News: Kazakhstan

"I feel a great responsibility to the children"

Iskra coach Bekzat Syzdykov speaks about his motivation, his trainees, and his early football endeavors

Many people who have met Bekzat Syzdykov in person are aware of his intense passion for football. The Ulytau district team's captain has always had the strength and time to maintain a football craze in his home village of Ulytau. A few months ago, Bekzat joined our project Iskra, fulfilling a long-held dream of his.

I was known as Maradona as a kid.

Bekzat Syzdykov was born and raised in the village of Ulytau. Although he received economics training, sports has always been his true passion. He remembers how, as a youngster, he developed a love for football and everything related to it. Once he even came close to becoming a pro, but fate had other plans for him. 

"I was invited to a tryout at Shakhtyor Karaganda in the summer of 2001 when I was 11 years old, and I was fortunate enough to be selected. My football prowess was noticed, and I had a genuine chance to make the youth team. My parents simply could not let me leave for training in Karaganda, which is 700 kilometers away from our home, so my dreams were sadly not meant to come true," Bekzat Syzdykov says. 

The boy persisted in playing his favorite sport, though, and at the age of 14 he was invited to join the district team. 

"When I first joined the team, I thought there were only grown men there; some were 25, some were 30, and some were even older. Compared to them, I was just a little kid. However, I never shied away from a challenge and always tried to have fun playing, which is how the moniker Maradona stuck to me," Bekzat says. 

He shares both the favorite position and a playing style with the legendary Argentine forward. By local standards, Bekzat displayed exceptional technique and scoring flair from the very first games. 

"I'm also left-footed, so maybe that played a role, too. I've never scored with my hands, though," Bekzat chuckles. "Anyway, being the target of such comparisons at the start of my career in the home district team was nice. And here we are: I've been the team captain for seven years at this point. We participate in amateur leagues and local competitions frequently. Naturally, the generation shifts and new players emerge. Guys born in 2003 and even 2005 are now on the team. They compare me more to Messi because he is a football player they are more familiar with. Of course, this is all just good fun, as naturally I am far from both legends' level. But what young boy doesn't aspire to be just like his heroes?"

"I want to fulfill a lifelong dream when I become a coach"

Bekzat Syzdykov received his first category D coaching license in July of this year. This is how any coach's career begins. You need to accumulate practical experience—at least one year at each level—to upgrade your qualification. Bekzat didn't have to wait long for the chance to prove himself in a new position; our Iskra football project arrived in Kazakhstan at just the right time. 

"I had zero knowledge of Iskra before August. It all began in July when I hosted a youth football festival in Ulytau. We had guests from Astana who simply came to participate after seeing my announcement on social media. Galym Ibrayev, a football manager, was one of them. "Apply to Iskra if you want to start a sports club," he advised me. I did not think twice before gathering all my information and filing the application. Naturally, I was concerned that they might say no, but I had confidence in myself." 

Bekzat didn't have to fret for too long. He got a response and an invitation to an interview within a week. The coach officially joined Iskra after several online meetings and negotiations. His long-held dream to improve the standard of football in his hometown and get more kids interested in the sport finally started to come true. 

"Back when I was a kid, you could say there wasn't any football at all in our neighborhood. No clubs, private or public - nothing. After school, we used to play by ourselves in the yard. To be frank, little has changed since. Children still have very few opportunities available to them. As someone who has a deep love for this sport, it greatly upsets me. I therefore want to give something that I myself never had to the current generation. They should be able to train, play, and grow. They might be happier for it, in my opinion." 

Challenge accepted 

On November 15, Iskra began first training sessions in Ulytau. Bekzat dove headfirst into his new project. He personally recruited the kids, visiting every class at the school and signing up everyone who was interested. Currently, about 40 kids train there in three age groups. The overall duration of training is roughly seven hours per week, which gives the kids enough time to play while not getting overworked.

"I like the project's policy of not putting too much pressure on kids to exert themselves physically and follow strict rules. My own approach to training is entirely consistent in this regard. I want to depart a little from the conventional teaching approaches, many of which date back to the Soviet era. I always look for fresh, intriguing, and contemporary training plans. Iskra really helped me with this; during the online training sessions, I learned a lot of helpful information that I now use in practice," Bekzat says. 

"I don't have any other hobbies besides football. I don't enjoy hunting or fishing, I don't spend all day in the garage, and I'm not a particularly bookish man, except for all kinds of football manuals that I've been studying lately. Football occupies a big spot in my heart, and I want my trainees to feel the same way. I want to give the kids a proper environment to play in the future, when I'll be coaching full-time. I can mentor anyone who decides to pursue the sport more seriously so that their talent isn't lost. However, for me, the biggest thing is to raise a good person, not only a good player."