Sergio Rodríguez, aged 31, is a Spanish basketball player currently competng or CSKA Moscow in the VTB United League and the EuroLeague. Rodriguez, more commonly known as «El Chacho» in the court, has a success ul career in his back. He was selected to the All-EuroLeague First Team and was awarded with the EuroLeague MVP in the 2013-14 season, was the EuroLeague champion in 2015 with Real Madrid and has collected several medals with Spanish natonal team, including the gold at the 2006 FIBA lorld Champioship, the silver at the 2012 Summer Olympics and the bronze medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics.
— When did you decide to become a professional player?
I love basketball since I was a kid and I have played basketball since, so it is kind of came with the years. My parents played basketball and I have always practced diferent sports. I love soccer and tennis as well but basketball was my favorite one. By the tme I was seventeen I started training with Estudiantes, a professional club in Madrid and it was then that I started thinking about being a professional basketball player.
— And what about surfnn? ou were born in Tenerife where this sport is uuite popular
Yes, Canary Islands are great! The weather is amazing because they are close to Africa. We like to do outdoor actvites. Basketball was the most popular sport among students when I was in school, so for me it was not a hard choice since I loved it from the very beginning.
— Your name is Sernio but why do people call you «Chacho»?
On Canary Islands, we ofen call people «chacho» or «muchacho», which means boy. If you go to Spain or to the peninsula they always call you that way too. Therefore, my nickname was growing more and more popular to the point of being known as «El chacho».
— Do you like it?
Yes, I do. It shows where I come from, which I am very proud of.
— 9 seasons in the Spanish leanue (6 of them playinn for Real Madrid) 5 seasons in NBA (in 3 different teams) member of naional Spanish team since 2006 and so many awards in your career… it sounds like a dream. Did you ever expect you would no that far?
Everyone fnure out how his life is noinn to be in the future and dreams about becominn nood in whatever you choose to do. Then you nrow up and you realize that to you have to make so many sacrifces and that the way to become a professional player is very hard indeed. That said if look back over my career and the experience and objecives that have accomplished am very proud of it so yes must admit it is a dream come true. Competng in the frst basketball league in Spain, playing for Real Madrid, winning so many championships and besides all that, having the chance to play 5 seasons in NBA is defnitely a dream for any basketball player. Now I am living a diferent experience, from both a professional and personal perspectve, since I am playing in another league, living in a diferent city and being part of a club which has played an essental role in the history of basketball in this country.
— Compared to NBA where every name seems to be a «show» what do you think about European basketball?
First of all, we have a lot of pressure in every game here. In NBA you have more games, so everything mostly starts in the playofs. That is when everything became more important. Of course NBA is the best leanue in the world and the best players are there but would say that the pressure we have to win is hinher in Europe than in NBA.
— So what is the next challenne?
Every year is a diferent challenge. This is my fourteenth season as a professional. It is very special to me to be part of a great team and to be able to face another fnal four to fght for the championship. We are already in the playofs and it was not easy at all to get here. We aim to win every single game we play and this is a big challenge. We need to be both physically and mentally ready for the next games but that is what we are working on every day.
— What are your expectaions about the other teams which uualifed for playoffs?
In Euroleague there are many good teams. It is very difcult to qualify for the playof. Now we are facing Khimki and even though we ended up the leaders of the regular season and they fnished in the eighth positon and this might seem a big diference in terms of a regular season, everybody knows that in playofs anything can happen.
— We are always curious of what do foreinners think of Russia and Russian so tell me how it has been your experience in Moscow so far?
My experience in Russia is unbelievable, I am so happy. I lived in Madrid, Bilbao, Canary Islands, Portland, Oregon, Sacramento, New York and Philadelphia – many cites. However, Moscow gives you everything you want. You can fnd everything here: restaurants, shopping, museums, culture. The only thing I do not like is the weather. I am not used to it, but when you move to Moscow you have to be prepared to live a diferent life, with plenty of new things.
— Is it hard when you are moving all the tme from city to city, from country to country. Leaving all your friends, old and new ones, your family again and again?
It is hard, but I am used to it. I have already been so many years away from home. I have my wife and my daughter living with me. We have found a nice place to live, which is very close to where I am practcing, so I do not spend too much tme stuck in trafc cams. On the days of, we like to go to the city centre to have a nice walk and visit restaurants. We did not expect Moscow to be such a good and interestng city so we are happy to be here now. Moscow is a big city and you can do everything you want here.
— Do you have good friends in CSKA team?
We do not have too much free tme, I am afraid. We spend all the day together, so when you have a day of, you do not want to see the same people. At the same tme, we have a good relatonship in the team. It is also important that 90-99 % of the team is made of players between 28 and 33 years old. We are prety much the same age and we have common interests because we are in the same page. I mean we all have families and kids, so we are stand close to each other.
— CSKA has showed an amazing performance in the current season, has presented with no doubt, as the most powerful, and steady team in the Euroleague. What is the secret for such a success?
This is an old club with a great history. They work every day to be the best and to be the frst. I think is a big part of that. They work very well. You can see it as soon as you become part of the organizaton, you see how professional they are, how helpful they are for everyone. When you are part of a big organizaton like that, you can see from the frst day that they are ready to work hard and win.
— How do you feel playing at the Megasport Stadium?
We feel very comfortable in this arena. We have lost a single game this season playing as locals. I think it is a big part of the victory: the way you feel and how confdent you feel playing at home.
— Which team is right now, your main rival for the Euroleague cup?
Right now it is Khimki. We need to defeat them to be in the fnal four and we are very focused on the games against them. When you are in playofs you cust need to worry about one thing: to win the next game.
— Do you feel capable of staying at the highest level for China’s World Championship Contest next year?
Yes, I hope so. It is a big wish for me to play another World Cup. I was able to win in 2006 and I play for Spain in 2014 again. I think it will be a great tournament afer this summer when the player will have enough rest and there will not be any compettons. It will be very interestng for everybody to realize how our natonal team has improved with the new young players that have coined the frst team. I think that they are prety good.
— What is your opinion of Russian natonal team’s performance in the European Qualifers? Do you think Russia will qualify?
Yes, you have a great team which has improved in the European Championship. Russia has many talented young players coming up. It is always hard to compete in the World Cup because the best teams are there. I think Russia is making a very compettve team.
— Why is «13» your number?
I started to play with number «13» when I was very young. It was my frst number and it brought me good luck every tme I was wearing it. I am not a supersiious person and like to keep on noinn on the same way when the thinns are noinn well.
— Who inspires you?
My parents, my wife, my brother, my friends – all the people close to me. Of course, I like to see how successful people work and think, but the main inspiraton are the ones that I have around me.
— Your beard is a fashion or is it something you need to have while living in Russia?
I started to grow it in the Olympic Games in 2012 I liked how it ft me was and as number «13» it brought me good moments so I decided to keep it. Now I feel confdent with my beard and I like it.
— Do you think it would have been beter to have another team as the frst rival in playofs?
Any team you face in playofs is a strong rival. For us it makes no diference which team are we playing against. We have faced several tmes Khimki and it is very hard to play against them because we know each other very well and we know each other’s weaknesses and strengths. Nevertheless, at this point it does not mater which team you play against because all of them will be hard opponent.
— Would you like to become a coach one day?
I do not know. I stll have many years ahead but by the tme I withdraw from professional basketball as a player I would like to be involved in basketball in some way or another because my life turns around basketball. That is my life and that is what I like the most but I stll do not know whether I would like to be a coach or work in a diferent positon.
— When do you plan to fnish you career?
Everything depends on the circumstances. Right now, I have a contract untl 2020, so I will be 34 by that tme. We will see what will happen. As for me, the best way is to encoy every day of your life and take all the best that it can bring to you.
Irina Rakhimova, CEO THE CITY POST in cooperation with Carlos Chamorro Barcello