Maksim Samartsev A terrible tragedy. The life of a promising defender of Itil Kazan (now Ak Bars) Vladimir Starostin was divided into before and after. In the first part of it, he showed great promise and could become one of the leading defenders of the main team of Kazan, and in the second, he was forced to learn to sit again and could not fully live without outside help. But first things first. Young Vladimir came to the hockey section at the age of 10 – to get interested in a popular sport, the boy had only to glance at the announcement posted at the school about the recruitment of hockey players. From that moment, a romance began between hockey and our hero. Soon he was transferred to the sports class of school number 1, which is located right next to the sports palace – so as not to spend a lot of time on the road to training. The team born in 1972 in Kazan was very talented – Starostin played together with the future goalkeeper of the national team and famous goalkeeping coach Dmitry Yachanov, as well as with forwards Eduard Kudermetov and Mikhail Sarmatin, who played at the highest level. The first episode that almost put an end to the career of a capable hockey player , occurred at the age of 17 – then Vladimir made his debut in the “SK them. Uritsky”. During one of the matches of the transitional tournament, in which the teams fought for entry into the top division of Soviet hockey, the opponent hit our hero’s neck with a skate and cut it. Vladimir was lucky: the doctors said that if the blade had gone a little deeper, an artery would have been hit. The defender was stitched up, and soon he returned to the ice.“SK im. Uritsky “completed the main task and made it to the big leagues. However, it was decided to send the still young and inexperienced Starostin to Almetyevsk to get match practice. The defender spent several years in this “exile”, after which he returned to Kazan – by that time the team was called “Itil”. The management put forward a demand to the coaching staff – to use their own pupils as often as possible. Such an attitude from the bosses of the main team of Kazan played into the hands of our hero: Starostin, who gained experience and confidence, got a chance and used it one hundred percent. Vladimir was distinguished by his large size and the ability to conduct a power struggle, so his skills came in handy for the young team of the club. In addition, at that time, real world hockey stars played in each championship team – Starostin went on the ice against Alexei Zhitnik, Darius Kasparaitis, Alexei Kovalev, Vitaly Prokhorov, Alexei Zhamnov, Vyacheslav Kozlov and Evgeny Davydov. The defender remembered the last three very clearly – it was against them that it was the hardest to play. Everything went on as usual: the leading defender of Itil developed and grew, seeing excellent prospects in front of him and hoping to have a long and successful career. But in the fall of 1993, a tragedy occurred that put an end to all his plans. After a series of defeats, Vladimir, in the company of other teammates, decided to relax a little and go to the Grotto Bar – in the 90s it was the real epicenter of Kazan nightlife. Hockey players were so carried away by the attributes of club life that they almost missed the tram. The athletes hurried to the stop, but then two pretty drunk young people appeared out of nowhere on their way. Then a tram drove up, the guys and I got into it, and from the stop they shouted obscenities: “Are you scared or what?”. Our fatal mistake – we went back out into the street, began to sort things out, these two took out knives. And across the road from the stop, at the Tatarstan hotel, there were two police UAZs. The police arrived, packed our car and took us to the nearest police station. We tried to explain that the athletes were going to training in the morning, but they didn’t listen to us, ”Vladimir recalled the circumstances of that night.Upon arrival at the department, the officers on duty drew up protocols for petty hooliganism for all 12 participants in the failed brawl, and sent them to one cell, which was hardly designed for such a number of people. As Starostin said, it was almost impossible to stay there – it was crowded, stuffy, and it was impossible to lie down due to lack of space. At night, when many of the company in the cell fell asleep, some of those present suddenly became ill. Vladimir heard screams and requests to open the door and help. But the policemen, according to our hero, opened the door only to spray the disgruntled person’s face with a can. This, in turn, has already caused dissatisfaction with the absolute majority, which sharply rebelled and began to behave loudly. Then the officers on duty went into the cell and ordered to be quiet, making it clear that otherwise they were ready to use firearms. One employee climbed up, a meter from me, took out a PM and pulled the bolt in front of his nose. After a couple of seconds I hear a pop, I didn’t feel pain, but a chill ran through my legs. The policemen closed the door, left, I lay further, and then a pool of blood flows out from under my shirt. Everyone thought that the shot was blank, but it turned out to be combat. I was removed from the bunk, taken to the hospital, operated on – the bullet entered under the shoulder blade, pierced through the spine, lung and got stuck under the ribs, disrupting the motor function, ”recalled Starostin. Yesterday, Vladimir was a professional athlete and defender of Itil, and today he learned to sit again. In total, the hockey player spent about 9 months in hospitals. In parallel with this, the victim was in court with the shot policeman. Themis sided with our hero and awarded him a lifelong pension from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and sentenced the policeman to two years in prison.The victory in court, despite its apparent importance, did little for Starostin, who was confined to a wheelchair. The first time after returning home from the hospital, he lived in an old apartment on the second floor. And since the house was completely unsuitable for wheelchair users, it was not possible for Vladimir to go outside. This problem for the former hockey player was solved by Ak Bars, which gave him a spacious apartment on the ground floor and a garage in the yard. “When you get used to achieving everything in life on your own, it’s scary to be helpless. The guys from the team really supported me then, thanks to them I did not break down psychologically, did not give up. I understood that I had to work on myself, I couldn’t relax and feel sorry for myself: I trained my muscles, developed my legs, ”said the former Itil defender. Vladimir Starostin miraculously did not lose his spirit and found the strength to live on. In 1999, during a rehabilitation stay in a sanatorium in Borovoye Matyushino, our hero met a nurse named Gulnara. Communication began between them, and after 5 years they got married. In 2004, the couple had twins named Edik and Elina. The former defender of Itil learned to live in a new reality – he entered the correspondence department of the law faculty of the university and even bought a car. And in 2009, sport returned to Vladimir’s life: in Russia they began to prepare for the Paralympics in Sochi and created a basic sledge hockey team in Izhevsk, where they also invited a once successful defender. Starostin even played several test matches, but never reached Sochi. Now Vladimir works as a coach in the Bars Sledge team, which was created at Ak Bars in 2020. As the mentor of young sledge hockey players himself said, his eyes really burn from this case. In addition, for the younger generation, Starostin is a living example of the fact that even after the most difficult tragedies, you can not lose your taste for life and get out of difficult situations with your head held high.