would be interested in helping to rebuild the game again in Russia I could not say no! There is so much potential in Russia, skillful and strong players who are very suited to the 13 a side game. I want to help Russia forfill its potential and be a competitive nation.


- Tell us about your duties. What are you responsible for in the association?

- My main role is to connect with the international rugby league community and share what is happening in Russia. My aim is to raise the profile of Russian rugby league and make connections with other nations. We hope by doing this Russian teams will be able to compete against other European sides and so help strengthen the national team. As rugby league develops in Europe my aim is to make sure Russia is part of this! 


I have also been working with the other board members on developing a domestic competition that will an exciting product that teams will want to be a part of and fans will enjoy to watch!

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- How do the first steps to reorganise the rugby league of Russia go?

- There have been some productive meetings. There is lots to do and prepare for. We have organised a domestic competition that will take place in Moscow and we will look to expand to other regions in the next year or so.


Unfortunately Covid-19 has disrupted many of our plans. But we are still hopefully that the domestic competition will take place this year and that the national team will play Serbia and Greece in October as part of the European Championship.


- Rugby league is not in the register of sports of Russia. Explain what is needed for its return?

- This is a big problem for our sport and is a big priority for our board. For it to return to the register we need to hold competitive competitions and have rugby league take place in more than half of the regions of Russia. Over the next couple of years we will raise the profile of the game domestically and internationally and then hopefully be officially welcomed back on the register of sports in Russia.


- What is being said about Russian rugby league in the European and international federations? Can they help us with something?

- Both the European and International federations have been very supportive of Russia and are aware of the difficulties we face. The European federation have visited Russia and offered advice on how to best develop the game. We have retained our status as a full member of the international federation and so will receive funding from the governing body that will allow us to organise domestic competitons and compete internationally.

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- Jon, you are playing for Locomotive for the second season. How do you feel in a team?

- I feel good. My team mates have made me feel very welcome since I joined and I am very much looking forward to playing with them again. 


It is good to be part of the Locomotive family.


- You came to us from CSKA. Why did you choose Loco?

- I wanted to play for a club that was still involved in rugby league. I remember watching Locomotive play in the Challenge Cup in England. Locomotive has such an amazing and rich history and as a rugby league fan it was a very simple choice to play for such a fantastic club.


- In 2019 season you scored 54 points in 27 games. A decent result for a newcomer to the club. It seems that there were no problems with adaptation in the team, weren't there?

- That's not too bad really. I think I took a little time to adapt to playing rugby union again. There are many differences such as rucks and mauls. Luckily all the guys helped me a lot and helped me to improve.


- You are a big fan of rugby league, but in Russia you have started playing in new rugby forms for yourself - beach and snow rugby. What can you say about games in the sand and snow?

- Yes, both of these are new to me. Beach rugby is great fun, it is a really good intense game. It is very hard work... My legs always ache for days after!


Snow rugby is crazy. My friends in England cannot believe that we play it in Russia. It definitely hurts when you get tackled!


Both are fun to play. But I think I am more of a beach guy! (laughs) 

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- 2020 - what do you expect from it in teams of sports? What are your personal goals?

- I hope that Locomotive continues to develop in all forms of rugby. I think we have been very competitive in 7s especially and I hope we continue to improve and challenge for medals. I am also excited to play for Locomotive in the new rugby league domestic competition and I think we have a great chance to champions. 


On a personal level I want to keep improving and make a positive contribution on and off the pitch for Locomotive.


You could have become a football player, but you ended up in rugby. How did it happen?

- When I was younger my school only played rugby. So I began to focus on developing my skills in rugby. As a got older I found became more suited rugby and it became my passion.


- Let me clarify: did you play rugby union or rugby league at school?

- Rugby Union and Sevens. 


- Then why did you become a fan of rugby league rather than rugby union?

- At school I played but didn't love the game. I always watched rugby league on TV and thought it looked cool. When I went to university I joined the rugby league team and fell in love with the sport. I then began to study it and learn for and more.


What makes rugby league more attractive to you?

- I think it is a faster and more entertaining game. Less players means there is more space and more tries are scored. Attacking playing is more entertaining and the defensive play is stronger too.


- In addition to England, you also  played in different countries such as China, Hong Kong, Myanmar! Which country surprised you the most and why?

- Living in China was a great experience. Beijing is fantastic city with history all around. Visiting the Great Wall of China was a magical experience. The rugby was good too. Lots of very intensive games especially against Shanghai. The Chinese players were very good at 7s.


Myanmar was a beautiful experience. The people were so friendly and helpful. There was only two teams there but we had some good games in the tropical thunderstorms. 


One of my favourite experiences was coaching young children in Myanmar and watching them develop there skills.

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- After that Russia appeared in your life. What are your impressions of the country, Moscow, people?

- I love it here but before I arrived I was a little nervous, you hear that the people are not friendly, it is always cold and dark and that there are wild vodka drinking bears ready to eat you! (laughs) 


But I found this not to be true. Moscow is a wonderful place... I am still amazed by St. Basil's everytime I go to Red Square. The people are honest and friendly. Summer in Moscow is amazing and I love the snow in the winter. 


I travelled around Russia during the football World Cup and many of the host cities were beautiful. My wife is from Kazan and I love to go there too. Apart from Moscow, Kazan is my favourite place.


- It's amazing. By the way about the World Cup. How many cities did you visit during the mundial?

- I went to 4 different cities and 8 games: Samara, St. Petersburg, Nizhnyi Novgorod and Kazan.


Samara. I arrived very early by train and we went straight to the beach to relax. It was very different to what I expected. 


St. Petersburg was good... I have been there a few times since arriving in Russia. I remember it being very windy! 


I went to Nizhny Novgorod. It was a beautiful day and I remember being really impressed with the main street, there were hundreds of people enjoying the outdoor cafes and bars. It reminded me very much of central Europe.


Kazan, I would say my favourite I enjoy the history of the city and the old wooden house. My mother in law is a great cook so I always enjoy my time there. 

Kul Sharif Mosque is spectacular.

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- Did you meet Emilia in Kazan? Tell me how it happened?

- Ha ha... Interesting but I met Emiliya in Moscow. We met one Sunday afternoon and went to an English pub.


- You got married to Emilia and now had a daughter in Russia. It seems that you are not coming back to England soon, are you?

- I love to travel to England and see my family and friends but my home is now in Russia with my two girls.