At the end of the 2014 American football season in Russia, the highest-profile player in Russia – former NFL player Bobby Rome – announced his player retirement from the game. But to the excitement of many in Russia, he decided to stay in the country in a coaching capacity, contributing to the emergence of a Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU) Wild Pandas team in the Pacific city of Vladivostok.
Here’s the perspective of the former Northern Carolina Tar Heel and Green Bay Packer on football in Russia, his life here and plans for the future.
“Well, originally I was supposed to be going to play and develop football in Croatia, but the deal didn’t go as planned. So I started to accept offers again from other teams and the Moscow Patriots were the first organization to contact me. I liked what I had seen via the internet and the history of the team, so I took a chance. I’m always will hold a very high regard for the Patriots because they gave me an opportunity.”
What do you think of that team and organization as a whole?
“When I played for the Patriots it was a great experience. The organization is first class, they also have a ton of great players and I was proud and honored to be their leader.”
What about your second team in Russia, the St. Petersburg Vikings?
“The biggest difference in the teams was the youth. The Vikings were very talented and young and hungry. The Patriots had the experience and the know how to get it done.”
Then how did you decide to move to Vladivostok and coach the Wild Pandas?
“Well I was at a point in my career where I felt I could do more for my family and the development of football in Russia by moving across the country and developing football over here. There are really not many teams here on the far east of Russia, so I would like to develop football on this side of Russia.”
What goals would you like to accomplish in this country?
“Well I would like to start Russia’s first college football league and just want to see the players grow and be able to pass down what they learned. I would also like to be at the front end of development here in the Far East. I want to be a Ambassador for the sport I love and to share my knowledge.”
What do you think about football in Russia in general, how do you see it
developing in the future?
“American football is thriving in Russia, and sky’s the limit. There is so much talent here and also great business people, so it could work. We had 3000 people at the game here in the University, and I played in front of 3000 in Moscow against the Black Storm, so there is a market for it.”
What about your personal experience in this country, what was challenging about living and playing football here, and what did you like about it?
“The most difficult thing of course is the language, and not having your whole family with you, but Russians are loving people so it makes everything easy. Also, football here in the Far East can be great, smaller city. So I’m like a big fish in a small pond, so my popularity and the popularity and enthusiasm for American football, is growing fast.”