Shakhter Karaganda Heads from Champions League to Europa League

ASTANA – On Aug. 28, Karaganda Football Club “Shakhter” lost to Scotland’s Celtic with a score of 3 – 0 in the return match, which took place at Celtic Park in Glasgow. Kazakhstan’s club may have lost to its rival, but will continue on in the second most important tournament on the continent.

True football fans believe that losing in the magnificent Scottish stadium “Celtic Park” is not the end of the world, but rather a big plus in the forward movement of Kazakh football.

Pressure on Karaganda players, including psychological stressors was observed. For the first time, the domestic team reached such a high stage of a draw game in the most prestigious cup, not only for Europe but rather the entire planet. The award-winning contestants from Glasgow did not succeed with ease. If they had lost, shame would have pursued them for decades. That’s why the team went out on the field in such a transcendent spirit.

Angry Scots, after their loss in Astana, which inspired continent wide jokes, started the match with renewed fury. They acted with power, sometimes using ‘dirty’ techniques (that the referee often could not see); they completely forgot about the principles of “fair-play”. Our players were hit on their legs, roughly pushed and knees and elbows were used. In one instance, while wearing cleats, Celtics stepped on a Karaganda player lying on the ground, nearly breaking his rib cage. The main mentor of the Celtic, Northern Irishman Neil Lennon was literally ready to lash out at our player when he was near him, kicking the ball away from him. After the match, he said that it was the greatest football evening of his life, but he would not want to go through it again.

Everyone understands the intensity, But our guys were good. They were worried, but tried to do as their coach ordered. Due to their lack of experience, they received yellow cards, whereas sophisticated Scots could justify themselves in front of judges. They fought desperately, but without panic and acted the best they could. And at that point, it became clear that in Kazakhstan, football is really reaching a good European level.

Yes, we missed three goals, but two of them, what a nuisance, flew in our cage in added minutes. Could we win? Absolutely! But as before, the coach of our team Victor Kumykov said, maybe we would be better off playing in games of lower ranks. Let’s not forget that fortune today took pity on local players – the Kazakh team could have scored two beautiful goals, but this time, on the last turn, the Celts had home court luck.

The thing about “Shakhter” is that the team has won over all fans in the country. Football is the number one game on the planet, and Kazakh clubs are not just amateur teams, but rather quite professional. When did we have these feelings? With them, perhaps, only to some extent, victory on the European fields of Kostanay “Tobol” can be compared, which also brought great “noise.”

We have left the Champions League. But we left it proudly! Now Karaganda will write its own history in the Europa League. Our opponents will be no less formidable there and football clubs with more well-known names than the Celtic will be faced, which means the big football festival continues.

It would of course be even better if the Shakhter was joined by the Aktobe Club, which recently met with Kiev’s “Dynamo.” There, a victory over the Ukrainians would have been a sensation. But even if our club gives way, we still have a chance to stay in the Europa League. Since UEFA pulled Turkey’s “Fenerbahce” from the games for carrying out negotiated matches, it may decide to give its place to the Kazakh team.

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