Estonian men's national football team defender Ragnar Klavan is to be awarded the Order of the White Star IV class by president Alar Karis. Klavan, whose playing career has included spells at English Premier League side Liverpool, Italian club Calgiari and FC Augsburg in Germany, told ERR that he was really happy to receive the honor.
Klavan, 37, who returned to the Estonian Meistriliiga last season to play for Paide Linnameeskond, is also president of Estonia's oldest football club Tallinna Kalev. The Order of the White Star is one of several state honors awarded annually by the President of Estonia to recognize outstanding contributions to the Estonian state and society.
Receiving a national honor like this almost always comes as a big surprise to people. I am sure that for you it's no exception. Now that you've had a few hours to digest it, how important is this award for you?
It certainly came as a surprise. I had just put my daughter to bed at lunchtime and, when I came back and I had a lot of missed calls. Then it dawned on me that I'd been given this honor. Let's just say I'm really happy about it.
You have certainly achieved a lot in sporting career. What do you think this award was given for?
There are so many different reasons why our president gives these awards. I have three very good friends, who were (also) selected (for the awards) this year. All are very inspiring people in different fields and have given different emotions to our society. Sport is perhaps one of those areas where you can really inspire people. Sport provides the most immediate emotions. But, it's difficult to say.
This is not a lifetime achievement award. However, it certainly sums up an important period (of your life). How much do you see it as the end of a stage?
As I understand it, (it seems like) our president is also pushing me to take a decision on whether or not to continue with my career in sport. I am now at a crossroads, with my best years as an athlete behind me and new challenges ahead. To receive this honor, which the president has bestowed on me is a very proud feeling.
You are the president of a football club (Tallinna Kalev -ed.) and you are also actively training. How much can you tell us about what the new domestic football season, which starts soon, will bring for you?
The answer I'll give to that is as circular as a football: I don't know. There are a lot of things to think about. There's the football club (Tallinna) Kalev, which is very close to my heart, and where I want to give something back to young people, whether I pull my boots on there again or not. I think only time will tell.
A lot of people who receive these honors say that they are not individual awards, but rather awards for their industry. How do you see (your award) in the context of yourself and football?
The first thing that went through my mind (when I heard about it) was my family, and definitely my parents, who got the ball rolling. The youth coaches who have been so instrumental in me to get to the heights I reached in the first place. They have been like second fathers to me. They have guided m, and taught me how to be an athlete, as well as how to become a man.
Finally, not that you needed any extra motivation to continue in football, but how much does an honor like this inspire and motivate you, or give you some kind of extra push to keep doing what you do?
Certainly, the recognition is kind of humbling. It is certainly good to be recognized. I don't think, that any of the people who have been honored, have ever been doing what they do just for the recognition or the award. But, when you receive that kind of honor, there's definitely some pleasure too.
This year's full awards list can be seen here.
Editor: Michael Cole