After his mixed spell at ASNL, Sergey Chernik returned to Belarus. Since then, three years of misadventures have kept her away from the field, including five months of solitude in Kazakhstan during the first confinement and two club bankruptcies. The « wooden goalkeeper » of Pablo Correa, who played the Champions League before arriving in France, returns to this course in the form of (Bela) Russian mountains.
You left AS Nancy Lorraine at the end of your contract in June 2019. Until the beginning of 2021 you were no longer called up for selection. What have you become in the meantime?
I got injured at the end of the 2019 season and had a long recovery period, at least four months. I signed at BATE Borisov, my former club, after a call from the goalkeeping coach as they were going to play the Champions League again and they were looking for a goalkeeper. It only lasted six months because I wasn’t in my best shape to face the competition.
“The borders were closed so it was impossible to return to Belarus for five months. Five months without family, without football, without money in a country that I did not know. »
And then, you find yourself successively in two clubs in financial difficulty…
At the beginning of 2020, I am signing in Irthysh, Kazakhstan. But the championship is stopped after two days due to the Covid. Then, the club decides not to finish the season because of financial difficulties. But the borders were closed so it was impossible to return to Belarus for five months.
Were you alone or with your family?
Alone. Five months without family, without football, without money in a country that I did not know.
Wasn’t that too hard?
Morally, enormously. It was a big blur that lasts a long time. All occupations are very similar. I didn’t want to go crazy. Every day I called the embassy to ask when I could come back. Without answer. In May, a flight was organized to repatriate us. I jumped in immediately (Laughs.) In Belarus, it was difficult to find a club given the economic context and I signed with Gorodeya which was fighting to stay in the first division. We succeeded, but because of financial problems, again, the club disappeared.
You have reconnected with a top club because you play for Chakhtior Soligorsk, the reigning champion.
I was able to find the selection also, it is something important for me. Personally, the former coach did not trust me too much. We changed after three games this season (arrival of the Russian, Sergey Tashuev on April 12) so I will give everything to find some playing time. Chakhtior Soligorsk is good in its league, but in Europe we don’t have still had good results. To be known in France, you have to stand out in the European Cup. For the moment, we are a little blocked in Europe.
How do you situate the Belarusian D1 compared to Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 in France?
Already Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 are totally different. Ligue 2 is more physical than football (Laughs.) You have to be tougher than technical. Our championship is equivalent to the best teams I have met in Ligue 2 even if it is a different kind of football.
“In my mind, every Ligue 1 game was the equivalent of the Champions League with BATE Borisov. »
When you arrived in Nancy in 2016, you were a recognized goalkeeper, a Belarusian international who played in the Champions League. It was not too difficult to return to the country with a lesser status three years later?
The first problem was injuries. This is what did not allow me to really defend myself well. France is a good championship so the players who come from there are well seen. My passage in France is not a regret, but really a very good memory. All the matches I have played in Ligue 1 are the best days of my life. In my head, every Ligue 1 game was the equivalent of the Champions League with BATE Borisov.
Do you still follow the French championship?
More the results of Nancy than Ligue 1, even if I still watch the big games. I followed even more when Benoît Pedretti was a coach (interim from October 2021 to January 2022, editor’s note) because I played with him. He has all the qualities to be a great coach in Ligue 1 or even in Europe. Benoît understands football well. He is simple in his communication with you. In addition, he was an exemplary player in behavior. A real good player in every sense of the word. And a good teammate next door, the one with whom we like to talk football outside.
Have you returned to France since?
The Covid has long prevented travel, so no. But my wife wants to come back as soon as we have a few days off to see this city again. She really liked him and then we still have friends here in contact with us. Besides, why not come back to Marcel-Picot if there is a match and I hope in Ligue 2… I think the supporters liked me.
In your Nancy era, Clément Lenglet played in defense. Today he is at Barca. Did you imagine it?
I never had that thought when he was in front of me, but I’m not surprised at all. He transmitted his calmness to others. He is the true captain par excellence. When we look at our results, it was when he left in January 2017 that we plunged in the standings. Something broke. It was one of the key moments of the season which meant that we were unable to maintain ourselves.
“Pedretti has all the qualities to be a great coach in Ligue 1 or even in Europe. »
However, he was very young (21 years old)…
By his behavior in the locker room, on the field, he was exemplary. He had already understood everything. We had Benoît Pedretti, Alou Diarra, Youssouf Hadji and he was our captain, that is to say.
How did you arrive in France?
2015-2016 was a very good season for me at BATE Borissov. We played the Champions League, especially at Camp Nou, I was voted best goalkeeper in the championship and we had just been champions. It was time for me to experience something else, especially when a Ligue 1 club contacts your agent. I gave my consent immediately. Especially since I didn’t know France, so I had the opportunity, at almost 30 years old, to discover another culture, another way of life, to organize the days.
Did you know that Guy-Roland N’Dy Assembe was already the goalkeeper in place?
I didn’t know it but the competition didn’t scare me anyway. If you’re not ready to compete, you’re not ready to be a footballer.
And that you weren’t so wanted by the coach, Pablo Correa?
I found out at the end of the first season when we went down to Ligue 2 and I was wondering about the rest, given how the end of the season had gone. A club member said to me: “It was the recruitment unit that wanted you and not the coach. He had to deal with it. »
“I had a lot of fun in France, even if the situation was tough in my head. I wanted to honor my contract. »
Yet it is with you in goal that the club achieves its best part of the season from November 2016 (13and during the winter break)…
Because we were progressing. The 4-0 victory in the derby against Metz did us good. This is my best memory at home. Afterwards, we were able to follow up. We were better, stronger.
During this period, you play at the Vélodrome, at Geoffroy-Guichard, at the Groupama Stadium and at the Parc des Princes. Do you remember a particular stadium?
The match at the Vélodrome against Marseille. Despite the score (3-0) and my head injury, it’s a memory for my whole life. The stadium, the supporters, the atmosphere are really incredible when you are on the pitch.
You are the starter until this match against Lorient (J30, defeat 3-2). At the end of the meeting, D+1 cameras film Pablo Correa’s nervousness during which he describes you as « wooden guardian ». Did you understand right away?
No, because we played on Saturday and there was an international break afterwards. So on Sunday, I left Nancy to find the selection. I haven’t even seen these images, but I have received many messages. It was a bit of a shock. When I came back, we spoke with Pablo.
Did you want him?
It was in a state of anger. I understand that he wanted to protect the team for the end of the season with these words against me. I don’t want to say anything bad about him because he allowed me to play in Ligue 1. Even if I still don’t understand why after this game I didn’t play anymore. It’s really hard for me to think back to that match. Already because we lost when we won 2-0 at halftime and without knowing it it was the beginning of the end.
And finally you stay…
I tried to leave, but I couldn’t find anything. Very quickly, Vincent Hognon took over the team and trusted me. I had a lot of fun in France, even if the situation was tough in my head. I wanted to honor my contract.
“The Champions League is always a party, no matter the result. The hardest thing is to play the maintenance in Ligue 1 and even more in Ligue 2. »
You had a certain status when you arrived and you find yourself replacing in Ligue 2, without necessarily being able to defend yourself too much due to the language barrier. How did you experience this competition with two then three goalkeepers, after the arrival of Geoffrey Jourdren in the summer of 2017?
Now I understand my mistake. She was not in the field, but in my head in relation to the situation which was not too clear. The few games where I had to be quiet to be good, something bothered me. I couldn’t show my maximum. When the coach trusted me, I thought I had to do more to help the team, but I thought so much about being good at staying in place that I wasn’t released. In three years, I have known five coaches so that does not help either. Mentally it is exhausting to understand different instructions each time.
Is it playing the Champions League or maintaining it that is more demanding?
Mentally, maintaining it is really very difficult. There is a lot of pressure. Each match must be won in order not to go down. For you, for the team, the leaders, the supporters… The Champions League is always a party, regardless of the result. The hardest thing is to play the maintenance in Ligue 1 and even more in Ligue 2.
Interview by Alexandre Plumey