Duruji Kvareli – 2029 Open Thread
December 2028 / January 2029 – Signings, Transfer Planning.
I can’t prove it, but I think the Board is punishing me.
In our post-season meeting, the Chairman practically grinned as he conveyed the news, right after expressing his disappointment with the losses in our last 2 matches of the 2028 campaign.
“We would love to move forward with expanding the seating, Goose, but the local council…you know how they can be, yes?”
I might have bought it, if the rest of the Board was trying not to laugh. Whatever the reason, our expansion has been cancelled.
I “celebrate” by signing Zaza Goguadze to a two-year deal. He will start as the libero in our 2nd XI, pushing Lasha Kurdadze in the 1st XI and taking over for Vazha Ivanishvili — the club’s 2025 and 2026 Player of the Year, and a verified club icon.
Vazha has simply fallen off the pace. The time has come for him to move on. He was not offered a new contract.
January 2029 – Georgian Financial Updates.
That leaves ourselves, Dinamo Tbilisi and newly-promoted Zestaponi as the only fully professional clubs in the Erovnuli Liga.
Sponsorship income remains low, all-around. I’m hopeful that — in the long run — the rise in Georgia’s coefficients will lead to improved sponsorship and, eventually, a TV deal.
February 2029 – Odds & Ends.
After several rounds of unspeakable threats, the Board has finally seen reason, agreeing to invest further in our youth recruitment and junior coaching. They remain adamant, though, with respect to our scouting range, refusing to extend it beyond Europe.
They may have good reasons for their position, I will concede, as there are bargains to be found — for example, we’ve managed to sign North Macedonian youth international Hristijan Hristov on a free transfer. He will step into our 2nd XI, replacing Givi Gogichaishvili while competing with Giorgi Devadze for the starting role.
I’m reasonably content with our transfer signings. But we need to be ruthless. My goal for 2028 is to bring in 3 new starters: (1) a new left wingback, dropping Giorgi Gvazava to the 2nd XI, with Guram Popkhadze leaving at the end of the campaign; (2) a new right wingback, with Giorgi Kacharava dropping to the 2nd XI, and Zurab Tabatadze leaving; and, (3) a new deep-lying targetganche, to compete with Soso Kvilitaia, with Gia Zhishkariani leaving.
There is no room for sentimentality. Case in point? Gvazava will become the club’s all-time appearance leader this year. Zhishkariani? He’s the club’s all-time leading goalscorer in both the league and all competitions.
February 2029 – Georgian Super Cup.
On the eve of the annual curtain-raising Super Cup, I find myself at the hotel bar, enjoying a tasty beverage while the lads settle in for the night in their rooms.
It’s a cold, snowy Sunday evening. Certainly not one to be stuck outside, as an oppressive fog sits heavy across the city. Thunder rumbles in the distance, as I order another glass.
No, this is a night to stay inside, and to stay warm with a hot-buttered absinthe — essentially, a hot-buttered rum, but with absinthe and Red Bull.
The patrons all recognize me, as Duruji Kvareli are the talk of the Georgian footballing community.
Much to the chagrin of their dates, several of our supporters are having a lively, detailed debate about the Pep-Mourinho dichotomy — which is, of course, only the latest version of a debate reaching back over the years. What is more important — style or success?
Luka, in particular, is adamant and will not be ignored. “Vazha, you must understand. Sometimes the prize is not worth the cost! The means by which Duruji Kvareli achieve victory are as important as the victory itself!”
Vazha promptly launches into a counter-tirade, which involves a rather on-the-nose imitation of a young Jose Mourinho’s celebratory slide at Old Trafford, all those years ago.
The women are not impressed.
Luka jabs a finger in Vazha’s face, arguing that Pep is “the best there ever was, the best there is now and ever will be,” punctuated by a rather colorful (if not brutally honest) assessment of Vazha’s parentage.
The arguments continue, with Vazha changing tact, insisting that I would put both Pep and Jose to shame on the pitch, and Nagelsmann to shame with my smart fashion sense (which, if I must say so myself, takes ath-leisure to an entirely new level of cool).
This is, however, my cue to leave. I don’t want to encourage this kind of talk and — frankly — find it a bit unnerving. The last thing we need this kind of scrutiny and pressure.
I’ve already been accused (unfairly, I might add) of letting success go to my head — but that’s nonsense. Just because I like a good manicure and waxing, there’s no reason to judge. (I’m mainly curious how the photographer managed to get those pictures…must be rather flexible.)
But it is too late. Vazha’s comments have piqued the interest of the women, who now look at my custom-fit adidas tracksuit with renewed interest, clearly intrigued by the black-on-black piping, claret highlights (which bring out the color of my eyes) and stylized Duruji Kvareli logo.
I retreat upstairs and begin my final tactical preparations for tomorrow’s match. Only to hear a knock on the door, moments later
It’s the woman I’ve assumed is Vazha’s girlfriend. She saunters in as if she owns the place, heading over to draw the curtains on the windows overlooking the stadium. She turns, somehow shrouded in shadows. She cuts a fine figure. Shame that I never caught her name.
We stand in silence…my mouth is dry, as alarm bells are ringing, even before I notice the shadows slowly growing from behind her. I shake my head, thinking it is just a trick of the light, something to do with all that absinthe and Red Bull…
I stammer, confused. “What is…what is going on here? Vazha…”
My mind barely registers as she pulls the pistol from her purse, in my peripheral vision. My eyes are fixed on hers, which glow with a deep, ominous red, as the shadows stretch out, slowly advancing upon me, rooted where I stand.
“Will you be the best there ever was in the game, Goose?”
“I don’t care about Pep. Or Mourinho. I’ve found something better.”
“Nagelsmann?! Yes, he has this–“
The woman interrupts, a frustrated tenor to her voice, stepping closer. Too close.
“No, Goose. You are fools. Distracted by simple pleasures.”
I mumble something incoherent, which she again ignores, leaning in to whisper in my ear, her barbed voice reminding me of someone I once knew.
“Remember this, when you wake, Goose. This will be your only warning. You must obey the Forerunners, await the Return, and serve Those That Come Home.”
The last thing I remember as the shadows take me, is the sound of gunshots ringing out, echoed by a deep, dark laugh emanating from across the room which sounds nothing like the voice of this strange woman.
I wake in the hospital several days later in a cold sweat, feverish. The haunting memory of those last moments burned into my brain, as vivid as the nightmarish dreams I have endured since that fateful night. The world, aflame. A twisted doorway in a dusty room. Red lightning, crashing down. A stunning, dark-haired woman, dressed in white, standing by my side. I try to explain what happened and my dreams to the doctors, but they are dismissive, attributing all of it to the heavy morphine drip.
When club officials come to visit, I ask about the woman and explain. Although incredulous, discreet inquires are made. It seems that no one had met her before that night. Vazha has not been since since.
The lads start slowly in my absence, but find their stride in the 2nd half to claim our second successive Super Cup win, 4-1.
Our pre-season friendlies have been straightforward. Unremarkable. The real work begins now. Our goal in the early months — as always — must be to establish a convincing, insurmountable lead in the Erovnuli Liga, to allow for our focus to remain on Europe in the latter half of the campaign.
I’ve been warned that it will be a long recovery process and how the stress associated with the day-to-day management could complicate things, but as the lads will tell you — it would take far more than a shooting at the hands of a drunken supporters’ girlfriend to keep Goose away from the pitch. (I’m apparently the only one who finds it odd that they were saying this before the incident…)
I’m just lucky she missed all of my vital organs…which is odd given how close we were in the room, now that you mention it.
My new assistant has graciously set up a comfortable recliner, pitch-side. I declined the fancy type-to-talk apparatus, though, as I don’t think I could live down the Stephen Hawking jokes that would certainly follow.
(The mocking laughter of the Zestaponi supporters was silenced quickly, after the first whistle on Matchday 1 when the lads proceeded to tear their beloved team to shreds.)
While the recliner may be rendered unnecessary soon, the doctors tell me I’ll be walking with a cane for the rest of my life. The lads couldn’t let me use a medical-grade, metal cane — instead, they chipped in and bought a few bespoke suits for me to wear to matches, as well as a “pimp stick” to strut with along the sidelines. (Don’t worry, I had to Google that term, too.)
It’s a new look, all around. Less tracksuit. More suit. Classy, sophisticated.
Julian Nagelsmann wishes he had this kind of style. Jules-lad might also wish his defense at Roma was as impregnable as ours, as our recent tactical adjustments seem to have tightened things up at the back quite nicely. Then again…Roma’s domestic opponents aren’t virtually all semi-pro, even if Lecce plays like it…
Takeover rumors continue to swirl, but I really don’t know what to make of them anymore. We can’t waste our time thinking about it. We’ve got a busy month ahead.
At the end of a busy month, I can only look back and shake my head at the dropped points along the way.
We’re undefeated in 29 Erovnuli Liga matches, but these draws are the height of frustration, as teams have begun to park the bus against us in earnest. If our finishing boots are not laced up tight, we are in for a battle.
I’ve been appreciative of my new assistant manager’s attention to detail. He’s also happy doing the things I can’t be bothered to care about, like talking to the press. (And, let’s be honest. I should be kept away from the press.)
The promotional campaign as we prepare for the new Champions League is epic — self-designed, naturally. I came up with the idea while on heavy painkillers, though, and apparently told marketing to run with it without checking with our legal department.
(Mind you, our “legal department” is my step-dad’s unemployed brother. He’s not a lawyer. But he runs the Georgian Suits wiki, so we’re good.)
“Goose, the emails from the lawyers from Tom Petty’s Estate just keep getting angrier and angrier.”
“You know how I am, Giorgi. I won’t back down. Did you tell them that?”
“I did. They… They didn’t appreciate the irony.”
“Well, what’s our next move?! Legally.”
“We could always threaten to tie them up in the Georgian courts for years, try to extort a lump-sum settlement. The local judge is a big supporter of the club, one of the founding members of the Kursha Road Brigade.”
“Extortion?! A crooked judge?! That’s the kind of legal thinking we’ve been missing around here. Good work, Giorgi.”
Meanwhile, our coffers are overflowing as UEFA send us $4.1M in additional Europa Conference League television revenue, along with $93.62k from the coefficient ranking pool. Truth be told, we’d have been grateful if they’d only sent the latter payment. It’s a good thing we opened a bank account last year…
Flush with this infusion of cash, I go back to the Board, requesting that we invest back in the club. They ultimately agree to invest in our junior coaching and youth recruitment, but remain unwilling to budge in expanding our scouting network beyond Europe.
June 2029 – European Review.
It’s time for our annual look around the continent, to see what the “big boys” are up to.
The Champions League threw out a delightful final this year, as Mauricio Pochettino’s Manchester United beat Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham, 2-1. (Don’t worry, I had to read it twice, too.)
Thierry Henry’s Monaco beat Gennaro Gattuso’s Liverpool, 3-1, in the Europa League. (Recall that Gattuso lost the 2027/28 Europa League final with Leeds lost last year’s final.)
In the Europa Conference League, Matias Almeyda’s Napoli beat Ricardo Soares’ Gil Vicente, 4-1.
In the active leagues, Diego Simeone’s Atletico claimed the La Liga title; Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City won their first Premier League title since 2018/19; Stephane Roche’s PS-****ing-G won their third straight Ligue 1 title; Stefano Pioli’s AC Milan won their third Serie A title in 4 years; and, Hansi Flick’s Bayern did Bayern things.
More than one year after his first call-up, Giga Gabelia earns his first international cap for Georgia, playing the full 90 against Moldova. A big moment — he is Duruji Kvareli’s first international player.
At the same time, Duruji Kvareli are the “most improved” club in Europe, moving up 338 places to 244th in the club reputation table. We’ve left Dudelange in our wake, fellas.
After investing heavily in our academy, I’m eagerly anticipating our next graduating class…but, just like Christmas morning, I’m disappointed. Utterly and irretrievably disappointed. Thanks, Mom.
For better or worse, that means we will be trying to dip into the transfer market over the next few weeks. I’d held out hope for the possibility of one decent player coming through.
A solid run of matches means that we’ve extended the gap at the top of the Erovnuli Liga to 9 points. It will have to be enough, as we head into what (we hope) will be 2 months of severe fixture congestion.
July 2029 – Champions League, First Qualifying Round.
Back where we belong. The Champions League. The siren song that is the anthem, blaring from the tinny speakers at the Davit Petriashvili Stadium. Speakers that befit a club of Gagra’s stature, but we aspire to climb to much greater heights.
I probably shouldn’t complain (or judge), given that Luka’s late-80s Sony boombox serves as the official sound system at the Tsentraluri, but that’s just a temporary situation. We’ll get it sorted. Sooner or later.
Perhaps depressed (and embarrassed) by the pathetic sounds echoing around the ground, the lads are a mess for the opening 80 minutes of the first leg. At halftime, I take them to the woodshed — both literally and metaphorically. But nothing works. Having conceded two goals, we’re looking at an early exit from the competition. But in the 82nd minute, Toidze snatches a goal back against the run of play. And we equalize in the 93rd minute, after the Poles are reduced to 10 men. Perhaps we aren’t dead yet, after all.
A 2-2 draw is not the grand spectacle I promised before kickoff, but it will do. We were outplayed on the day. A draw is a kindness.
In Warsaw, we are brilliant. Kvilitaia earns and then finishes an early penalty and — while Legia snatch a goal back just after hour, against the run of play — it only seems like a matter of time before we secure victory. Kvilitaia claims his brace in the 71st, and we are sailing. We are far from ruthless in front of goal, but it does not look like it will matter.
But a nightmare unfolds in a near-mirror image of the first leg. The tide begins to turn in the 79th minute when Legia again equalize against the run of play. And just when it seems like we are heading for extra time, Legia claim a 91st minute winner.
We are out of the Champions League, having stumbled to clear the first hurdle. The $329k in “prize money” handed over by the UEFA official in a non-descript, brown paper bag is little consolation.
Instead of a glamorous, heroic charge in the Champions League, we will face Maltese champions Hamrun, in the Europa Conference League.
July/August 2029 – Europa Conference League, Second Qualifying Round.
On the heels of our dismissal from the Champions League, we miss all of our transfer targets. Grim days, as my plans for “permanent revolution” have met resistance from potential signings.
Like a lovelorn teenager, I put on a brave face and tell myself that it’s “their loss.” I’ve always been a good liar (especially when lying to myself), but in my heart even I know that isn’t true.
Not even the grand re-opening of our training facilities could lift my spirits.
Fortunately, we had Maltese cannon fodder upon whom we could unleash our fury. A comprehensive 7-nil win in Malta meant that the 2nd XI could do the honors in the 2nd leg, claiming a 5-1 win on the night to secure passage through to the Third Qualifying Round, where we’ll face Klaksvikar Itrottarfelag, after they eliminated Prishtina, 2-1.
August 2029 – Europa Conference League, Third Qualifying Round.
We prove to be less than gracious hosts to our Icelandic guests, as an emphatic 3-nil win puts us on the verge of passage through to the final qualifying round. The 2nd leg is a poor affair, one in which we forget how to finish. Thankfully, it does not matter. We’re through after a one-sided, 1-1 draw.
We will face Moldovan giants Sheriff in the Fourth Qualifying Round.
August 2029 – Europa Conference League, Fourth Qualifying Round.
On paper, the Moldovans were a favorable draw. A team we should beat, provided we lace up our shooting boots.
3 goals in a 5-minute period would seem to be the start we needed, but for the fact that 2 of them were called back for offsides, such that only Giga Gabelia’s towering, Sergio Ramos-esque header stands. I threaten the 4th official with my pimp stick, to no avail. We continue to control, and are rewarded in the 2nd half with 3 well-taken goals. A 4-nil win. One foot in the door to the Group Stage.
An early goal in the 2nd leg from Kvilitaia seals the tie, although we add 4 more for good measure. 5-2 on the night, 9-2 on aggregate.
Another $3.43M in the bank. I pray to urCristiano for a favorable draw, slathering myself in essential oils in His honor. The tribute works. We will face Ludogorets, Rosenborg and Malmo. This is a Group we can get something out of.
The 2nd XI has held on admirably in the Erovnuli Liga. They’ll need to continue earning those paychecks, as we have a busy schedule ahead. But we dare not dream of progressing to the knockout rounds…not yet, at least.
The Board also sign off on expanding the Tsentraluri, but I question their ambition. The local council will also have to weigh in.
The entire time we were in Sweden, I had a recurring sense of deja vu. I can’t begin to explain it. But I’ve been there before, even though I haven’t.
We were lucky to escape Sweden with only a 1-nil loss. I haven’t been dominated that thoroughly since I got black-out drunk in Amsterdam…which makes me wonder… No. This new contract in-hand is not reason to celebrate…yet. I can treat myself after the season ends. An early Christmas present, if you will.
I can’t decide if I should take the never-ending takeover rumors seriously or not. No one around town has the liquid cash to buy the club outright. That much is clear. At least, none of the reputable businessmen do.
But that’s a concern for another day. Our youth academy graduates are feted with some fanfare…unexpectedly so. Giorgi Labadze, Zaza Bregvadze and Tengiz Tsikolia may not be much to look at, but if the coaches are right about their potential…maybe there’s something here. As to Giorgi and Tengiz, at least. Zaza? I can’t see it.
I can’t think of a better way to spend a crisp, October evening, than kicking Rosenborg squarely in the ****. 6-1. The third time in a year that we’ve smashed them.
We also secured our first signing of the winter transfer window — Sergei Utsmuts, an Estonian international, who will compete with Soso Kvilitaia for the starting deep-lying targetganche role. He was not inclined to sign earlier in the year, but our persistence has paid off.
I had already decided that Gia Zhishkariani’s contract would not be renewed; these are his final months with the club. Gia has been a loyal servant and will leave as our all-time leading goalscorer; however, there’s just no comparison. We’re aiming higher, Gia.
The next signing? Another player who didn’t want to negotiate this summer, but suddenly sees the glory that is Duruji Kvareli. Miroslav “Mickey” Mickovski, a North Macedonian youth international who will take over in the 2nd XI for Guram Popkhadze, and compete with Giorgi Gvazava for the starting spot in due course.
The 2nd XI has continued to drop points in the League, but it doesn’t matter. We claim the title on Matchday 31 with the most lopsided 2-1 win I’ve seen in years.
It all boils down to the final matches of the year. While we have already secured the Erovnuli Liga title, our final 2 matches of the campaign present us with a unique opportunity. Win them, and we will secure our first Davit Kipiani Cup and passage through to the Europa Conference League knockout rounds.
December 2029 – Season Review.
Last year, we fell on our faces in the final matches of the campaign — losing to Saburtalo in our first Davit Kipiani Cup final appearance, and then to Zilina in Tbilisi which eliminated us from the Europa Conference League.
This year? We face the same fundamental scenario in our final 2 matches. Wins would see us claim our first Davit Kipiani Cup title, and secure passage through to the knockout rounds.
And this year, we exorcised the demons of 2028. First, a straightforward 2-1 win over Lokomotivi confirms our first domestic double — technically a treble, if you consider the Georgian Super Cup, which I’m not inclined to do.
Unless and until David Moyes puts the Community Shield on his CV, I can’t in good conscience consider the Super Cup as comparable to the Erovnuli Liga title. It’s a matter of both self-respect and pragmatism — I’ve got to leave room on my CV for all the European titles we’re going to win.
In the Europa Conference League, we beat Rosenborg for the 4th time in a year, 2-1 in Norway, to finish as runners-up in the Group behind Malmo. Our first trip to the knockout rounds of a European competition. We are ready to take on the world.
Although perhaps I should dial back my so-called “delusions of grandeur.” The Board remain willing to expand the Tsentraluri, but the local council are again having none of it.
Inspired by Friends, I pivot — PIVOT — to approach the problem from a new angle. If we can’t expand the Tsentraluri…why not build a new stadium?! It’s bold. Refreshing. Forward-thinking. The Board, however, do not appear to share my ambition, and laugh me out of the meeting, with tears of unrestrained mirth in their eyes.
I only wish that my response to their mocking laughter had been…more mature.
The Board members are idiots. It is known.
They hate me. Despise me. But I’ll be here long after they’re all gone.
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.