🇰🇿 KAZAKHSTAN 🇰🇿
The Kazakh Championship was established in 1992. It is a very homogeneous championship, despite the appearance of FK Astana in recent years.
The twelve best teams meet 3 times in the Kazakh championship. At the end of the 33 matches, the 1st is crowned champion and qualifies for the Champions League. The 2nd, 3rd and winner of the Kazakhstan Cup go to the Europa League. The bottom two in the Kazakh championship are relegated to the second division. Finally, the 10th plays a play-off match against the 3rd in the second division.
Historically, the development of football in Kazakhstan was closely linked to the USSR, as the country was part of the Soviet Union from 1922 to 1991. Clubs competed in the USSR championship, with FC Kairat Almaty, a club from the former capital Almaty, being the most successful, finishing seventh in the top division in 1986. Two seasons later, Kairat won the USSR Football Federation Cup by beating PFK Neftçi (Azerbaijan).
The most popular players during this period were Seilda Baishakov and Yevgeny Yarovenko, both from Kairat. Yarovenko won the Olympic Games with the USSR in 1988. Aleksander Khapsalis of Kairat and Aleksander Kadeikin of FC Irtysh Pavlodar won the 1976 International Youth Tournament against Hungary.
The first clubs in Kazakhstan were founded in 1913/14 in Semipalatinsk, after football was introduced by local merchants who had discovered the sport in England. The first teams (Lastochka, Orlyata, Olimp, SSK and Yarysh) all came from Semipalatinsk. Mukhtar Auezov, a famous Kazakh novelist, ethnologist and poet, played for Yarysh. Later, the Yastreb and Zvezdochka clubs were formed in Pavlodar.
In 1928, the first official competition of the Kazakh Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR) was held in Petropavlovsk. In the following decades, Kazakh footballers participated in USSR competitions with varying degrees of success. The first body to undertake the development of Kazakh football was the Football Federation of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic, established in 1959 and reorganised in 1989.
After independence in 1992, Kazakhstan participated in the 1998 and 2002 FIFA World Cup? qualifiers as a member of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). They went through the first round against Pakistan and Iraq in 1998, before losing to Japan, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan in the second round. The national team also participated in two qualifying rounds for the CFA Asian Cup, in 1996 and 2000. The Olympic team also failed to qualify for the Olympic Games in Atlanta and Sydney.
In 1992, the Independent Football Association of the Republic of Kazakhstan (KFF) was established following the dissolution of the USSR. Two years later, this association joined FIFA and CFA. In 2000, FARK became the KFF. As part of Kazakhstan‘s territory is located in Europe, the KFF left the CFA in 2001 and joined UEFA 12 months later.
Kazakhstan joined the European movement at the UEFA Congress in Stockholm in April 2002. The national team subsequently entered the European qualifying rounds for the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, and for UEFA EURO 2008 and 2012. In their EURO 2008 campaign, Kazakhstan registered ten points, beating Serbia and Armenia, and drawing with Belgium and Azerbaijan.
In 2013, Shakhter Karagandy became the first local club to qualify for the group stage of the UEFA Europa League, while two years later Astana went one better by qualifying for the group stage of the UEFA Champions League. Kazakhstan’s place in the European football family was confirmed with the organisation of the XXXVIII Ordinary UEFA Congress in March 2014 in Astana.
Astana qualified for the group stage of the UEFA Europa League in 2016/17, becoming the first club from the Kazakh championship to play twice in a proper European competition. They also became the first team from the country to win a group stage match, with a 2-1 home win over APOEL.