The Russian national football team won 6-4 on the 22 May live TV quiz show, What? Where? When?, also known as the “pundit show,” on First Channel.
The pundit team, comprised of defenders Vasily and Aleksey Berezutsky, goalkeeper Igor Akinfeyev, midfielder Oleg Ivanov, and striker Artyom Dziuba, was skippered by the national squad’s head coach Leonid Slutsky. The support group in the audience included Russia squad goalkeeper Marinato Guilherme, who received Russian citizenship last November, and the national squad’s former press spokesman Ilya Kazakov.
Slutsky admitted his team felt “uneasy” in the unfamiliar setting, prior to the show. “We are not afraid of playing, we just feel strange in the unfamiliar environment, a little stressed and somewhat nervous,” he said.
The inauspicious beginning
The footballers decided on a wrong answer to the video question in the first round, although Aleksey Berezutsky had suggested the correct answer during the discussion. It turned out that, in the mid-19th century, French National Guard soldiers would smell suspicious-looking passers-by and, if they smelled gunpowder, would arrest them. Oleg Ivanov answered for the team, saying the soldiers used the sniffing method to identify courtesans.
The pundits won the second round hands down, unanimously and without hesitation identifying the piece of land, photographed from an airplane, as the Netherlands. They knew it right away, but decided not to answer prematurely. In the end, Aleksey Berezutsky voiced the right answer for the team.
They won the third round, too. It was left up to Slutsky to summarize the main point of the discussion. He figured out correctly that the reason they place photos of the anticipated guests on every chair in the auditorium for the Film Academy Awards ceremony was to make the work easier for the cameramen during the live broadcast of the ceremony.
The pundits broadened the gap in the fourth round, and “aced” the answer. The question was about a black-and-white photo showing a man holding a basket with a hole in its bottom in his one hand. The object in his other hand had been cut out. The team was right in reasoning that the object in the other hand would be a basketball. “That’s how basketball was invented,” said Slutsky.
The unusual musical break
The team was confronted with another video question in the fifth round, and failed again. The video showed the customary high-chair used in American restaurants. The question was about why the chair will sometimes be turned upside down. Speaking for all the pundits, Aleksey Berezutsky suggested that the high-chair would thus be converted to an extra surface for the trays. In reality, the overturned high-chair is an ideal support for a child safety car seat.
Then the host announced a musical break, warning it was as unusual as having the Russian national football team on the show. Everyone on the team, except Slutsky, took part in the “disappearing trick,” officiated by the magicians, brothers Ilya, Sergey and Andrei Safronov.
Once again the pundits won in the sixth round, although they had to claim an extra minute. Slutsky got it right, saying the business point of hiring out sheep, like a certain farmer does in a small German town, is that sheep are a great replacement for a lawn mower.
The pundits widened the gap to 5-2 in the seventh round. The host asked them to name the occupation of a certain author, who had the book titled Seven Thirty Two by Two Forty Four
published in the late 20th-century. Slutsky knew right away that the title of the book referred to the size of a football goal, but he let Akinfeyev give the correct answer, which was: “goalkeeper.” The host accepted the answer, saying that, indeed, the book was written by legendary Soviet goalkeeper Rinat Dasayev.
Confused audience, nervous ending and the win
The pundits lost two consecutive next rounds. First they didn’t know what myth a certain Icelandic book illustrator had fabricated in the 1825 edition of the ancient Icelandic sagas. That myth would find its way into a later stage production of The Ring of the Nibelungs, and eventually took root in public consciousness. The stereotype that Viking warriors wore horned helmets is owed entirely to that stage production. In reality, there were never any horns on Viking helmets.
Even the guest experts in the audience looked perplexed when the question was announced in the ninth round. The host asked to name the exact year when the painting Office in the Islands was painted by 19th-century serf artist Grigory Soroka. The year was 1844, and the hint was the abacus on the table, where the correct figures were laid out. The team deliberated for a minute, then sought help from the audience, but the audience could not help. Some theorized that the year was 1812, when Napoleon invaded Russia, others speculated it might have been 1837, when Aleksander Pushkin was shot in a duel and died from the wound.
But the pundits avenged themselves in the tenth round. Aleksander Berezutsky spoke for the team, saying some hair salons in Europe have started using cloaks with a strip of sheer fabric, so that clients can keep their faces in their gadgets while getting their haircuts, which was the correct answer.
Aleksey Berezutsky was voted the best player.
At UEFA EURO 2016, scheduled to take place in France from 10 June to 10 July, Russia will be playing England (11 June), Slovak Republic (15 June) and Wales (20 June) during the groups stage. The team is flying to Switzerland for preparatory training in Tuesday, 24 May.