Duruji Kvareli – 2028 Open Thread
The winter break feels oddly quiet this year. I’m haunted by the sight of the red-eyed creature, and stay indoors as much as possible. I’ve watched a lot of Netflix. Bringing back Firefly was the best possible move they could have made. Nathan Fillon was tremendous, of course, but the real coup was the writing for Ryan Reynolds’ character — the subtle, sarcastic pain was just…real. It spoke to me.
There will be little change in the Erovnuli Liga for the coming campaign, after Samtredia and Merani Martvili win their relegation playoff ties. They retain their semi-professional status, as do Telavi and Torpedo. Promoted WIT-Georgia were (and remain) semi-professional. Dinamo Batumi, however, have reverted to semi-professional.
Which means that Dinamo Tbilisi, Lokomotivi, Saburtalo and Duruji Kvareli are the only fully professional clubs in the top tier. (Finances remain awful, all around. While our sponsorship income is up, it’s rough across the league.)
The oddsmakers have picked us as joint-fourth favorites for the year, while the media predict a 4th place finish.
(In the second tier, only half the sides are professional — Dila Gori, Rustavi, Zestaponi, and the reserves for Dinamo Tbilisi and Saburtalo.)
The only incoming transfer is Murman Lezhava, as previously noted. Since he will be stepping into the mezzala role in our 2nd XI, we transfer listed Davit Abashidze and offered him out on loan. Of all teams, Zestaponi bit — offering a $60k fee. We all but snapped their hand off. We’d have let him go on a free, just to get his wages off of our books.
Speaking of wages, I had to cancel Netflix. Well, to be fair, I was logging in surreptitiously through the club’s account. I can’t afford my own account. We really need to make a run in Europe this year so I can what happens on the new season of the Glee revival. I tell you what, that Rachel Berry is a real *****.
We do not learn much from our pre-season friendlies, and dominate Torpedo in the first Super Cup appearance in club history, claiming a comfortable 3-1 win.
But it is all merely an appetizer for the new campaign, one which we hope will be filled with glory.
The enthusiasm is overflowing in Kvareli, as we count 156 season ticket holders, up from 140 last year. Ticket prices rise to $15.92 per match, $107 for a season ticket. Manchester City would kill for metrics like these.
A solid start to the campaign, even if we stumble away to Dinamo Tbilisi. I’ve tweaked our tactics slightly, in hopes of tightening things up at the back. We’ll see if the current trend holds.
The other big news of the month? Giga Gabelia becomes the first Duruji Kvareli player to earn a full international call-up. He does not make an appearance, though, as the Crusaders beat Luxembourg and Northern Ireland.
Another solid month in the books, as we rotate the 2nd XI without feeling a need to engage in self-harm. Unbeaten in the first 11 matches, with a less leaky defense.
If we can keep this up, Daddy is getting him some Netflix for Christmas. Let me tell you…
May / June 2028.
As we head into the June break for the Euros, I’m struck by our rapid fall from grace. A disastrous run of form, that I just want to put behind us.
June 2028 – European Review.
I can hear the Champions League anthem blaring in my head, so let’s get this over with…
In the Champions League, Stefano Pioli’s Milan beat Hansi Flick’s Bayern, 1-nil.
Ronald Koeman’s Leicester beat Gennaro Gattuso’s Leeds, 2-1 (aet), in the Europa League.
In the Europa Conference League, Savo Milosevic’s Schalke beat Arne Slot’s AZ, 2-nil. Suck on that, Arne.
In the active leagues, Tuchel’s Barcelona, Pochettino’s United and Stephane Roche’s PS-****ing-G all won their second title in a row; Erol Bulut’s Atalanta won their first Serie A title; and, Hansi Flick’s Bayern did Bayern things.
The good news? The Erovnuli Liga rises 3 places in the competitions reputation ranking, to 76th. We’ve got a long ways to go.
The football gods are having a laugh, as our draw for the first round is just about as bad as it could have been — Steaua Bucharest, the 1986 winners.
As much as I’d like to think that they’re looking at the draw thinking “oh ****, not these guys,” the reality is that they’re almost certainly asking themselves, “who the **** are these clowns?”
Giga Gabelia travels to the Euros but doesn’t make his debut for the Crusaders, who are eliminated after 3 straight losses in the Group Stage.
Our youth intake is, once again, utterly disappointing. I shouldn’t be surprised. We have yet to invest in our facilities, as we’ve been running in the red since my arrival.
In dropping points against Saburtalo, all of our early hard work has been walked back. It’s time for the 2nd XI to earn their paychecks (such as they are, or aren’t).
July 2028 – Champions League, First Qualifying Round.
The first leg is a nervy affair at the Poladi, that sits balanced on a knife’s edge until the 53rd minute when Steaua are reduced to 10 men. A huge advantage, if only we can take it. Lezhava was elevated to the 1st XI for this match, and repays the manager’s faith with a goal in the 65th, smashing home a rebound.
We claim a narrow, hard-fought 1-nil win, before a record crowd of 1,974. The 2nd leg back in Romania will no doubt be a fiery affair, but for the moment I just can’t stop imagining the $50,000 in gate receipts which is sitting in my kitbag…we really aren’t prepared for this kind of cash influx, all at once. At some point, I think we might want to open up a bank account…but I’m not financial whiz.
One I thing I do know, is that we need new centerbacks…and we finally convinced Mikheil “Zoidberg” Zoidze to sign from WIT-Georgia on a free. Coming through at a once-prestigious academy, and they can’t even offer you professional terms? An undeniable insult. Which we now profit from.
Another nervy night, where it feels like we’re hanging on by our fingernails. Until Steaua implode. Again. Reduced to 10 men on the stroke of halftime, we have the advantage…and when Asatiani flicks in a header in the 69th minute, we can start to dream.
The final whistle blows. The luck of the Duruji. A 2-nil aggregate win, owed almost entirely to the Romanian’s lack of discipline. Ok, owed entirely to their lack of discipline.
Our reward? A tie with Finnish champions Ilves, who eliminated Legia.
July 2028 – Champions League, Second Qualifying Round.
Giorgi Devadze lives for Europe, it seems. He opens the scoring against the Finns in the 34th minute, gleefully tapping home a loose ball from close range, before heading home another in the 48th. Levan Kurdadze finds the back of the net in the 55th, to round out the scoring. A comfortable 3-nil win.
We can’t get ahead of ourselves, though. On paper, this was a welcome draw after facing Steaua in the first round.
The return leg in Tampere is a straightforward match, which will have delighted the sixteen traveling supporters. A 2-1 win means we progress 5-1 on aggregate. But we will have it all to do, as we draw Serbian giants Partizan in the 3rd qualifying round, after they eliminate Rosenborg on away goals.
Steaua. Ilves. Partizan. Swings and roundabouts, eh?
Meanwhile, our domestic form has recovered. The 2nd XI has deputized admirably, allowing the 1st XI to focus on Europe. This approach will continue into August, which promises to be another chaotic month.
August 2028 – Champions League, Third Qualifying Round.
We put together the best 90 minutes of my tenure in the first leg, staking claim to a 2-goal lead before Partizan’s quality shone through. Lezhava and Asatiani were the names on the scoresheet, and a 2-1 lead gives us reason for optimism, even if we know that replicating this performance is unlikely, at best. We will have it all to do in Belgrade.
On the eve of the match, takeover rumors are swirling. Again. A distraction, right when we need to focus.
Not that it matters in the end. Partizan walk all over us in the 2nd leg, 4-1, and it could have been much, much worse. Our 3 traveling supporters had the time of their lives, though, and have been all over social media talking about “gentleman’s club” they found, which had an aviation-themed VIP lounge. Surreal.
We may be out of the Champions League, but we’ll take the $1.34M in prize money without blinking. Small, non-consecutive bills, please. Does it have to be a check? Ok, please make it out to “cash.” No, no reason… Who knew it would pay so well to get spanked in Belgrade, eh? What’s that, the Itchy…what?
If we don’t blow it all on Magic: The Gathering cards (my new assistant is not particularly good with money), that’s enough to put us into the black.
We will face Hungarian champions Fehervar in the Europa League playoffs. Not the “best” draw we could have received, but not the worst either.
August 2028 – Europa League, Qualifying Playoffs.
As we prepare to face the Hungarians, the reality is this. No matter what the score is at the end of these 180 minutes, we will be in the Group Stage of a European competition, having wiped our debt clean.
It’s a new day in Kvareli.
In Szekesfehervar, however, the only people who enjoyed the match would have been our 3 traveling supporters. A dire, scoreless draw. We’ll take it, especially since Luka and his two companions were treated like a novelty act by the home crowd, who seemed admire their spirit, waving flags and singing throughout the match — extolling not only our virtues, but the beauty of the local women.
The warm welcome is returned, in the 2nd leg, as the traveling Hungarian supporters are welcomed like long-lost brothers. At least, at the start of the match.
By the end, our frustration likely obstructs any feelings of brotherhood. 180 minutes, and we do not manage to score. The only goal in our favor, was an own goal. We crash out, losing 2-1 in the second leg.
Our newly-opened bank account is going to burst, though, as we collect $329k for reaching the Europa League Playoffs, $306k for being knocked out, and $3.43M for reaching the Europa Conference League Group Stage.
In the span of 3 months, we’ve gone from the club cancelling its Netflix account, to flush with cash. Mind you, I have plans for that money. (Separate and apart from watching the new season of Glee.)
Takeover rumors swirl as we await the draw in Nyon. We ignore them, eyes fixed on Wayne Rooney, who plucks the balls from the hopper, while making eyes at Ronaldo’s mum in the front row. Eyes where they belong, Wazza.
A tough draw — Fenerbahce, Zilina and Rosenborg.
The first match of the Group Stage is in Istanbul, at the intimidating Sukru Saracoglu.
Unlike our visit to Hungary, we pack our shooting boots. Lezhava pounces on a loose ball early to give us a dream lead, followed quickly by VAR denying a penalty for the hosts only to award us one, moments later. Kvilitaia buries it, to give us a fairy-tale 2-nil lead, early.
Kvilitaia claims his brace in the 62nd, an immense performance. An historic result if it holds…and it does. Fener pull one back, but it is too little, too late.
A much-deserved 3-1 win over the Turkish giants. Our traveling contingent of 9 (Luka and his Kursha Road Brigade) are still dancing long after the final whistle.
The trip to Slovakia is far less glamorous, as we control the match but cannot find the back of the net until it is too late. Our hosts are nothing if not clinical. 3 points lost.
The 2nd XI continue to perform admirably in the league and Davit Kipiani Cup — claiming 2 wins on penalties in the latter, to send us through to our first final. It is not a competition we have prioritized, but there’s no question that winning it would be a powerful moment.
The start of the month sees the annual parade of disappointment — aka, the day when we run the rule over our youth academy graduates. They’re terrible…again. Yet they manage to spank our U19s. I don’t want to dig too deeply into that.
The Board remains stubborn in their refusal to expand our scouting network beyond Eastern Europe. They’ve agreed to relay the pitch and fund my Continental B coaching license, though, so I shouldn’t complain too much. And the takeover rumors won’t go away, so if I bide my time perhaps I won’t have to answer to these clowns for much longer.
Matchday 3 in the Europa Conference League Group Stage saw us host our first match, and we smash Rosenborg, 3-1. Ruthless finishing sees us ascend to the top of the table. Which is insane for various reasons.
A few days later, the 2nd XI secure the Erovnuli Liga title with a 2-nil win away to WIT-Georgia. They’ve been immense this year — just don’t tell them that I’m plotting to replace each and every one of them over the next 12-18 months.
Just weeks after rejecting my request to expand our scouting network, the Board comes to me with a “brilliant suggestion.” Yes, having confirmed next year’s participation in the Champions League, they’ve expanded our network to all of Europe, sua sponte. Though it’s a bit cheeky for them to pretend that this was their idea.
The trip to Norway is an absolute dream, after our hosts are reduced to 10 men within minutes. We do not hesitate to take advantage, much to the delight of Luka and his two traveling companions, claiming a 4-1 win that puts us on the verge of claiming a spot in the knockout rounds.
When Fenerbahce come to town, however, they’re in search of revenge. We manage to hold our own and keep them at bay, until the 90th minute. A frustrating 1-nil loss, even if we sat deep and tried to hit them on the counter, on a night where the traveling support outnumbered us in Tbilisi. (We set records for both attendance and gate receipts, so I can’t complain too loudly.)
We will go into the final match against Zilina with a chance to win the Group outright with a win, while a draw will also see us progress.
Our continued success seems to be attracting attention, as more takeover rumors circle, these “investors” circling the club like vultures circling a…wait. We need a better metaphor… Popes in a Volkswagen? No, that isn’t right, either.
December 2028 – Season Review.
An epic season.
That ends with back-to-back, calamitous losses — 3-1 to Saburtalo in the Davit Kipiani Cup, then in Tbilisi to Zilina to see us eliminated from the Europa Conference League as Fenerbahce win in Norway.
The ride back from Tbilisi is long and quiet. In my head I know that we’ve overachieved all expectations, with the 2nd XI holding firm domestically while the 1st XI crash the gates in Europe.
But in my heart, it hurts. Denied a domestic double, by one bad match in the Cup Final. Denied progression to the knockout stages in Europe by the slimmest of margins.
My phone lights up with a text from Gvantsa. More heartache, no matter how foolish that may seem. I hit delete and block her number. She’s nothing but trouble.
And I’ve got work to do. We’ve signed Zurab Ghonghade from Zestaponi; he was the rock at the heart of their Erovnuli Liga 2-winning campaign, and will challenge Tevzadze for a spot in our starting XI.
We’ve also signed Ervin Kodermac, a Slovenian youth international — our first non-Georgian signing (Rune Broderson doesn’t count, as he was a 2021 youth academy graduate). Kodermac will play as a centerback in our 2nd XI, taking over for Nika Chkhartishvili, whose contract has not been renewed.
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.