Champion of the 34th country with the UEFA coefficient and claiming to be from a nation that is not recognized, namely Transnistria, Sheriff Tiraspol is the anomaly of this Champions League 2021/2022. The flagship club of Divizia Nationala will discover the competition for the first time in its history after having carried out a historic qualification campaign.
Astana in 2016, Qarabağ in 2018 or even Midtjylland in 2021, the Champions League has always known how to deliver great stories with its little Thumbs. The latest in date, Sheriff Tiraspol is writing the most beautiful page in its history. Founded in 1997, six years after Moldova’s independence, Sheriff Tiraspol quickly became the flagship formation of his country. Since its first coronation in 2001, the yellow and black club will win 19 titles passing only next to the 2010/2011 edition. Total supremacy over Moldovan football for a team that does not claim to be such.
A Russian land between Moldova and Ukraine
Based in Tiraspol in the middle of Transnistria, the Sheriff is one of the best ambassadors of this Russian-speaking region of 4,200 km2 which proclaimed its independence in 1991, but which is not recognized by the UN. With its own system with a constitution, a currency or a president, the latest since 2016, Vadim Krasnoselsky, Transnistria has a rather dark label that is often attached to it. A region often credited with the status of a hub for the Mafia in Eastern Europe, it sees numerous trafficking activities (alcohol, drugs, weapons, sex, etc.). Moreover, Transnistria is also a means for Russia to ensure diplomatic control over Moldova since it has armed men in this territory where the population is divided between 1 / 3rd of Russians, 1 / 3rd of Moldovans. and 1 / 3rd Ukrainians.
A rather singular regional context for Sheriff Tiraspol whose links with the government of Transnistria are still very close. Moreover, the club belongs to the Holding “Sheriff Company” which was created on June 23, 1993 by Viktor Gushan and Ilya Kazmaly, two former KGB agents. A true economic giant in the region, this group has a prominent place in the oil sector, mass distribution, the media and various services. Also president of the club, Viktor Gushan has a central role in Transnistria and with the domination of the Sheriff on the national scene, he participates in the reinforcement of the “independentist soft power” of the region. To the point of now being displayed in the eyes of football fans all over Europe.
Finally in the Champions League!
Sheriff Tiraspol entered the preliminary rounds of the Europa League for the first time in 2000 and those of the Champions League in 2002. Each time managing to pass the first round before losing to the second, the yellow and black club made a first big step in 2009/2010 with an accession to the play-offs after having taken out Inter Turku and Slavia Prague, but failing against Olympiakos. The story is repeated the following season, but this time Basel acts as the executioner. Participating both times in the Europa League, the club will not pass the group stage. Since then, European experiences have been numerous, but have often come to nothing. We will remember a confrontation against a French club, Olympique de Marseille with a loss in the dams of the Europa League 2012/2013.
Not necessarily expected for this 2021/2022 Champions League vintage, Sheriff Tiraspol surprised everyone. Logically enough faller of the Albanian club Teuta Durrës (1-0 / 4-0) then Alashkert (3-1 / 1-0), the Transnistrian club will then make a sensation against the Red Star of Belgrade in s ‘imposing (1-0 / 1-1). Qualified for the Champions League play-offs for the third time in its history, Sheriff Tiraspol will strike hard with a 3-0 victory and a 0-0 draw to ensure his presence among the 32 participants of the biggest competition of clubs in Europe. Whatever happens afterwards, the most beautiful has already been accomplished.
A cosmopolitan workforce
Placed in group D in the company of Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Shakhtar Donetsk, Sheriff Tiraspol will afford pretty posters. Moreover, the first poster against the Ukrainians is rather singular from a diplomatic point of view. Exiled from Donetsk, the Shakhtar comes from the Donbass region which is shared between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists. In this specific case, we find ourselves in an armed conflict that caused 13,000 deaths. Transnistria certainly had its conflict with Moldova in 1992 during the Dniester War during which around 3,500 people lost their lives. The situation has since calmed down with the victory of Transnistria which kept its independence vis-à-vis Moldova, but the region remains a place of tension.
This match between Shakhtar Donetsk and Sheriff Tiraspol will therefore be quite symbolic of the independence movements caused by the breakup of the USSR in 1991. In the meantime, Sheriff Tiraspol will not want to be an expiatory victim and for that, the club will be based on its melting pot of talents. With a much larger budget (which also allows it to have solid structures) than all the other Moldovan clubs, Sheriff Tiraspol has brought in players from multiple backgrounds. Thus, there are only 7 Moldovans in the workforce for 3 Brazilians, 2 Malians, 2 Greeks, 2 Colombians, 1 Serbian, 1 Peruvian, 1 Bosnian, 1 Trinidadian, 1 Malawian, 1 Macedonian, 1 Ghanaian, 1 Nigerian , 1 Luxembourger, 1 Ivorian, 1 Uzbek, 1 Ukrainian, 1 Guinean and 1 Slovenian. That is to say no less than 19 different nationalities in the workforce for 76.7% of foreign players in the workforce.
A common goal
A cultural mix that has given a tasty mix in the field and that will now have to be put into practice in the field. Goalkeeper Georgios Athanasiadis expressed his enthusiasm for the club site shortly after the draw for the group stage:“In our group, the teams are very strong and it will be difficult to play against them. Although I liked the draw, because we are among very large teams. It will motivate us to do our best and fight every game for a positive result. ”
Former FC Metz player, Adama Traoré was the author of a double in the first leg against Dinamo Zagreb. Arrived in club last February, the Malian also made a report of a group united around the same objective: “the atmosphere is excellent, everything is positive. We believe that we are capable of a lot. We have a good team and we are motivated like never before. ” Achieving his dream and being able to make it last, Sheriff Tiraspol will enjoy these moments to the fullest and this Wednesday at 6:55 pm, the music of the Champions League will have a particular impact within the Bolshaya Sportivnaya Arena.