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Home >> Sports
UPDATED: 09:26, August 16, 2006
Sheva swaps Ferraris for family
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Andrei Shevchenko's new life in London means giving up sports cars, improving his golf and trying to learn English as quickly as possible.

On Monday, the new Chelsea striker was carried down the River Thames in a power boat to a fashionable boat club where he received a celebrity welcome at a sponsors' lunchtime launch.

"I am sorry for my English," the Ukrainian said in Italian, the only language he used to answer questions. "I promise you, it will be much better in a few months time."

Since his 30-million-pound (US$56.65-million) transfer from AC Milan in May, Shevchenko's life has undergone big changes. He led Ukraine to the last eight in their first appearance at the World Cup finals, in Germany in June, and then moved his household from Italy to England.

Adding another tongue, in a family through which the blood of at least seven nations runs, will be no great hurdle. His American wife Kristen Pazik, whom he met at an Armani party in Milan, has a Franco-Polish father and an Italian-Spanish mother. And 'Sheva', she told Reuters, is "at least five percent" German.

They married at a golf club in Washington in July 2004. A son, Jordan, was born in November that year and a second son is expected later this year. "He makes me laugh, my son," said Shevchenko. "I relax with him, my family, my friends and playing golf.

"My father, and my mother, taught me good values, family values, to work hard, to respect people, to be honest and to give back to people and help them," he told Reuters. "I work the same way."

Hard work

Shevchenko's disciplined character, inherited from his father, shines through. In the last 20 years, he agreed, he had travelled a long way from the fringes of the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe in his native Ukraine to life among the cosmopolitan elite of Europe.

"I have been lucky," he agreed. "I have had a lot of help and great support from my parents and family. I am lucky to have become successful, but it has come from hard work and some sacrifices."

Clearly well-coached in making bland answers to probing questions, Shevchenko revealed himself to be a fast-learning, ambitious, clever and forward-thinking man with a wide range of interests and experiences.

His wife, a former model, insists on speaking English at home where her husband, who will be 30 next month, is trying hard to avoid using Italian. But after seven years in Milan, where he was leading goal-scorer and a totem to the fans, it is not easy.

He is giving up fast cars, a habit he enjoyed in Ferrari-mad Italy, and aims to improve his golf. "I am going to have only a family car in London," said Shevchenko, who grew up in the village of Dvirkivschyna, near Kiev.

As a child, he was keen on ice hockey, boxing, wrestling and basketball, but "football won my heart in the end".

"I chose football and football chose me," he said, adding that golf was never an option because there were no courses in Ukraine.

Exam failure

Shevchenko's village was 130 kilometres from the site of the 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear plant that spewed radioactive dust across much of northern Europe in the world's worst civil nuclear disaster.

"I was not old enough to understand it then, but later I realised more. It was not just a disaster for Chernobyl, not just for the Ukraine, but the whole world."

He recalled being moved to live temporarily on the eastern coast, near Donetsk, and playing football all the time. He remembered, too, failing a football exam - his dribbling skills let him down - that would have secured entrance to a specialist sports school. But, by the time he was 13, he was playing for Dynamo Kiev and his brilliant career had begun.

Goals flowed - he was top scorer at a tournament in Wales where he won the Ian Rush Cup and a pair of the Liverpool striker's boots - and he progressed rapidly. In 118 games for Kiev, as a professional, he scored 60 goals before he joined Milan.

He scored a further 127 goals in 207 appearances for the Italian club and became the first Ukraine player to win the European Cup when his penalty at Old Trafford, Manchester, defeated arch-rivals Juventus. He also tasted European Cup final defeat when Milan lost on penalties to Liverpool in 2005 and he missed his spot-kick.

"I have learned that the difference between winning and losing is so little," Shevchenko said. "Sometimes just luck. So, I don't predict anything now for Chelsea. I just want to work hard, learn English and hope for success."

Source: China Daily

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