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On June 20, the draws were made for the first and second qualifying rounds of European football’s two major club competitions, the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League.

The four Georgian clubs who qualified for European competition of league position or cup victory in season 2010-11 will face opposition from Cyprus, Armenia and Moldova at the first hurdle on the way to qualifying for the tournaments proper.

Current league champions FC Zestafoni were drawn against Moldovan side Dacia Chisinau in the Second Qualifying round of the Champions League. Both teams are taking part in Europe’s premier competition for the first time.

Dacia were founded in 1999 and, in their short history, have already yielded useful European experience having won their first major European tie in last season’s Europa League against FK Zeta of Montenegro.

Under the stewardship of the Ukrainian born Igor Dobrovolski, who earned over 40 caps combined for USSR, CIS and Russia in his playing career, the Moldovans boast a multi-cultural squad.

Macedonian defender Goran Dimovski, Russian Alexandr Nechayev, Belarus forward Vitali Ledenev, Ghana’s Eric Sackey, Nigerian striker Baba Collins and Togo international defender Abdoul-Gafar Mamah are part of a cosmopolitan line-up which also includes four Georgians.

Levan Korgalidze earned 3 caps for Georgia in his younger days and will be hoping that, along with fellow Georgians Mamuka Lomidze, Vasili Guchashvili and David Gamezardashvili, he can give Dobrovolski some inside information on their countrymen from Zestafoni.

Zestafoni will be hoping to go one better than last year where they were knocked out in the 3rd Qualifying Round of the Europa League by Karpaty Lviv of Ukraine.

The three other Georgian sides who qualified for Europe were entered into the Europa League with Dinamo Tbilisi and Metalurg Rustavi going in at the First Qualifying Round and FC Gagra in the Second Round.

Dinamo, by far the most prestigious name in Georgian football, were handed a tie against another Moldovan club, Milsami Orhei.

Milsami will be making their debut in European competition while Dinamo have an illustrious history in Europe including winning the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1981.

In recent times though Dinamo have struggled to recreate those glory years of the early 1980s and are hoping that the appointment of former Barcelona coach Alex Garcia will herald a return to some sort of European glory.

Last season, Dinamo reached the Third Qualifying Round of the Europa League where they lost to Austrian side Sturm Graz. In order to qualify for the lucrative group stages, they would need to win four qualifying rounds.

Should they overcome Milsami, their reward will be a tie against Llanelli of Wales.

Meanwhile, newly named Metalurg Rustavi face a trip to neighbouring Armenia to play Banants. The Armenians will be playing in the Europa League (formerly the UEFA Cup) for the ninth season in a row. During that time they have registered only one victory which, ominously, came against Georgian opposition in the form of Lokomotiv Tbilisi in 2005-06.

The winners of the local derby will face either Jagiellonia Bialystok of Poland or Kazakhstan’s Irtysh in the next round.

Already in the Second Qualifying Round are Gagra who won last season’s Georgian Cup. Hailing from Georgia’s occupied territory of Abkhazia, Gagra have been living a nomadic existence in recent years, playing their ‘home’ matches hundreds of miles from home in either Gori or Tbilisi.

They have been given the toughest draw of any Georgian club and will face Cypriot outfit Anorthosis Famagusta.

Georgian football fans will already be very familiar with Anorthosis as current national head coach Temuri Ketsbaia excelled there as both a player and manager.

In two spells as a player, Ketsbaia scored 75 goals for the Cypriots and the number 14 jersey has been retired at the club in his honour.

As manager, the Georgian hero lead the Cypriots to victory over Turkish giants Trabzonspor in 2005 before qualifying for the Champions League in 2008-09 where they took points from Inter Milan, Werder Bremen and Panathinaikos although failed to progress.

Anorthosis now have a squad of sixteen different nationalities including Czech international striker Jan Rezek and Bulgarian international defender Stanislav Angelov.

The task is formidable for Gagra, but they are no strangers to adversity and will relish the chance to topple a European force.

Ties:

Champions League 2nd Qualifying Round

July 12/13 and July 19/20 – Zestafoni v Dacia Chisinau (Moldova)

Europa League 1st Qualifying Round

June 30 and July 7 – Banants (Armenia) v Metalurg Rustavi, Dinamo Tbilisi v Milsami (Moldova)

Europa League 2nd Qualifying Round

July 14 and July 21 – FC Gagra v Anorthosis Famagusta (Cyprus)

Georgia Today

M.B

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