Duruji Kvareli – 2038 Open Thread
December 2037 / January 2038 – Odds & Ends.
I’m looking forward to the Champions League draw with trepidation this year. We are not seeded. Which could prove painful.
A rematch of last year’s semifinal, which we lost 6-2 on aggregate after a hard-fought 180 minutes.
While I welcome the opportunity for revenge, I would not have complained had we been more fortunate.
It was not long ago that there was no television revenue in Georgia. This additional influx of cash should continue to fuel the rise of our domestic rivals.
We’ve also been eagerly watching the finishing touches being put on our new, ultra-modern stadium — Levan Akhobadze Park, already known to supporters as “The Goose” — just a few minutes’ walk from the Kvareli Fortress.
Shortly after the official opening of The Goose, the media are all aflutter over renewed takeover rumors. The timing is more than suspicious, with the new TV deal and stadium, but it is not like we have any insight into the process.
December 2037 / January 2038 – Transfer Updates.
With Kjartan Stefansson moving to Lille ($36M, plus 50 percent next sale), Irakli Arveladze will promote to the 2nd XI after a successful loan spell at Dila Gori which saw him gain not only Erovnuli Liga minutes, but also experience in Europe.
Guga Iashvili will also return from a successful loan to Lokomotivi Tbilisi, having helped them win the Erovnuli Liga 2. He will play for the 2nd XI this year, replacing Tornike Skhirtladze who leaves for Mauro Camoranesi’s Saint-Etienne ($1.1M, plus 50 percent next sale). With Walid Boubaker formally joining in December 2038, we have a wealth of talent in goal.
Guram Oniani ends his service at the club with a move to Jocelyn Gourvennec’s Montpellier ($900k, plus fees and 50 percent next sale).
We’ve romped through our pre-season friendlies, are heavy favorites to win our 12th-straight Erovnuli Liga title, and are as ready as can be for United, who sit atop the Premier League.
But first, we face our domestic “rivals,” Dinamo Tbilisi. It is the first competitive match at The Goose. But with the United match in a few days’ time, the 2nd XI are once again tasked with bringing home the silverware. They perform admirably, claiming a 6-1 win (after conceding an early goal) to secure our 7th straight Super Cup.
In anticipation of a successful season, our season ticket sales rise to 574, up from 514 in 2037. (Ticket prices are still modest, at $34.75 per match, $233 per season ticket— as compared to $31.48 and $211 in 2037.)
February 2038 – Champions League, First Knockout Round (1st Leg).
We welcome Pochettino’s United to The Goose on a snowy day. Over the holidays, the UEFA mafia decreed that Shaw was banned for 8 matches as a result of his shenanigans against Bayern last November — while a reasonable man would concede that the punishment fits the crime, I am not inclined to be reasonable.
Shaw was told he could not sit on the bench or be in the technical area, but we’ve checked with the lawyers and have been assured that our plan does not run afoul of the UEFA decree. He’s not in the technical area, but on a raised dais behind our bench, sitting in a plush easy-chair…that is, when he’s not on his feet leading the crowd in song.
We approach the tie with PM Haaienvuist, our Nagelsmann tactic which was purpose-built for Champions League knockout round matches. The first half is a somewhat bland affair, by design, and we (rightly) feel like there may be something we can get out of the game.
We start the second half strong — in the 51st minute, Libicki finds the back of the net, slamming home a first-time shot after a curling free kick from Freidgeimas…only for the UEFA mafia to chalk it off through VAR. Shaw is incandescent with rage, leading the crowd in song.
But it is not enough. The match finishes a scoreless draw, with United turning the screws and — in the last few minutes of the match — looking like the team most likely to score.
A scoreless draw is far from ideal. It will have to suffice.
March 2038 – Champions League, First Knockout Round (2nd Leg).
Although he’s not allowed to be on the sideline during the match, UEFA can’t prevent Shaw from giving the lads an insider’s take on Old Trafford on our pre-match walkthrough. Shevchuk can’t help himself, stepping foot on this hallowed ground for the first time.
“Luke, the Gaffer says you have a lot of stories about your years here…tell me, what was your favorite moment.”
For a moment, the (default) glassy look in Shaw’s eyes recedes, as he looks directly at Shevchuk, grinning like a madman. But the grin does not touch his eyes, which seem to be looking through Shevchuk (who is renowned for having a poor attitude).
“You see, Volodymyr…back in, what was it…2019…”
Shaw trails off, but his gaze doesn’t falter. You can see it in his eyes, as he stares down the young Georgian international, not blinking, like a lizard. His head cocked like a confused Cocker Spaniel. The words flowing forth, enunciated as if his life depended on it.
“I … Don’t … Like … You.”
Volodymyr sputters, confused.
But Shaw just stares at him, unblinking, for another moment, before turning and walking straight to the team bus. After shuffling around the empty stadium awkwardly for another twenty minutes, we make ready to leave only to find Shaw on the bus listening to Katrina & the Waves’ Walking on Sunshine on repeat at full blast, singing his heart out while making uncomfortable, prolonged eye contact with each member of the squad as they board, thrusting his hips aggressively with each iteration of the refrain, “and don’t it feel good?!“
A massive night. A chance for revenge — the sexy man’s justice.
We’re holding on at the half, but need to find another gear. When United score in the 55th, it begins to feel inevitable. Elimination staring us directly in the face. We push forward, but cannot find the back of the net.
Until the 88th minute, when our desperation is at a peak. Munteanu finds himself bursting through and audaciously fires from an oblique angle…straight into the side netting. We’re level on the night, with a vital away goal.
United respond with a ferocious intensity, but leave themselves exposed in the back, allowing Freidmeigas to fire home in the 90th minute.
The bent 4th official awards 5 minutes of injury time, an absolute disgrace. There shouldn’t even be 2. 6 minutes later, even the UEFA mafia must concede. The whistle blows. It is over. We’ve done it. United are eliminated.
Into the quarterfinals we go, for the 2nd consecutive year. The draw is an exercise in deja vu — we will face Julian Nagelsmann’s Bayern, a rematch of our duels in the Group Stage. I didn’t think that we’d have a chance for payback so soon…
April 2038 – Champions League, Quarterfinals (1st Leg).
Stepping onto the pitch at the Allianz Arena, even I must give ze Germans credit for their banter game.
We are met by a sea of inflatable geese, with grown men, women and children (wearing Bayern kits, naturally) doing unspeakable things to them. I give them a jaunty wave, leading to the loudest cheers of the night. We may not be friends, but we’ve earned ourselves a healthy does of respect. If only Shaw were here to see it…but the threat of further sanction left us with only one option — handcuff him to the bed in his hotel room, with a room service menu and the television remote.
Ze Germans come out, guns blazing, looking to roll right over us. Our primary goal is to survive the 90 minutes, and head back home with a chance to scalp them in the 2nd leg.
Shortly before the half, Western gives Bayern the lead. A sea of jubilant inflated geese dance and honk in unison, mocking us. It isn’t good enough lads. With 45 minutes to play, we need to dig deep.
An hour gone, and it is still largely one-way traffic. Not good enough.
Upon receiving a text from Shaw, I have a moment of insight. A moment of madness. There is a fine line between breakdown and breakthrough. I shout out the instructions to the lads, and the confusion is written across their faces. But they listen. The tide begins to turn.
And, having seized the initiative. We score, Panchev smashing home a Tabukashvili cross with a righteous fury. We’re level on the night, with momentum on our side. The crowd, temporarily stunned to silence, can only watch on in horror as I pick up a discarded, inflatable Goose and give it a loving kiss for the cameras.
Far from sitting back, content with a point, we push forward looking for a winner. It nearly comes, only for Bayern to counterattack and force a fine save from Nikolaou. Back and forth, but we do not come close again. But at the final whistle we are level. The Bavarian supporters are unsure of what they’ve just witnessed.
April 2038 – Champions League, Quarterfinals (1st Leg; Post-Match Interlude).
Upon returning to the hotel, I found Shaw — wild-eyed, handcuffed to the bed, attended to by a woman in a sleek evening dress, whom I don’t recognize. Without saying a word, Shaw looks to me, looks to the woman, and nods.
She turns to the table, upon which a wide array of foods and condiments are laid out. She takes ahold of a piece of bread and silently slathers it with peanut butter — the good stuff, too. She turns to look at me, eyebrow arched as if to make sure I understand.
My mouth is dry. Words fail me.
She turns back to the table, selecting another piece of bread, only to pause momentarily, pondering the selection of jams and jellies arrayed before her like a miniature army. She selects the strawberry. Seedless, of course.
She slathers it on, in what may be the most erotic episode of jam-spreading I’ve ever seen, the moments stretching into hours.
Another arched eyebrow. Another nod.
She places the pieces of bread together, joining in perfect harmony.
Again, the cocked eyebrow. The nod.
Our tactics in the latter portion of the Bayern match, a metaphor via sandwich.
I turn to Shaw. “Bus leaves for the airport at 9am tomorrow. Don’t be late.”
The woman laughs, a low, throaty laugh that sends shivers up my spine, as she carefully selects another jar of jam. “Not to be the worry… Herr Luuk vill be on ze bus. I zink ve try ze grape zis time, yes?”
Shaw nods enthusiastically, still handcuffed to the bed.
I take my leave.
I have tactics to consider.
April 2038 – Champions League, Quarterfinals (2nd Leg).
For all the furor surrounding the squad, I cannot seem to get the ratios right. The 2nd XI smash Torpedo Kutaisi in the league over the weekend, 5-nil, but something feels off. Metaphorically-speaking, is it too much peanut butter? Too much jam? The wrong kind of bread? I have so many questions, and no German escorts to provide the answers.
As has become customary, Nagelsmann’s Bayern strike first. We hit back through Hjaltason, almost immediately but we are disjointed. The alchemy that did for ze Germans in Bavaria in the late stages of the 1st leg, is proving to have no effect.
When Nagelsmann’s Bayern re-take the lead, he gives me a casual wink, miming spreading peanut butter on a piece of bread.
Shaw’s German escort talked. It explains everything. So much for her promised discretion.
There is nothing to do but revert to PM Haaienvuist, and pray that the lads take what opportunities are given.
Shaw joins us in the locker room at the half, apologetic in the extreme.
In the 50th minute, we rise to the occasion, with Freidgeimas drawing us level on the night, even if Nagelsmann’s men have the lead on aggregate. We bide our time, like a spider in a web.
Minutes later, we take the lead on aggregate, as Friedgeimas finds the back of the net as we break in transition. 3-2, the question now being whether we can hold our nerve. Bayern, for once, seem to have lost theirs as they struggle to muster any semblance of an attack. In the 80th minute, Panchev extends our lead, 4-2 on the night, 5-3 on aggregate.
Bayern are sinking without a trace, faffing about in midfield. Libicki reads a misplaced pass in the 87th minute, bursting forward to fire home our 5th of the night.
Bayern’s humiliation is complete. Revenge is ours. 5-2 on the night. 6-3 on aggregate.
We return to the semifinals. 180 minutes from the Promised Land.
We will face Patrick Vieira’s PS-****ing-G in the semifinals, a club that I loathe with every fiber of my being. They are closing in on a 7th straight farmers’ league title, and hope to add to their 2023 Champions League title.
Ralph Hassenhutl’s Manchester City will face Thomas Tuchel’s Barcelona in the other semifinal.
April 2038 – Champions League, Semifinals (1st Leg).
After the debacle in Munich, we decide it is best to leave Shaw back in Kvareli for the first leg. By which I mean we tell him the match is at The Goose, and set him up with a suite in the standard team hotel. Handcuffed to the bed, with his cell phone confiscated this time. True to form, Shaw is none-the-wiser.
Having eliminated United and Bayern, we are ready for just about anything. But I’m not going to lie, the Parisians’ $7.72M per week wage budget is intimidating, given that we spent $7.86M on player wages in all of 2037.
We start off keeping the match tight, with Libicki threatening to open the scoring in the 25th minute, smashing an ambitious shot off the post, the keeper well-beaten.
It isn’t pretty, but 30 minutes into the match and we’re holding our own…only for our concentration to lapse moments later, Nikolaou flapping at a cross that he should have claimed with ease. Freidgeimas goes close moments later, forcing a fine save from the keeper off of a free kick.
Down 1-nil at the half, our ruthlessness from the Bayern match has deserted us. If we had even a modicum of that incisiveness, we’d be 2 goals to the good.
In the 59th minute, Kyei intercepts the ball deep in our half, launching Freidmeigas forward at pace. The Lithuanian international knows what comes next, drawing the defender in to leave Panchev in space. Freidmeigas lays it off, and Panchev buries it to draw us level. Clinical. All to play for.
10 minutes later, Kessie’s aggressive, advanced positioning catches the French out of sorts, as he is in acres of space, driving to goal, rifling it into the top corner to give us a priceless 2-1 lead.
Vieira’s men have a goal called back by VAR in the 75th, suggesting that the UEFA mafia despise PS-****ing-G more than we do. As our hosts push forward, the game opens up and we come close to grabbing what would be a vital 3rd…in the 88th minute, the inevitable happens. We break on the counter, with Hosseinpour claiming our 3rd with a delicate, sublime chip at a dead-sprint.
Another command performance in the 2nd half. We will take a 3-1 lead back to The Goose.
May 2038 – Champions League, Semifinals (2nd Leg).
Shaw has rumbled us, realizing over the weekend that we were in Paris for the 1st leg. He’s demanding a trip to Paris for the 2nd leg, which — if you think about it — makes sense. We’ve sent him with one of the interns, who has handcuffs and strict instructions to confiscate any and all of Shaw’s communication devices during the match. This will be his 6th match of the 8-match ban, and we don’t want to run the risk of incurring an extension.
We start strong, with PS-****ing-G failing to clear a corner in the 12th minute, allowing Freidgeimas to hammer it home from close range. The Goose is rocking, and the Parisians need 4 goals to advance. But for the first 30 minutes, we’re in near-complete control.
In the 37th minute, Bossa makes a last-minute lunge, desperately clearing off the line. If we can find another goal, the tie will be over.
Our guests push forward, to no avail. The crowd can feel it, even if we dare not say the words out loud.
In the 91st minute, we earn a free kick on the endline…Freidgeimas spies Panchev on the back post, and the Bulgarian rises to head home from close range. 2-nil on the night, 5-1 on aggregate, it is time to pack our bags for Istanbul…all except for Shaw. We’ll have to give that some thought.
We will face Hassenhuttl’s Manchester City, who beat Barcelona 7-1 on aggregate, after a 5-nil win at the Etihad.
We have also qualified for the 2041 Club World Cup…I can’t decide if that is a “reward” or punishment.
On the eve of the Champions League final, we stand ready. 16 wins from 16 matches in the Erovnuli Liga, 75 goals scored, 2 conceded. Unbeaten in all competitions this calendar year.
There’s nothing to do but put it all on the line. We are as ready as we have ever been. That much is clear.
May 2038 – Champions League, Final.
Jamie and Gary are live with all the action from Istanbul, at: Live: 2037/38 Champions League Final.
June 2038 – European Review.
The Champions League is rather thoroughly covered above, as Ralph Hassenhuttl’s Manchester City defeated us in an epic match, 5-3, to claim their first Champions League title.
Nikolaou is named to the Champions League Best XI, an honor certainly, but one I’m sure he would trade for the title in a heartbeat.
Unai Emery’s Chelsea beat Mikel Arteta’s Hertha Berlin, 1-nil, to win the Europa League title. (Yes, you read that correctly.) It is Hertha’s second-straight loss in a continental final, having fallen in last year’s Europa Conference League final.
In the Europa Conference League, Sami Khedira’s Leicester City made it a clean sweep for England, beating Jon Dahl Tomasson’s Marseille, 4-3.
In the active leagues, Tomas Tuchel’s Barcelona reclaimed the La Liga title; Pochettino’s Manchester United defended the Premier League title; Patrick Vieira’s PS-****ing-G won their 6th straight Ligue 1 title; Ruben Amorim’s Roma won their 4th Serie A title in 5 years by the narrowest of margins, as three teams finished level on 80 points with Milan sitting 4th on 78; and, Julian Nagelsmann’s Bayern did Bayern things again.
We receive an additional $43.62 million from the UEFA mafia in prize money ($17.65M), television revenue ($7.36M) and coeffecient ranking pool money ($18.25M).
Per usual, though, my focus is on those sweet, sweet coefficient gains.
The Erovnuli Liga rises to 17th in the UEFA competitions rankings, up 6 spots from last year, overtaking the Allsvenskan and English Championship, among others.
My sights are on Portugal, though, sitting 6th, because supplanting them would mean that: (1) Georgia gains a 6th European slot; with (2) three teams qualifying for the Champions League, two of which are placed automatically into the Group Stage; and (3) one team automatically qualifies for the Europa League Group Stage. There will come a day when, to improve Georgia’s ranking, we need other teams to start making waves in Europe, and this would be a substantial help. Duruji Kvareli can’t do it alone.
South Africa 2038 – World Cup Review.
For whatever reason, the World Cup continues to let me down. I want to see blood on the walls, with smaller nations scalping the established countries, dancing gloriously in the mayhem.
Instead, we get Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s France bringing home the title after a 1-nil win over (AI-managed) Uruguay.
For someone who loves football’s natural order disrupted in-game, it was painful to see the likes of Colombia, Ghana, Mexico and the United States SoccerBallTeam get eliminated at the Group Stage. Jose Luis Sierra’s Chile, Nuno Espirito Santo’s Belgium, Switzerland and Uruguay made it interesting, even if the “big” teams generally took care of business.
As much as I miss trips to random locations across the continent in the battle to qualify, I cannot deny that a quiet summer has its charms, even if the 2nd XI faffing about meant penalties were needed to vanquish Lokomotivi in the Cup.
The distraction of the World Cup was nearly enough to cleanse the bitter taste of the Champions League final from my palate. If only the Uruguayans had pulled it off.
Shaw has spent much of the downtime pondering ways to creatively reject transfer offers — you would be surprised by just how many variations one can do of the classic “box of feces,” especially if you plan ahead. Grapefruit? Corn? Chili? Cranberries? The permutations are endless.
Now that I think about it…the Champions League Group Stage cannot commence soon enough. We are unbeaten in the Erovnuli Liga since October 2034, a run of 135 matches, and unbeaten in the Davit Kipiani Cup since April 2032, a run of 33 matches. We need the challenge of Europe, if only because it gives us the opportunity to drag other Georgian clubs into the modern era.
The Champions League draw, a moment when — as one of the top 2nd seeds — we can look towards a path to reach the knockout rounds. This year, the path is less than favorable — Tomas Tuchel’s Barcelona, Diego Simeone’s Liverpool, and Basel.
While we have a massive task at hand, the domestic campaign continues apace, even if we’ve been leaking goals.
While the Group Stage draw was not particularly kind, we kick off on Matchday 1 away to Basel, a favorable start at the very least. We control the match completely, but fail to put the Swiss away meaning that the last few minutes are squeaky bum time. We claim a 2-1 win — and as Shaw reminds us, at this stage, 3 points are 3 points.
The 2nd XI claim our 12th straight Erovnuli Liga title with a one-sided 1-nil win away to Mertskhali. My focus is on Liverpool’s imminent arrival in Kvareli. Shaw’s 8-match ban has finally run its course, so it will be good to have him back on the bench with us. It was a narrow affair, with both sides threatening. Panchev struck first in the 50th minute, and Dahlen doubled our lead in the 90th on the counterattack.
Our annual youth intake is frustrating, to say the least. The best player is Nico “Gobe” Gobejishvili, who has the profile we’re looking for in a young shadow striker. Giannis Vasileiou is considered to be the best player by my coaching staff, while Guram Koberidze, Zaza Janiashvili, and Giorgi Kutsia are worth mentioning, even if I doubt any of them will ever be good enough.
We’ve also secured a slew of youth signings, looking to the future. As previously noted, Dariusz Sapa (900k, Legia), Walid Boubaker, and Sergei Khasenov will formally join the first team during the winter transfer window. Boubaker and Khasenov have been “on trial” for ages, and are ready to challenge for playing time. Sapa was signed long ago; at $900k, he is a steal and will feature as a mezzala in our 2nd XI.
We’ve also secured the signature of Atle Hovring, a player we’ve tracked for ages who recently made his full international debut for Norway. He will join the 2nd XI as a shadow striker.
Looking further to the future, we’ve secured the signings of: (1) Saimir Shehu, a youth player signed on a free who joined on trial until his 18th birthday, and is looking solid; (2) Diego Olivera ($2.2M, Fenix), a brilliant young midfielder who will play as a libero when he joins in January 2040; and (3) Arild Henriksen ($5.5M, Rosenborg), another shadow striker who our scouts rate quite highly.
We’ll kick off the 2039 campaign with a full-blown squad review, to assess how these players fit into our plans for world domination.
Disaster at The Goose on Matchday 3, as we fall to Tuchel’s Barcelona, 1-nil. It was a poor night of football, and we lose Danko for 5-6 weeks with a fractured forearm. Danso can provide cover at left wingback, but it is not what we needed. The return fixture at the Camp Nou will be pivotal.
We kick off the match at the Camp Nou with an early goal from Panchev, but have to fight and scrap for an equalizer after the Catalans snatch 2. A 2-2 draw isn’t the worst result, but we have no margin for error heading into the final 2 matches — at home against Basel, before traveling to Anfield to conclude the campaign.
Freidmeigas claims his 41st goal of the campaign against Saburtalo to become the club’s all-time leading goalscorer in the league, with 141 career league goals. He passes Gia Zhishkariani, who was our leading goalscorer in 4 consecutive campaigns(2023-26) during our rise to the Erovnuli Liga, before making way for Sergei Utsmuts in 2029 and then retiring.
We start quickly against the Swiss on Matchday 5, and romp to a 4-nil win. Liverpool and Anfield draw again, this time at Anfield — meaning that we sit atop Group B with one match to play… At Anfield.
The final two matches of the campaign — a 72-hour test of our mettle.
The 2nd XI take care of business in Tbilisi, with a 3-1 win over Saburtalo in the Davit Kipiani Cup final, our 7th consecutive title and 9th overall. (Dinamo Tbilisi have won 16.)
From there, we drive straight to the Shota Rustaveli for a flight to the Big Smoke, and a connection to Liverpool. Weary legs at the end of a long campaign, hard-fought campaign.
Win, and we win the Group. Draw, we’re through but will almost certainly finish 2nd.
Lose? Well, best not think about that. Because we’d be off to the Europa League unless Basel gets a result against Barcelona.
Freidgeimas gives us an early lead, tapping home a cutback from Munteanu in the 6th minute. Liverpool level almost immediately, setting the tone for what we anticipate will be the football equivalent of a no-holds-barred knife fight.
But before we can draw blood, the UEFA mafia intervene, awarding Liverpool a penalty in the 37th minute. Davison smashes home. We drop to 3rd, and will have to chase the match. When Liverpool find their third…and then a 4th, it’s lights out. A 4-1 loss. Humiliated. Eliminated.
December 2038 – Season Review.
The flight back from England is long. And quiet.
We’ve let ourselves down.
It would be easy to blame UEFA. For the draw. For granting their favored sons a dodgy penalty in a critical moment on the final matchday, to tip a match that was hanging in the balance.
And while my post-match invasion of the referee’s dressing room may yet result in a UEFA ban, tossing a pizza in that ****’s face was worth it. On a spiritual level.
The difficult reality we are working desperately to avoid, of course, is that we did not deserve to progress. We struggled in both matches against the C**talans, and crumbled in the face of adversity at Anfield.
We must continue working to close the gap with these giants of Europe. Both in terms of talent and attitude. Our scouts believe that our new signings have the potential to do that. To put us on equal footing, in terms of sheer talent.
Until then, we will have to rely on the same alchemy as before. Because if you think about it, we’ve only gotten this far by conjuring an aura of authority through little more than strutting jackassery, backed by an ever-evolving squad with ambition to match our own, if not the talent to take us there.
With a new influx of talent that matches our ambition, the sky is the limit. One hopes.
The morning after we return to Kvareli, Shaw is on my doorstep. Unshaven. Unwashed. He clearly hasn’t slept. And he wants to talk tactics, a possible reversion to PM Draugr.
I can tell that he’s walking the thin line between madness and genius, so I welcome him with open arms and a cup of coffee. I haven’t slept either, and have been considering the same reversion. While PM Haaienvuist has served us well, the impetus behind its adoption was that the talent-gap between ourselves and our European rivals — a gap that has and will continue to narrow.
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.