🇬🇪 Georgia 🇬🇪
The Georgian championship was established in 1990 after the country’s independence and has since been largely dominated by FC Dinamo Tbilisi. It is an annual competition starting in late February/early March and ending in December.
The ten best teams meet 4 times in the Georgian championship. At the end of the 36 matches, the 1st is crowned champion and qualifies for the Champions League. The 2nd, 3rd and winner of the Georgian Cup go to the Europa League. At the end, the last one is relegated to the second division. The 8th and 9th of the Georgian championship will face the 3rd and 2nd of the second division respectively.
By the end of the 1980s it became clear that the end of the USSR, one of the greatest empires the world has ever known, was imminent. In Georgia the first steps towards independence were taken in the field of football.
On 15 February 1990, the Georgian Football Congress decided to abandon the Soviet competition and create its own Georgian championship. Coach Nodar Akhalkatsi, who had led FC Dinamo Tbilisi to victory in the 1981 Cup Winners’ Cup, was the first elected president of the Georgian Football Federation (Sakartvelos Fekhburtis Federatsia – SFF). 1991 marked the end of the USSR.
The first Georgian championship took place and on 27 May 1990 the national team played its first friendly match against Lithuania (2-2). Since then, the development of football has continued unabated. The GFF became a member of FIFA in 1992. A year later it became a full member of UEFA.
In the qualifying rounds for the 1996 UEFA European Championship, Georgia played against Germany, Bulgaria, Wales, Albania and Moldova. The young country finished third, behind Germany and Bulgaria. Georgia’s first competitive win came against Wales (5-0 in Tbilisi, with Temur Ketsbaia scoring twice).
In the 1998 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, Georgia played England, Italy, Poland and Moldova, eventually sharing third place with Poland. No significant results were achieved in the 2002 European Championship qualifiers, but in the 2002 World Cup qualifiers Georgia finished third behind Italy and Romania.
Under Nodar Akhalkatsi Jr, who was in charge of the GFF for the first decade of the 21st century, renowned coaches such as Klaus Toppmöller and Héctor Cúper joined the Georgian project. But it was a former local international, Ketsbaia, who would achieve the best results, going undefeated in the first ten matches of his 40 years on the national team bench, a record for longevity.
These included a 0-0 draw with France and a 1-0 win over Croatia with a goal from Levan Kobiashvili. Kobiashvili would go on to become the only player to reach 100 caps for Georgia. The Georgian national team is now coached by Slovakian Vladimir Weiss and had a resounding success beating Spain 1-0 in a friendly in June 2016.
At club level, Georgian championship teams are represented in the preliminary rounds of the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League every year. With a little work, they will soon reach the level of Dinamo Tbilisi of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Not content with lifting the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1981 at the expense of FC Carl Zeiss Jena, the capital club were semi-finalists in 1982 and knocked Liverpool out of the European Champion Clubs’ Cup on their debut in the competition in 1979.
However, important decisions were made for Georgian football in 1998, when the new leadership, led by President Merab Zhordania, launched a new Georgian championship in which the number of teams was reduced from 16 to 12. The new leadership also launched a series of reforms, starting with the structure of the Georgian championship. The excitement during the matches and the number of spectators increased considerably. Soon after, Dinamo Tbilisi secured a place in the group stage of the 2004 UEFA Cup, the first edition of the competition in its new format.
Thanks to a new five-year strategic plan, amateur football is progressing. National competitions involve eleven regions with over 300 amateur teams and around 8,000 players. Georgian amateur football is looking to improve its image, including an attempt to participate in the UEFA Regions’ Cup for the first time since 2008.