The Rise of Georgian Football

Georgia Khvicha Kvaratskhelia Eastern Europe Football Georgian Football
Art by Onkar Shirsekar

Georgian football hasn’t been the most recognisable location on the footballing map. Still, the recent performances from Giorgi Mamardashvili, Giorgi Chakvetadze and specifically Khvicha Kvaratskhelia have had the footballing world sit up and take notice of what Georgia is cooking over in Eastern Europe. 

Football in Georgia is underrated within the wider footballing community in general. The general perception about the football played within the area is a lack of quality which has meant the league has been halted in its progression, hence a lack of coverage of the league from outside the country. Whereas the rise of aforementioned names who have come through the leagues and have made their name in European football has silenced any claims of the lack of quality that the league possess. But despite the underrated claims of their present, their past represents the country’s success; the country’s capital club, FC Dinamo Tbilisi, was one of the more prominent sides in Soviet football and was a significant contender in Soviet Championships. Tbilisi won the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1981 — arguably the most significant achievement in Georgian football to date — and remains the only Georgian club to have won a European competition.

The current landscape of Georgian football 

Despite the brief and underrated past of Georgian football domestically, they’re still yet to make a name for themselves internationally and have not yet qualified for a major tournament as an independent country. Ultimately, that is the aim of the national team, to build towards a promising core of players who can achieve that goal. In the last five years, the names mentioned earlier, Mamardashvili, Chakvetadze and Kvharatskhelia, have been crucial to the core being built. 

In 2020, some of these current players nearly lived up to their promise against North Macedonia. There were left in the hands of defeat and left the nation at a standstill in the middle of a project, which led to a spiral of losses. A victory against Kosovo started to turn things around — currently on an eleven-game unbeaten streak that has seen them top of their UEFA Nations League since October last year. 

Domestically, the Georgian league has had a complete restructure — becoming a ten-team league, allowing the competition between the teams to improve from a footballing perspective. But the level of the league has dropped considerably in recent years due to the better players being poached to more competitive leagues — lack of money to bring in quality arrivals due to the pandemic led to a lack of quality in the league all around. 

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The next unearthed gems 

There is always young talent developing and waiting to be unearthed in Georgia. Its usually the capital club Dinamo Tbilisi that produces this talent in their academy — consistently producing players with quite the potential; Luka Parkadze and Gabriel Sigua have been touted for big things, with the former off to Bayern Munich for the next season. 

Giorgi Gocholeishvili is another player who has caught the eye at Saburtalo Tbilisi, recently linked to Juventus and Valencia. 

There is a hope that the next ‘Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’ can quickly emerge out of Georgia. Still, considering the rapid rise in which the Napoli winger has taken over football in Italy, it would take something unworldly for Georgia to produce back-to-back gems simultaneously. 

The talent produced in Georgia speaks positively to how much growth has happened in the catchment area in recent years. As seen in nations like France and England, a promising catchment area can produce its ‘golden generation.’ 

On the managerial front, Ramaz Svanadze has been making waves managing the Georgia under-21s. Svanadze has been the under-21s manager since the senior team as a caretaker, but his recent spell as the under-21s coach has caught the attention. 

The international future for Georgian football 

As mentioned before, the national team is at a promising and exciting phase, which hasn’t been the case in the last two decades. The air around the nation is firmly positive within the Georgian camp, and the recent transfer of Khvicha Kvaratskhelia to Napoli has only inspired the exposure of Georgian football. 

As stated by the Georgian Football Federation, the aim is to qualify for their first major tournament, and the next opportunity to do that is for Euro 2024 tournament — priority is all on that. 

For the future to be successful, improvements need to be made. 

Georgia is not the wealthiest of countries in the world; in fact, they’re still a developing country — financially and humanity; this leads to a lack of resources to develop on the footballing end. There is also a need for qualified personnel; enhancing this will go a long way in improving the perceived footballing standards. 

Georgian football has a promising future and a lot of potential in their uprise, but if they’re to make good on their promise, improvements are still needed for such a hopeful nation.