For the fifth season, Dmitry Musersky plays for Suntory Sunbirds, runner-up in Japan and winner of the Asian Club Championship in the 2022/2023 season, for the first time in the Club’s history. Over the past three years, the Russian has regularly won titles and personal awards: he has been recognized as MVP more than once. But the future life of him is not imagined in Osaka, where he has lately made friends and has fully adapted his life.
In an exclusive interview with Championship on the eve of the start of the V-League, Dmitry spoke about his desire to return to Russia and the reasons for this decision, Suntory’s emotionally difficult state, his media presence in Japan and his attitude towards popularity.
“I give myself a year or two in Japan”
Dmitry, where are you now? – I am trying to get out of the center of Moscow: the browser does not work, so it is intuitive (smiles).
– How is your vacation going? – 10 more days. Already on September 4 I fly to the training camp, then the next, and in October the championship begins. In Japan, the holidays are not too long, because the championship ended in May, and already on July 10 the team met again for training, in easy mode. Since I left home for Russia, the Club is not going to make concessions, but there is a tacit agreement: I spend the summer at home and I am already in shape: I train, I prepare. In September the dances begin, in mid-October the championship. This is more than enough to relax, be with family and relatives. And at the same time get in shape to be ready for combat. Everything is ecological and fluid.
Have you had any problems getting your visa this year? — Every year I get a work visa. There are always certain risks, including political ones. They may not grant a visa, as happened, for example, during the time of Covid: they grant it to a limited number of foreign nationals and only upon specific request. The Japan Volleyball Federation applied to the government to issue a certain number of visas; I was one of them. Every year these risks are. Neither I nor the club can guarantee it, given the situation.
Photo: From the personal archive of Dmitry Musersky.
– Exciting… You can run out of stick. – Certainly. I always get a positive response in July or early August. This year, the visa was confirmed just a week ago.
— How bright is the contrast with the atmosphere and people after the flight? Is it difficult to readjust? Everything is different: country, culture, mentality. But now we know everything. The first year is definitely hard. I don’t know how to call a taxi. You go into the store and you don’t understand what you want or can buy… And you have training, let’s say, in an hour. You don’t know what you have in your hands and you can only navigate through images. There were many difficulties. Now everything is on rails. Everything you need for life is provided. We have been going back there for two years, as if we had never left.
– Did they stop the Japanese? – I would say that I know the language at the beginner level; this year I made the determined decision not to continue learning it. This is enough to minimally communicate with players about a case or call a taxi to solve common problems. For everything else I have a translator. Also, I’m not going to connect my life with Japan in the long run.
– Because? – At first we went to see: what will happen? It’s interesting to play, but it’s a part of life and it doesn’t end with volleyball. I don’t see myself in Japan. I want to live in Russia. There is no point in teaching or delving into the culture. This is enough for me for life, to have an idea of the country, the mentality and the culture of the Japanese. I completed my interest.
Is there another place in the world that is of the same interest? – Complex problem. Right now I miss Russia a lot, even though I’m here now. We are so bored that we don’t even think about traveling during the holidays: we are at home. And if we go somewhere, then it will be Moscow or St. Petersburg. I don’t want to go anywhere abroad: this ship is full. There is no point in guessing.
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I missed the feeling of being at home, and the people, the Russian language and communication – they understand you. And I don’t mean the language barrier, but the emotional intimacy. And the expression “where I was born, there I was useful” describes my condition. In Russia the whole world is yours; people and their actions – everything is predictable and close.
How much do you give in Japan? – I think a year or two. And we will see more. Again, I have a one-year contract. I don’t know how the relationship will develop further.
“All my life I’ve been watching other players; I take characteristics from them and apply them in the game”
– You said yourself that the Japanese are robots that play according to the script, according to instructions. Are you being boxed in? Or are you already tuned in? — I do not try to be part of its structure. I remain a foreigner for them with my experience, style, history, head, mentality. They treat me like this. They hire me for the team and they expect to see everything I have shown at an international level. They don’t expect me to play like a Japanese.
Yes, I am part of the team: I carry out certain installations, tasks. But the way I do it is in my own style. Therefore, on the contrary, in this sense I have a comfort zone, emancipation, which gives me the right to create. As for the game, there are certain privileges and discounts.
– What are we talking about? – The attitude of the coach towards you, the level of demand. It is clear that I am a mandatory person: I do not need to be forced to train. I take a responsible approach at work: what I do and do. For this reason, I prepare conscientiously in the off-season, I arrive in uniform. In this sense, for many years I have not heard similar orders from the coaches: that someone forced me to do something.
Dmitry Musersky in game for Suntory Sunbirds
Photo by: Suntory Sunbirds VK
There is a team tactic, a strategy that I have no problem accepting, whether I agree with it or not. But as for my technical actions, decisions during the game, that is not in dispute. Although there may be settings when I wonder if I don’t know what to do. Let’s say they build a certain line of defense or block against me, making it difficult to score points. Then I consult with a coach, with a statistician, I can consult. Although he doesn’t approach me with those questions. But I will agree if the coach makes a comment on technical issues, if that doesn’t work. For other Japanese players, the coach is more demanding in terms of some actions and technical moments.
“Every year the defense of the Japanese becomes more and more impenetrable. How do you get out of this situation? “Here I am being studied. But that’s not always the case: if a team, and any team, plucks up their nerve during a match, any player will find it difficult to finish it on the ground. In addition, if a player is caught up in uncertainty and the rival picks up several balls in a row in defense, that is where a festival that is difficult to stop begins. The only thing that can be done here is to change the approaches, tactical actions and directions of attacks. I have a certain arsenal that I use and improve. I also have a variety of styles – the experience is still great. If you had a small arsenal, it would be impossible to achieve success – you would quickly learn and adapt to the game.
“In Japan players become popular not because of the quality of the game, but because of their appearance”
– This is where the coaching staff intervenes. Or all on your own? – For the most part, all my life I have been watching other players; I take some features from them and apply them in the game. I watch, I learn, if the player is cool or not. Everyone has certain technical characteristics or character traits that can be learned. In addition, the work of the coaches – each has its own methodology and approach. Some give more, some give less. The work of the local coaching staff has a fruitful effect on my performance.
– Together with Suntory, you became the first Japanese team to win gold in the Asian Club Championship. Did it become something that made an epoch for the city? Is it celebrated, for example, like any other Premier League championship? – It so happened that after this tournament I went directly from Bahrain to Moscow and did not return to Osaka. Maybe they were taken by bus, like in England, but hardly (smiles). It is always less successful. Yes, there are probably posters hanging around the city: they say that for the first time a Japanese club has been crowned Asian champion. I’m sure of it. But it wasn’t anything big. For the fans, and even more so for the Club, it is undoubtedly a great pride: to be the first of the Japanese teams to win the Asian Championship. This is a great result and achievement.
— Did you see your portraits in Osaka? You are a journalist? – Yes, I met portraits, posters and banners of my team. But there I am not a media person at all. Because Japan has a slightly different culture – gamers there become popular not because of the quality of the game, but because of their pleasant and even beautiful appearance. Whether you play or sit on a substitute… You become popular only based on your external data. But I feel even more comfortable like this.
– You don’t like the attention? – Yes. So far it is not so difficult for me to do this… I understand that this is work, I am grateful to the fans who love me, my work. I always pay attention to them, but it’s not always nice. For example, when you are started on the street with some doubt or problem, and you are busy with something. If an amateur approaches, of course I will listen to him, but it happens that you have to do it by force.
– And the attention of sponsors is growing? You also had a contract with Toyota. – It is over. The contract was for one year. In principle, they have stopped focusing on sports: their internal policy has changed. But there were no new proposals.
“The son already misses his classmates, but understands that his roots are here, in Russia”
– You said that “conquering Asia was your goal”. Now what? – Conquer again!
And become MVP? – Why not! It’s always nice.
– But in the national championship you were one step away from getting a golden hat-trick. How emotionally hit the club? – Yes, it is difficult to win when there were some internal problems in the team; There were quite a few and it took time and effort to figure them out. Honestly, second place is a good result for us, considering what happened. Let’s see what happens this year. Many things will change.
Dmitry Musersky with the title of Asian champion in the “Suntory Sunbirds”
Photo: From the personal archive of Dmitry Musersky.
– Is it a matter of communication between the management and the players? – And with leadership… I don’t want to put up with it. Only accumulated problems that required urgent solutions. They were postponed for the period of the first two “golden” seasons and after this time demanded attention. And that moment has arrived. Various questions began to arise, small disagreements began to arise. I think the team met this challenge quite bravely.
How familiar is the family with the city? – My son goes to an international school, he has his own friends, they play together on the playgrounds. We also made new friends: we are several families that we are friends with, we celebrate the holidays.
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– Sergei Grankin said that an important reason for leaving Germany was the political situation: parents convey their thoughts to their children. – I understand that Asia has some attention towards the child. We try to keep things moving in the right direction. In any case, the child understands that he is a Russian, a citizen of Russia, he has his own mentality and thinking. Consequently, he was brought up in a Russian family: we developed his knowledge and skills in the Russian language and literature. Since he is in distance education, he reads everything according to the schedule. So there is no pressure from the Japanese culture on the boy: he is studying at an international school.
Dmitry Musersky with his family
Photo: From the personal archive of Dmitry Musersky.
Politics does not concern us. There are no restrictions when playing for a Japanese club: even fans came to the matches with Russian flags. There is no political pressure on it. Compared with the experience of Sergei Grankin, in our case everything is quite environmentally friendly.
– Will the departure be painful for the son? – I recently asked this question. Yes, she misses his comrades, but she understands that her roots are here, in Russia; your main life will also be here. Although she spent a good part of her time in Japan, where they tried to arrange comfortable living conditions for her so that she could develop and appreciate his roots. But she also drew positive moments from life in Japan.