The beautiful game has done big things for Petr Kuzmin, like so many Australians past, present and future.
Almost 12 years ago, Kuzmin touched down in Sydney from his native Russia and began the daunting challenge of settling into a new country.
It was the shared love of football that grounded him within Australian life and helped build relationships that are still with him today.
Now, Kuzmin is doing the same thing with the ‘Aussie Supporteroos’ – a fan group whose purpose is to unite the world through football.
In the weeks prior to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the 40-year-old created the Aussie Supporteroos page on Facebook, opening up expressions of interest for those interested in playing in a Fan World Cup in Russia.
The page quickly drew interest online and was comprised of Australian football fans from five states.
Anyone can join the Aussie Supporteroos - click here for more information.
Kuzmin organised friendly matches against the Caltex Socceroos’ Group C opponents France, Peru and Denmark in the lead up to the tournament.
And when the Fan World Cup commenced in St. Petersburg, Australia was drawn against Algeria and Cyprus, who finished second and third respectively – while hosts Russia took out the trophy.
The side played 11 matches overall, with the final two matches held at Red Square in Moscow against Russia and Spain.
Although the concept was formalised in Russia, Kuzmin says the idea originated when he was invited to play on the Russian team against New Zealand in a similar fans’ tournament during the Confederations Cup last year.
Following the success of the Supporteroos, he will now continue reach out to football fans across the globe whenever the Caltex Socceroos play abroad.
Kuzmin has followed the Caltex Socceroos and Russia equally throughout his time in Australia and has been present for all the side’s biggest matches in recent history - including all three of Australia's matches in at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The Caltex Socceroos may have bowed out in the group stages, but the performance of Russia came as a welcome surprise.
“I was very taken aback by Russia’s performances, we went in having very low expectations and it was amazing tournament," he told www.socceroos.com.au.
“It’s always difficult to lose on penalties, you always fancy your chances when it goes to penalties, but Croatia played extremely well and were the better team for most of the match in the Final as well.”
Kuzmin, a supporter of Western Sydney Wanderers in the Hyundai A-League, says he’s looking forward to the new era under incoming Caltex Socceroos’ boss Graham Arnold.
While the former Sydney FC coach will continue the team's evolution on the field, Kuzmin's mission to forge connections with other fans across the globe could be just as vital for the future of Australian football.
Kuzmin is also the founder of 'Socceroos Fan Club Russia', a fan page aiming to introduce the Caltex Socceroos and Australian football culture to Russian fans.
He's interviewed the likes of John Didulica and Ned Zelic, and you can find more about it here.
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