Skip to content

Anything Less Than The Best Is A Felony

Duruji Kvareli – 2027 Open Thread

January 2027.

The holidays are always beautiful in the foothills around town.

A long weekend at the Kvareli Lake Resort with Gvantsa turned into a week… To say that I’m smitten would be an understatement.

I still can’t place where I know her from. And she gets mad whenever I bring it up…or suggest that we be seen in public together. She just wants us to live in this moment, for as long as we can.

At first I thought it was odd. But it’s really sweet when you think about it. Gvantsa is just a private person, at heart. She also probably knows that this is the one time of year when I won’t be distracted by football…not that she has much trouble “distracting” me.

But I digress… I can’t go looking for “problems” with the first woman to pay any attention to me since my playing days ended.

January 2027 – Transfers & Squad Review.

Our biggest goal in the off-season was to strengthen the squad — to continue building up the 1st XI and establishing depth.

From last year’s 21-man squad, 3 of our backups are moving on. Zurab Gagua was sold to Zestaponi early in 2026, with the actual transfer delayed until January 2027. Giorgi Giorgadze left on a free transfer for Zestaponi. Paata Romelashvili joined Shevardeni on a free transfer.

Meanwhile, we have signed 5 players on free transfer — Lasha Kurdadze, Soso Kvilitaia, Temur Toidze, Giorgi Devadze and Davit Chikovani. Unless and until our financial situation improves, the free transfer market is where we will have to make our deals. (As noted previously, most Georgian clubs are facing the same dilemma, so it is doable. The domestic transfer market can simply be a feeding frenzy.)

I initially started writing this post as a brief introduction to these five new players, planning a more in-depth squad review when we reached the summer transfer window. But once I started writing, I realized that I was referencing half of the first team as it is, so I have reworked it into a full-blown squad review, albeit one guided by these our new signings, and my thoughts as we prepare for our maiden voyage in Europe.

As you may recall, we’re playing a strikerless 532/3223, that I’ve dubbed PM Draugr (“undead shapeshifting grapefruit”) an homage to my naming conventions, and the relentless attacks of the indefatigable, shapeshifting creature of Norse legend.

[Edit: the final version of PM Draugr is now detailed in The Long Night Is Coming, And The Dead Come With It.]

With these five signings, we have a 23-man first-team squad — 2 XIs, with a battle for the mezzala role in our 2nd XI.

The Duruji Kvareli first-team squad as of January 2027.


This remains a 2-person battle, between Vasil Tevzadze and Ilia Kikava. Honestly, it isn’t much of a fight. Tevzadze has been the starter since his arrival. My coaches initially saw potential in Kikava, but he has never grown into it.

That being said, I am not satisfied with Tevzadze. He is no slouch for this level, but we’re aiming higher. Much higher.

Signing a new goalkeeper is one of my top priorities as we move forward, especially when we are able to (finally) get our finances in order.


Of the 5 players who have arrived, Lasha Kurdadze is the player I’m most excited about, joining from Dinamo Tbilisi.

If you’ve followed my threads, you know I’m thinking of one thing and one thing only, when I consider where Kurdadze fits into our tactical setup.

How important is a libero to our tactics? In 4 out of 5 campaigns, our starting libero has been named our Player of the Year.

Yes, that’s right. Kurdadze will retrain as a libero and step directly into our 1st XI, as he is a clear upgrade on Vazha Ivanishvili, our Player of the Year for the last 2 campaigns. As reliable as Vazha has been, this is a much-needed upgrade as we look to claim domestic supremacy and take our first steps in Europe.

The centerbacks in our 1st XI continue to be Giga Gabelia and Mikheil Khaburdzania. They’re solid, reliable. We lack depth, however. Vazha Chelidze and Nika Chkhartishvili are simply not good enough to be playing with any frequency. Signing 1-2 new centerbacks is also a top priority, along with a goalkeeper.

At right wingback, we have Giorgi Kacharava and Zurab Tabatadze, both of whom are solid players even if neither is a world-beater. Giorgi gets the nod in the 1st XI, but I do not worry when Zurab is called upon to deputize.

At left (inverted) wingback, Giorgi Gvazava is our unquestioned starter. The wingbacks in our system are called upon to contribute in all phases of play, and I find that the left/inverted wingback is critical — in possession, he is truly a sight to see, as he will both: (1) tuck inside to operate as a double pivot with our libero, in the build-up; and (2) combine with he mezzala and inverted winger in the final third, a devastating vortex of unpredictable, interchanging movement. Gvazava was our best player for a time, but his relative ability is no longer as obvious even though he is objectively solid for our current level. Guram Popkhadze is his deputy, although I doubt he has the ability to remain in our 2nd XI for long.

Central Midfielders.

New signing Giorgi Devadze is a graduate of Merani’s youth academy, who made his debut last year in the second tier. He will step into the 1st XI as our ball-winning midfielder, taking over for Givi Gogichaishvili.

Givi has been a solid player for us, but he isn’t going to take us to the next level. My scouts rated Devadze’s potential more highly than my coaches seem to, but that’s really neither here nor there, for the moment. For now, Gogichaishvili will play from the bench and in our 2nd XI (which has lacked a natural ball-winner).

Devadze will be paired with Jemal Panchulidze in our 1st XI, who enters his second year with the club. My hope is that he can continue to develop — if so, he may have a role to play going forward, even if he eventually has to drop into the 2nd XI to make way for a more capable player.

The mezzala role in our 2nd XI is a battle between Davit Abashidze and Davit Gogoberishvili. There’s not much between them, but my gut says that when two players are roughly on par, trust the younger of the two if he has potential for growth.

Attacking Midfielders.

We have three new signings to lead the attack, one in each role.

The only new addition to the 1ts XI, however, is Soso Kvilitaia — a player we’ve tracked for some time now. Dila Gori bought him when they were in the Erovnuli Liga in 2024, but they’ve suffered mightily as a club (successive relegations in 2024 and 2025), leaving Soso ready to look for greener pastures as his contract expired. Kvilitaia will take over as our deep-lying targetman — as tremendous as Zhishkariani has been, Kvilitaia is a better player, with potential for growth.

Temur Toidze is a WIT-Georgia product, who will join the 2nd XI as a right-sided inverted winger. I originally scouted Toidze as a possible deep-lying targetman, but with Kvilitaia in the squad I’m inclined to use Toidze primarily on the right as the backup for Asatiani. Toidze will be on the bench for the 1st XI, though, so I anticipate he will see time in both roles when playing as a sub. He is more of a threat that Zhishkariani — it’s as simple as that.

Finally, Davit Chikovani arrives from Bakhmaro, to take over as the left-sided inverted winger in our 2nd XI. I don’t rate him highly — he’s the weakest player arriving this winter, and is not truly competition with Nukri Gordulava. Unless Chikovani comes on strong, he is only here to give us 2 full XIs.

Final Thoughts.

While this team may not be ready for the big time, we continue to slowly improve.

The title was a bridge too far for 2026, even if we ultimately finished a mere 3 points off of Dinamo Tbilisi. With these new additions to the squad, we should be good enough to put together a more credible title challenge. The questions will be whether our 2nd XI is going to **** the bed when called upon to deputize, and whether our increased reputation will mean that teams approach us differently.

On both counts, the answer is likely, “yes.” That’s ok. This is a process. With our finances, there is no ability to simply revolutionize the squad in one or two windows — it has to be a slow, laborious process.

After all, 5 years into this save we have yet to spend a single dollar on a transfer fee. We’ve been running a heavy budget deficit each and every year.

For 2027, our primary goals are to qualify through the league for European competition in 2028/29, and to make a run in the Europa Conference League. In 2028, the Erovnuli Liga title has to be the target and — with it — a berth in the Champions League qualifying rounds.

(As an aside, I also brought in Omar Tabidze as our new Director of Football. Tabidze is a substantial improvement over Tamaz Koridze, and that’s before we even address The Matrix debate.)

February 2027.

While Gvantsa has remained a distraction, I’m finding that her insistence on keeping our relationship private is helpful. Fewer distractions overall, as we gear up for a big campaign.

Truth be told, the pre-season campaign has been a bit more marginal than in past years, in looking at results. Our defense has — at times — resembled a sieve.

These pre-season results may not “matter” when it comes to the league table, but as we prepare for an away trip at Dinamo Tbilisi, I can’t help but be underwhelmed. Gvantsa tells me not to worry — while I appreciate her support, I don’t think she’s the most objective observer even if she is “fluent” in the nuances of our tactics.

We’re predicted to finish 8th by the media, thought the oddsmakers put us at 6th, with 25-1 odds.

The locals are not particularly convinced, as we count 140 season ticket holders — an increase of 21. Ticket prices rise marginally — $86.30 for a season ticket, $12.98 per individual match.

March 2027.

The curtain-raiser away to Dinamo Tbilisi is an exercise is missed opportunities and frustration. The 3-nil scoreline is a kick in the teeth, especially when we were awarded a penalty when the margin was only 1.

At the final whistle, I’m brought back to a foggy, cold night, more than 2 years past, when we claimed the Liga 3 title. The sight of…something…watching me with red eyes, atop the the Boris Paichadze. A sight that I’d forgotten, given the sheer level of drunkenness on display that evening as we celebrated.

But I’m stone-cold sober tonight.

Normal service resumes with a comprehensive 5-nil win over newly-promoted Shevardeni on the weekend. If only I could shake the image in my mind’s eye, of that night in Tbilisi.

I’m so sleep-deprived that it barely registers when our press officer, Ivane, forwards the article, ahead of our next match away to Torpedo. Torpedo have gone…semi-professional? What the… I ask Ivane to look into it and he confirms that in the absence of a television deal, and with little sponsorship money in the league, Torpedo reverted to semi-professional status. I must have been…distracted…by Gvantsa.

Even more surprising, Ivane gently “reminds” that Merani Martvili, Samtredia, and Telavi have also reverted to semi-professional status. I am appreciative, as it certainly would have been embarrassing to “forget” such important information about our rivals.

While this will give us an advantage in the short-term, it speaks volumes as to the fundamentally-broken nature of finances in Georgian football.

We curb-stomp Torpedo, 7-nil. The 2nd XI smash Merani Martvili, 8-2. I almost feel bad.

Almost, but not quite.

It is all a prelude to our match against Saburtalo, whom I anticipate will be one of our title rivals. We claim an emphatic 6-2 win, to head into the international break, joint-top of the table.

March 2027.

Another awkward conversation with Ivane, our press officer, during what should be down time during the international break.

Apparently, the media caught wind that I’m dating — as one of the top 100 most eligible bachelors in Kvareli in their 30s, this is a hot news item, to say the least.

I declined any official comment, through Ivane. But I also made the mistake of telling Gvantsa, and suggesting that perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad if we went public.

While we’ve talked about this before, I didn’t expect the tears. She was inconsolable. It was on a different level, this time. Eventually, she disclosed that a close friend of hers had also confronted her about our relationship, threatening to “go public.”

She told me she loved me, and asked for some time to think. Some space. I owe her that. She’s the only woman who’s truly understood me. At times, it feels like we’ve known each other for years. Which is, of course, ridiculous.

Lost in my thoughts, I flip up my collar and step out into the rain. I wander the streets of Kvareli until I find myself outside my mother’s home. While I’ve been good about calling, I haven’t paid her a visit lately. I can’t stand my step-dad’s never-ending judgmental stares. His snide comments.

My mother answers the door, pleased to see me. Fortunately, my step-dad isn’t there. While we talk, I wander the living room, looking at old family photos. My dad and I, proud as peacocks after I made my debut for Duruji Kvareli as a teenager. My brother and I, sitting with my father at his last Christmas. My step-sister and I, at the local pool during the summer of ’16, when the heat was relentless. We didn’t really see much of her, as her mother had custody.

Something registers in my brain. I look closer at the picture, a blur on her arm. I shake my head, rub the glass covering the picture. But it is there. Unmistakable. A distinctive birthmark, that I last saw…a few hours ago on Gvantsa’s arm.

I rush back to my flat, to find Gvantsa in the midst of a good cry. One look is all she needs. She realizes that I’ve put two and two together.

The final confirmation. As I tentatively call her by the name I knew her as, GiGi. Her renewed tears are the answer I feared.

March 2027.

Reluctantly, we agree to an on-air interview with a local YouTube personality, Murman “Ricky” Gabeliashvili. It was a mistake from the beginning.

In all fairness, the interview was earnest. Polite. It gave us a chance to tell our side of the story. Most people were probably watching the Euro qualifiers, anyways.

But, from the first question we should have known there was no way out of this.

“What would you say, Levan –“

“Please, Ricky. Please. It’s Goose.”

“Uhh…ok, Goose, then. What would you say to someone who might ask, how can they date their step-sibling?”

I let Gvantsa take this one. It’s the question she’s been dying to answer. To explain, in a way that doesn’t involve “instructional videos” on the internet.

“Well, because our parents only got married when we were teenagers…I’m not his sister, and he’s not my brother. Nor have we ever been.”

I decide the time is right to chime in.

“Right, the only time anyone could ever say that would be after our parents got married. I mean, it’s exactly what Woody Allen did, and nobody thinks he’s weird. Everybody just hates him because Ants wasn’t as good as A Bug’s Life.”

Ricky just nods slowly, confused. I take that as an invitation to continue. Except, at this point, my mouth has disconnected from my brain.

“I mean, I didn’t even remember who she was when we met. I’m clearly no more of a pervert than Woody Allen. And, honestly, if you’re gonna criticize us then you’d better be ready to criticize Woody Allen and his adopted daughter-wife.”

The awkward silence hangs in the air. I really don’t even recognize the words that just came out of my mouth.

In an attempt to redirect the conversation, Ricky invites my mother and step-dad into the room. I nearly walk out in anger, but Gvantsa encourages me to stay, holding my hand tenderly.

Ricky engages my stepdad, kindness in his voice. “Giorgi, is there anything you would like to say to your son?”

Step-son.” I interject, angrily, staring at a point in the middle distance, trying to slow my breathing.

He ignores my obvious anger.

“Levan… Levan, I just want to say how proud I am of you. I mean, first you got Duruji Kvareli promoted to the top tier…now on to Europe!”

I have to say something. “Okay, I guess…thanks, Giorgi. I’m proud of you for being such a douchebag.”

Gvantsa mutters quitely, trying to stop the discussion from derailing. “Oh, Goose, no…” but her father just tries again, as Ricky looks on, counting the views he will get in his head.

“No, no. You know, Levan. I have always tried to be there for you. That’s why I bought your first car and paid for all six years of college, champ!”

I’ve heard enough. I explode.

“Well, how come you failed me in Algebra, Mr. Katorzia?!”

Gvantsa looks confused. “You failed 8th grade math?”

My rage is untethered and knows no bounds.

“Yes! He knows I’m not a champ and that’s why he brings it up! It’s one of his sick little mind games!”

My stepdad just shakes his head, sadly. “I offered you extra credit! I offered to tutor you!”

“You know my mom has never loved you, did you know that?! She told me that, Christmas 2019.”

My mother is horrified. “This is why you had to move out, Levan, because of this tension.”

“I’m not tense, mom.”

She starts to cry.

My stepfather reaches out to hold my mother’s hand, tenderly. “You know, dear, ever since the kids have gotten together, it’s just reminded me of how much I love you.”

This is too much. Simply too much, I reach over, pulling their hands apart, practically frothing at the mouth. “No no no no no! Do not touch her! Those hands are for making me Hot Pockets and nothing else! I heard you and your…noises!”

Tears begin to pour down my mother’s face.

Gvantsa takes my hand, lovingly. “I’ll make you Hot Pockets, Goose.”

It breaks my heart. I break down in tears, as all of my walls come tumbling down.

Soon, all of us are crying. Even Ricky.

It went downhill from there. Live. On the internet.

April 2027.

The first match back and it is obvious that the lads are distracted. The furor around the club has not dissipated, and we need to find our form on the pitch. We annihilate Dinamo Batumi in every statistical measure but one. We cannot find the back of the net…whereas they seem to delight in doing so. A 3-nil loss, in a match we utterly dominated.

Fortunately, we return to form. The 2nd XI take care of business against Samtredia, even if it was far from pretty. We’re putting points on the board, lads.

May 2027.

A month in which we staked our claim on the title. It is early doors, but wins over our primary rivals (Dinamo Tbilisi and Saburtalo) coupled with everyone else dropping points means we stand 13 points clear.

This advantage is necessary, as I plan to rotate our squad during the Europa Conference League qualifying campaign, between the 2 XIs. We can and should expect to drop points domestically, in pursuit of advancing in Europe.

The financial benefits of doing so are obvious, as is anything we can do to shed the image some have foisted upon as a mere “flash in the pan,” “hipster nonsense” that football can do without. Our finances remain dire, although that word seems to lose meaning as the numbers dip further into the red. The Chairman cut our wage budget to the bone, as takeover rumors have renewed renewed in earnest. I fear that if we do not improve the financial situation, in the absence of a takeover I fear we are bound for reversion to semi-professional status like other Erovnuli Liga clubs have done, solely as a means of self-preservation.

Speaking of “reversion,” Gvantsa has called it quits on whatever our relationship was (and has been) since the revelations of the last few weeks. Truth be told, we’ve barely seen each other since the chaotic YouTube interview. Lots of late night texts. But ending it now is probably for the best.

June 2027 – European Review.

I don’t know about you, but I’m genuinely excited to see the rest of the European calendar resetting, because it means we’re on the verge of our first European qualifying campaign. So let’s dive right in…

In the Champions League, Thomas Tuchel’s Barcelona beat Julien Stephan’s Lyon on penalties, after a 1-1 draw. .

Patrick Viera’s Arsenal beat Mauricio Pochettino’s Manchester United, 1-nil, in the Europa League.

In the Europa Conference League, Ruben Amorim’s Brighton beat Rapid Wien, 2-nil.

In the active leagues, Tuchel’s Barcelona won the La Liga title; Pochettino’s United won the Premier League after Vincent Kompany’s Manchester City lost away to Chelsea on Matchday 38; Stephane Roche’s PS-****ing-G reclaimed the Ligue 1 title; Stefano Pioli’s AC Milan retained the Serie A title; and, Hansi Flick’s Bayern did Bayern things in the Bundesliga.

(Fun times in England, as Cuca’s Chelsea finish 5th but don’t qualify for Europe, thanks to: (1) Arsenal winning the Europa League; (2) Brighton winning the Europa Conference League; and (3) Gennaro Gattuso’s Leeds winning the FA Cup, with a 3-2 win over…Chelsea. Unlucky. Cuca was promptly sacked. Because Chelsea.)

June 2027.

It’s a big month. I’m desperate to know who we’ll face in the qualifying rounds. I dream of a glamorous tie.

But, this is the Europa Conference League. Which means our travel agent will need to work overtime. We will face Moldovan side FC Milsami Orhei in the first round.

The Erovnuli Liga leaps 6 places in the competition reputations rankings, continuing its steady climb up the charts. We also earn our first mention in the European club rankings, clocking in at 610th. (No, no. You read that correctly the first time.)

Sadly, our youth academy appears to be stalling right when we could use an infusion of talent.

We shouldn’t “expect much” from this intake, Beka?! Well, perhaps you shouldn’t “expect much” in the way of a new contract. (I only wish I’d thought to say that to his face, instead of just blinking maniacally, before turning to walk away.)

On the pitch, Dinamo Batumi continued to assert a strange dominance over us in the league, beating us for the 2nd time even though we controlled the match from the first whistle to the last. More ironically? Our 2nd XI smashed them a few days later in the Cup.

Otherwise, we head into the European qualifiers right where we want to be — with a healthy lead in the league, which will theoretically allow us to absorb points dropped by our 2nd XI when called upon to deputize.

July 2027 – Europa Conference League, First Qualifying Round.

A big night in…Rustavi. The Tsentraluri isn’t “fit” for European competition, so we’re forced to play at the Poladi in Rustavi, more than two hours away.

We lack any cutting edge. I’d like to blame Chikovani, with Gordulava out injured, but that’s not the problem. The Moldovans snatch a goal in the 2nd half, and Gabelia has his third chalked-off for offside in the build-up. We’ll take a narrow 2-1 lead back to Moldova.

(Which is problematic because that means we cannot deploy the 2nd XI in the away leg. Our rotation strategy is in tatters at the moment, after the 2nd XI lose two straight matches, the latter a 6-5 barnburner to Dinamo Tbilisi.)

Chikovani repays our faith as he continues to deputize in the 2nd leg, scoring our 4th minute opener. Kvilitaia made it 2 moments later, to all-but ensure passage to the next round. We see out the match comfortably, 7-nil winners (9-1 agg) — securing $94k in prize money, which is more than 20% of last year’s total turnover.

We will face Dundalk in the second qualifying round, after the Irish eliminated Barry 10-nil (agg).

July 2027 – Europa Conference League, Second Qualifying Round (First Leg).

The first leg at Oriel Park is a big night. The first televised match in my tenure. Our introduction to the yearning, hipster masses. We must not disappoint.

Kvilitaia buries a penalty in the 8th minute after Kordulava is taken down in the box. A vital away goal.

Dundalk promptly expose our naivete, snatching two quick goals — one on the counter, the other a simple ball over the top that our centerbacks failed to deal with — before a thunderbolt from Gordulava brings us back level. Gabelia gifts our hosts the third with a poor backpass, and we cannot find an equalizer even though we control the rest of the match.

A 3-2 loss. Leaving us with a simple task back in Georgia.


July 2027 – Europa Conference League, Second Qualifying Round (Second Leg).

While I would love nothing more than for Luka to give the Irish a proper welcome to Georgia, he and the Kursha Road Brigade are kept far away from their hotel in Rustavi by a cordon of highly-motivated policemen.

We must overcome a one-goal deficit. And our tactics are premised on one simple truth — fortune favors the bold.

The opening stages set a pattern — we attack in waves of claret, while they sit deep and look to strike in transition. We have our chances, but are snatching at them. Finally, Gordulava breaks the deadlock in the 45th minute.

Dundalk push forward, looking for an equalizer, but we are equal to the task at hand. We bend, but we do not break. In the 85th minute, substitute Zhishkariani buries one on the counter, to make it 2-nil on the night.

The final whistle blows. 2-nil on the night, 4-3 on aggregate. A resolute performance from our defense, who let us down in Ireland.

Our reward? Another $100k in prize money, coupled with a trip to Lithuania, as we will face FK Panevezys in the next round after they eliminated Dudelange, 7-nil on aggregate.

There is no rest for the weary, however, as our fixture congestion piles up. The 2nd XI have been far from perfect, but are doing their job admirably under the circumstances as we sit 10 points clear at the top of the table.

August 2027 – Europa Conference League, Third Qualifying Round.

16 supporters sneak onto the team plane to Lithuania, and join us in the stadium. They witness us once again control a match but fail to put our opponent away, while conceding to a long ball over the top.

We walk away with a 2-1 win, but there is no cause for celebration. We have work to do in the second leg, which will be played at the Boris Paichadze in Tbilisi, more than 2 hours from Kvareli.

The opening minutes of the 2nd leg expose our vulnerabilities again, as the Lithuanians strike quickly with straightforward, direct football. I must admit that I missed the goal, as I was scouring the stadium for any sign of the red-eyed creature we’ve seen on two separate occasions. There is no sign of it on this balmy summer evening, though, and we regain our composure to progress with relative ease, 5-3 on the night, 7-4 on aggregate, after we gifted the visitors 2 goals in transition.

Another $105k in prize money, combined with a 2-legged chance to reach the Group Stage.

Though the draw has been kind to us thus far, our luck has run out. We will face Dutch giants and 2024/25 Europa Conference League winners AZ Alkmaar, who are led by Arne Slot, after the Dutch eliminated Alashkert, 5-3 on aggregate.

August 2027 – Europa Conference League, Fourth Qualifying Round (First Leg).

We will need a miracle. That much is clear. But, as noted above, fortune favors the bold.

In our first foray into the opposition half, Giorgi Devadze finds the back of the net. The Dutch assert themselves immediately, and strike back. Once. Twice. Thrice.

And just when it feels like all is lost, Nukri Gordulava curls home from 20 yards. Sublime. We’re not done for yet.

Zurab Asatiani finds the back of the net in the 58th minute, but it is called back for offsides, with AZ marching straight down the field to claim their 4th.

In the end, we simply cannot match AZ’s quality. We also don’t have a linesman in our pocket. But they’ll have it all to do back in Georgia.

August 2027 – Europa Conference League, Fourth Qualifying Round (Second Leg).

By all rights, we should be dead and buried. Yet, at the same time, it should’ve been 3-3.

Over the weekend, a record crowd of 737 filled the Tsentraluri to support the 2nd XI who crushed Telavi 4-nil. There’s a feeling in the air…if only we were facing the Dutch in Kvareli. But instead we’re slated to play in Dinamo’s cavernous stadium in Tbilisi.

We start out aggressively, pedal to the metal. And are instantly rewarded when Giorgi Devadze seizes on a loose ball, slotting it calmly into the back of the net. 1-nil on the night.

The Dutch pull it back in the 8th minute, Stam towering over our defense to head home from close range. Through the 30th minute, Tevzadze is standing on his head to keep the Dutch at bay.

But the one thing the Dutch didn’t count on was the fury of Giorgi Devadze, who rises above the fray to find our 2nd in the 37th. All to play for.

At halftime, I did not say a word. I just turned on Gladiator. The proof is in the pudding, as Nukri Gordulava finds the back of the net 23 seconds after the restart.

Our lead quickly vanishes, however, when AZ give up all pretense of subtlety and just play direct. They’re rewarded with a quickfire double from Naoufal Bannis. Tijjani Reijnders ends any lingering hope of a comeback in the 83rd. And Tahith Chong is there to twist the knife in the 86th, as we push forward looking for a goal. A painful end to an epic tie.

We are eliminated. 5-3 on the night. 9-5 on aggregate.

The $117k in prize money pushes our finances into the black for the year. It won’t hold through the end of the campaign, but it is something.

A record attendance of 1,323 supporters and record gate receipts of $26k, mere days after setting a new record attendance at the Tsentraluri.

PSA: I had a crash immediately following the 2nd leg of the AZ tie, and lost the result. I used the “Instant Result” button to replay the match, which threw out a 2-2 draw. That obviously does not affect the outcome of the tie, but requires mentioning.

August 2027.

The aftermath of the AZ tie lingers on. I haven’t slept in days.

Fortunately, the lads know what to do as we travel to Lokomotivi, in a title-six-pointer…and Lokomotivi implode, incurring 2 red cards to hand us the match and a 15-point lead with 10 matches to play.

We’ve tasted Europe. The possibilities are endless.

While we are still chasing the Davit Kipiani Cup, our goal has to be to win the Erovnuli Liga. (Frankly, I should be sacked if we don’t, given where things currently stand.)

The prize we seek is nothing less than entry into the Champions League qualifying rounds. Aim high.

September 2027.

The 2nd XI falter in the Cup, but it is of no consequence. Our target is the league title, and it is within our grasp. Sacrificing the Cup for the Erovnuli Liga? A no-brainer.

Given our financial struggles, I’ve all but given up hope of making any groundbreaking signings. Instead, I’ve offered contracts to the handful of first-team players that had yet to be renewed. 1 year deals. The only one I have not offered renewed terms to is Davit Gogoberishvili, the 23rd man in the squad.

October 2027.

Our youth intake is predictably awful. There’s not a single player worth considering.

We need centerbacks and a reserve goalkeeper. But, as of this moment, there are none available who will consider joining us.

Instead, my first signing for the 2028 campaign is a midfielder — Murman Lezhava, who will provide competition for Jemal Panchulidze and replace Davit Abashidze in our 2nd XI, and on the subs bench for the 1st XI.

Lezhava will improve the squad, certainly. He just isn’t what we need.

On the pitch, we secure the Erovnuli Liga title on Matchday 31 with a 2-1 win away to Saburtalo, securing our entry into the Champions League qualifiers for 2028/29. While I am thrilled, I can’t help but think back on our exit from the Europa Conference League. It still sticks in my throat, the linesman who flagged our third goal as offsides in the 1st leg, a call which turned the tie on its head.

The past is past. Looking ahead, the board have identified a transfer budget for the first time in my tenure, but simultaneously reject my request to expand our scouting range beyond Eastern Europe.

December 2027 – Season Review.

The final matches of the campaign are an opportunity to celebrate — both the current campaign, and how far we’ve come as a club. From the regional leagues to the Champions League. I don’t want to point fingers, but approximately 3 members of the traveling squad for the Telavi match were sober…

After an embarrassing loss, I institute a firm rule — no drinking until after halftime. But I’m dead sober when, on the final matchday, a cold trip to Samtredia, I see something I didn’t ever expect to see, outside of Tbilisi.

No, not that.

Red eyes. Staring back at me from the shadows. As I boarded the bus after the match. Whatever it is, it has left Tbilisi.

Goals for 2028:  Not embarrass ourselves in 2028/29 Champions League qualifiers. Defend our Erovnuli Liga title. Make a run in the Davit Kipiani Cup.

Squad | Erovnuli Liga | Transfers

Finances | Income | Expenditure

God leaned over to the Devil, drew him close and declared, “those who will drink three glasses of chacha may be on my side. After that, they are yours.”

If you’ve stumbled upon this post and are finding yourself a bit confused, the basic concept behind Duruji Subsequent ThreadSave is explained here.  Just need to catch up? Each installment in Levan “Goose” Akhobadze’s attempt to take over the football world, starting from the Georgian Regional Leagues, can be accessed through the Duruji Subsequent ThreadSave Archive.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: