The State of Georgian Football
May 30, 2019
Most Championships: Dinamo Tbilisi, 24
Last 5 Winners: Saburtalo (18), Torpedo Kutaisi (17), Samtredia (16), Dinamo Tbilisi (15/16), Dila Gori (14/15)
UEFA Ranking: 47thth
Highest Ranked Club: Dinamo Tbilisi, 281st
Interview with Georgia sports journalist, Magda Kldiashvili
Since the Europa League was rebranded, no Georgian side has ever made a Champions League or EL group stage. What is the current state of Georgian football?
Georgian clubs have been consistently very bad in European qualification, and some of them will be defeated at the very first stage. Dinamo Tbilisi, in 2004, were the last Georgian team to make a UEFA group stage, but since then Georgia hasn’t made an impact.
In World Cup qualifying, the Georgian national team has not won a match, but in the UEFA Nations League we did well and we have a chance to win League D, but we are up against Belarus who are a lot more developed than we and here it is going to be very difficult for us to get past them. They consistently have a club in BATE who reach the group stage of the Champions League or the Europa League, but where are we in comparison? Plus, we’re so inconsistent at international level. We can beat Kazakhstan, Lithuania or Latvia, then all of a sudden we can’t beat Andorra.
Overall, in terms of football development Georgia is far behind even our closest neighbours.
After Dinamo Tbilisi’s early dominance following the fall of USSR, there is now no one dominant team in Georgia. Is this a help or a hindrance?
There was a time when Dinamo was among the dominant Georgian clubs, but in the last ten years this situation has changed. The reason is not just the team, but it’s more general, and it’s because the football environment hasn’t developed.
Three years ago, the state created the ‘Georgian Football Development Fund’, which helps both state and private clubs. Nevertheless, the results of Georgian clubs in the last three years have only gotten worse. The state can say that it is investing in football development, but the problem with us it’s not just financially where we’re struggling. The problem is in the management, the players, children’s football, the wrong vision and poor planning.
As for Dinamo Tbilisi, the club was sold in 2011 and made a big investment, but the owner did not have a long-term plan. Coaches and players are replaced very often. Decisions like this come very fast in Georgia. I think overall the wrong development plan is in place and this lack of patience hurts Georgian football development.
Do Georgian fans expect more from their side in European competition and what would be seen as a successful year in Europe for Georgian fans?
After Georgian football moved to a summer league in 2016, Georgian clubs have gotten even worse in European qualifying.
The reason for this is the following: In summer, when most European championships are resting and preparing for European tournaments or club championships, Georgian teams have to play their domestic games, and as a result, most of the players are not physically ready. Consistency is hard to find. They do not have time to practice on match tactics as much as clubs that are being have pre-season during the summer.
With Dinamo, the situation is changing and the coach is changing. Torpedo is in debt and players have not received salaries for several months. Whether you they will remain a club we don’t even know. Saburtalo is inexperienced for a tournament such as the Champions League. There’s many examples of our teams not being prepared or good enough for Europe. Getting through one round is now seen as a success.
Is there any money in Georgian football?
The state spends 37 million GEL (£10m) every year through the football development fund. This is a big amount in Georgian terms, but in football terms – very little.
The 37 million is distributed to many clubs, leagues or activities: National League 1 – 10 teams, National League 2 – 10 teams, Regional League – 40 teams, Women League – 10 teams, Amateur League, Mass Football and Educational activities.
The distribution is financed by the leagues: the basic financing in the highest league is 1 million GEL (£280k) each, the bonus will then be added on top which can make up to 2 million or 2,5 million GEL each.
How do you think the Europa League 2 will affect Georgian EL performances and what has been the reaction to the formation of the competition in Georgia?
Georgian teams have been losing to teams from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan so the new competition won’t really change much. Macedonia too is more developed than Georgia right now. It is hard to say that we will have a chance, but it may be a little bit easier.
However, I do not like the format of the Europa League and I have the same opinion about Europa League 2.
What do you think UEFA should do to help imrpove the smaller nations in Europe?
UEFA has some projects for smaller countries. For example, in Georgia there is a program called, “Hat-trick”, which is where a few million euros will be allocated to the Georgian Football Federation. How precisely and purposefully this money is spent, I do not know exactly this because we do not have access to it. Also, UEFA gives money to the development of children’s football, and as a result of this, several academies have been made. Of course, UEFA should help small countries to develop football, but the organization must have a guarantee and mechanism to determine how much money these countries will spend.
UEFA has new projects such as the UEFA Nations League, but as I said in the previous question, it does not allow small countries to develop more. If beat Kazakhstan, Andorra and Lithuania, we will play in the European Championship, with such big teams as Italy, France and Spain, but that won’t make us any better.
Interview with Georgia sports journalist, Magda Kldiashvili
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Author: Tom Mortimer
Tom is the editor at Betting Circle and has been creating online content for over 10 years. Tom mainly writes about sport and gambling, but every now and then also delves into fleshier subjects like politics and psychology. When he was 18 he created HungarianFootball.com and over the last few years he's written on a freelance basis for ESPN, WorldSoccer, Goal.com, among many others.