Tajikistan

Тоҷикистон / Таджикистан / Tajikistan

  • Capital: Dushanbe
  • Population: 9,537,645 (2020 Estimate)
  • Official Languages: Tajik
  • Language of Inter-ethnic Communication: Russian
  • Spoken Languages: Uzbek, Turkmen, Shughni, Bartangi, Central Asian Arabic
  • Men’s Team Nicknames: Тоҷҳо / Tâjhâ (The Crowns); Персидские Львы / Шерҳои форсй / Ŝerhâi fârsi (The Persian Lions); Бачаҳои Кӯҳистон / Baĉahâi Kuhistân (Sons of the Highlands); Помириҳо / Pâmirihâ (Pamirians)
  • Women’s Team Nicknames: Тоҷҳо / Tâjhâ (The Crowns)
  • Association:  Федеросиюни футболи Тоҷикистон (Tajikistan Football Federation or FFT)
  • Top Male Domestic League: Лигаи Олии Тоҷикистон (The Ligai Olii Tojikistan / Tajikistan Higher League)
  • Top Female Domestic League: Unknown
  • FIFA Code: TJK

Records

  • Best World Cup Result (Men): Not Qualified
  • Best World Cup Result (Women): Not Qualified
  • Best AFC Asian Cup Result (Men): Not Qualified
  • Best AFC Asian Cup Result (Women): Not Qualified
  • Best AFC Challenge Cup Result (Men): WINNERS (2006)
  • Best CAFA Championship Result (Women): Third Place (2018)
  • Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 106th (July 2013)
  • Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 99th (December 2017)
  • Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 180th (July 2003, October 2003)
  • Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 135th (April 2021)
  • Most Capped Player: Davron Ergashev – 69 caps [as of December 2021]
  • Top Scorer: Manuchekhr Dzhalilov – 19 goals [as of December 2021]

Introduction & Brief History

Tajikistan, officially the Republic of Tajikistan, is a landlocked country in Central Asia. Tajikistan is bordered by Afghanistan to the south, Uzbekistan to the west, Kyrgyzstan to the north, and the People’s Republic of China to the east.

It is known that cultures in the region of Tajikistan date back to as early as the 4th millennium BC with the earliest recorded history dating back to approximately 500 BC during the time when the majority, if not all, of modern-day Tajikistan, was part of the Achaemenid Empire. This empire was also known as the First Persian Empire and was based in Western Asia, founded by Cyrus the Great. Following the region’s conquest by Alexander the Great, it subsequently became part of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom which was founded in 256 BC by the first Greek King of Bactria, Diodotus I Soter, and fell in circa 120 – 100 BC under the leadership of Heliocles II Dikaios. The famous Silk Road passed through the region and after the expedition of the Chinese explorer, Zang Qian, occurring approximately between 141 BC – 87 BC, commercial relations between the region and Han China grew at a rapid rate.

Fast forward to between 650 AD – 680 AD, the region found itself under the control of the Tibetan Empire, and the Chinese Empire, and it wouldn’t be until 819 that the Samanid Empire restored Persian control. This period of time saw the enlargement of cities such as Samarkand and Bukhara which are now part of neighbouring Uzbekistan but back then they were the cultural centres of Iran with the region as a whole known as Khorasan. The Samanid Empire, during its greatest period, encompassed modern-day Afghanistan, a vast area of Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and smaller parts of Kazakhstan and Pakistan. The Kara-Khanid Khanate (a political entity) took control of Transoxiana (an area that approximately corresponds with modern-day Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, southern Kyrgyzstan, and southwest Kazakhstan) and ruled from 999 to 1211. The arrival of the Kara-Khanid Khanate signified a decisive shift from Iranian to Turkic prevalence in the Central Asian region.

Modern Tajikistan was to fall under the rule of the Khanate of Bukhara (an Uzbek state) during the latter part of the 16th century, but with the empire collapsing during the 18th century, it saw itself coming under the rule of both the Emirate of Bukhara and the Khanate of Kokand. The Emirate of Bukhara was the more dominant of the two and remained in power until the 20th century, but during the 19th century, the Russian Empire began to flex its power in certain parts of the region. By 1885, the territory of Tajikistan was either under the power of the Russian Empire or its vassal state, the Emirate of Bukhara, despite this Tajik people felt little influence from Russia.

Violence erupted in the July of 1916 when demonstrators attacked Russian soldiers in Tajikistan’s second-biggest city, Khujand, over the growing threat of forced conscription during the First World War. Order was quickly restored by the Russian troops but this did not stop further demonstrations taking place throughout 1916 in various locations of Tajikistan.

Following the beginning of the Russian Revolution in 1917, freedom fighters throughout the Central Asian region, known as Basmachi, waged a war against Bolshevik troops in a fruitless attempt to maintain independence. The conflict lasted for a period of four years with the Bolsheviks ultimately prevailing which led to Central Asian regions being heavily suppressed. The result of the conflict and agricultural policies being imposed by the Soviet Union was that Central Asia, Tajikistan included, suffered a famine that would go on to claim many lives.

1924 saw the creation of the Tajik Autonomous Soviet Republic which was a part of Uzbekistan, however, by 1929 the Tajik SSR was made a separate constituent republic. From 1927 to 1934, collective farming and fast growth of cotton production occurred, mainly in the southern area. This Soviet policy saw violence made against peasants and forced resettlement was rife throughout Tajikistan. A number of peasants decided to fight back against the policy which in turn saw the return of the Basmachi movement.

During the periods of 1927 to 1934 and 1937 to 1938, the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin oversaw two purges (to solidify his power over the party and nation through acts of brutality and ethnic cleansing) which resulted in the expulsion of approximately 10,000 people from every level of the Communist Party of Tajikistan. People of Russian ethnicity were sent in to replace the expelled members of the aforementioned party which resulted in Russians completely overseeing all levels of party positions, including that of First Secretary.

Tajik’s started to be conscripted into the Soviet army in 1939 and during the Second World War, it is thought that some 260,000 Tajik citizens fought against Germany, Finland, and Japan. It is estimated that of Tajikistan’s then population of 1,530,000, 60,000 to 120,000 Tajiks were killed during the conflict. The years after the war saw a continuation of deprivation of rights for the people of Tajikistan and by the late 1980s, Tajik nationals were calling for more rights. However, major disturbances did not happen in the republic until 1990. One year after, the Soviet Union collapsed, saw Tajikistan declare independence on 9th September 1991. This day is now one of celebration for the people of Tajikistan and is the countries main national holiday.

There is so much more that I could write about the complex history of this very interesting nation but this, after all, is a football blog and therefore that is where I will now turn my attention to.

Football in Tajikistan started to develop during the latter part of the 1920s, however, the Tajikistan Football Federation (Федеросиюни футболи Тоҷикистон) wasn’t founded until 1936 and was a sub-federation of the Soviet Football Federation. Although Tajikistan gained independence in 1991, it would not be until 1994 that it was accepted into the AFC and FIFA.

The first international fixture for an independent Tajikistan took place on 17th June 1992 in the nation’s capital, Dushanbe. The opponents for the inaugural match were their near neighbours, Uzbekistan, with the game resulting in a 2-2 draw. Meanwhile, Tajikistan first saw a modicum of success when they reached the semi-finals stage of the last staging of the ECO Cup in 1993. The ECO Cup was a competition for members of the Economic Cooperation Organisation, which also included Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Azerbaijan in the organisation.

Tajikistan entered the qualifying rounds for the 1996 AFC Asian Cup and was seeded into Group 8 along with Uzbekistan and Bahrain. Soon after the draw was made, Bahrain withdrew from the competition which left Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to compete in a two-legged playoff to decide who would advance to the 1996 AFC Asian Cup to be held in the United Arab Emirates. Tajikistan won their home leg in Dushanbe by 4 goals to 0 and it looked highly likely that they would qualify for their first-ever AFC Asian Cup. However, the return leg in Tashkent saw Uzbekistan winning the game 4-0 after 90 minutes which meant extra time would be needed to determine a winner. Sadly for Tajikistan, their rivals scored in the first period of extra time and held on to secure a 5-4 aggregate victory meaning it was they and not Tajikistan who would qualify for the main tournament.

The Tajik national team participated in qualifying for the 1998 World Cup, this was their first time doing so, and despite not qualifying for the next stage of qualifying in the AFC Zone, they faired very well indeed. The first round of qualifiers saw Tajikistan being drawn into a group alongside Turkmenistan, China, and Vietnam. They eventually finished in second place in the group which was not enough to qualify but they did pick up a memorable 0-0 draw, away against group winners, China.

Two years after their inaugural World Cup qualifying campaign, Tajikistan beat Guam 16-0 in the qualifying stages for the 2002 World Cup. This result remains to this day as their biggest ever margin of victory in international football. Alas, they still did not make it any further than the first qualifying round stages of AFC qualification. During the qualifying rounds for the 2006 World Cup, although failing to progress again, The Crowns did record a notable 0-0 draw against the 2004 AFC Asian Cup semi-finalists, Bahrain.

The year 2006 turned out to be a historic one for Tajik football as they won their first-ever international tournament – the AFC Challenge Cup, a tournament used to help ‘developing’ nations within AFC who failed to qualify for the Asian Cup. Tajikistan managed to win the inaugural tournament by beating Sri Lanka 4-0 in the final in Bangladesh. They followed this success up by finishing as runners-up in the 2008 tournament (losing to hosts India 4-1 in the final), and in third place in the 2010 edition by beating Myanmar 1-0 in Sri Lanka.

Tajikistan entered the qualifying rounds for the 2010, 2014, and 2018 World Cups but unfortunately did not qualify for either of those global competitions. However, the team see some success in the 2019 Intercontinental Cup held in India when they finished as runners-up, losing by 1 goal to 0 in the final against North Korea.

The team has recently failed to qualify for the 2022 World Cup having failed to progress to the Third Round of AFC qualifying. Despite finishing second in their qualifying group behind group winners Japan, but ahead of Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, and Myanmar, they missed out on progression as one of the five best second-placed teams by goal difference, with Lebanon progressing just ahead of them. However, they will now look ahead to the Third qualifying rounds of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup and endeavor to qualify for their first main continental championship. Having finished as one of three lower-ranked group runners-up, they should be considered as one of the favourites to claim one of the remaining 11 Asian Cup berths.

Tajikistan National Team

Q. Who is Tajikistan’s best player of all-time?

After researching this topic I have come to ascertain that over the years several Tajik-born players have played international football for either the former Soviet Union, Russia, or Tajikistan. This is going to form the basis of my answer to who is Tajikistan’s best player of all time.

Rashid Rakhimov

In my opinion, the best Tajik player of all time is Rashid Rakhimov. The midfielder was born in Dushanbe and started his career at CSKA Pamir Dushanbe in 1981, firstly in the youth team but quickly progressing to the club’s first team for whom he made his debut in 1982. Rakhimov was to stay with the Tajik club for a period of nearly ten years and in that time he amassed nearly 300 league and cup appearances. He was also an important member of the CSKA Pamir Dushanbe squad that competed in the final three seasons of the old Soviet Top League (the only club from Tajikistan to play at this level) In total Rakhimov played a total of 74 games in the Soviet Top League and scored 10 goals.

The outbreak of the Tajik Civil War in 1992 saw CSKA Pamir Dushanbe being dissolved which in turn saw Rakhimov moving to FC Spartak Moscow to play in the newly formed Russian Premier League. He was to stay with Spartak until 1994 with this period also seeing him being loaned out to Real Valladolid in Spain, and Spartak’s fellow Russian club FC Lokomotiv Moscow. These two loan moves however did not stop him from picking up a Russian Premier League winners medal when Spartak won the championship in both 1992 and 1994.

In 1995, Rakhimov started playing for the Austrian club FK Austria Wien with whom he stayed until 2000 which was followed by two shorter spells at fellow Austrian clubs, FC Admira Wacker Mödling and SV Ried. His excellent performances in Austria saw him becoming a fan favourite at the three Austrian clubs that he played for.

Perhaps rather surprisingly and despite having a more than decent club career, Rashid Rakhimov only ever won a total of six international caps – two for Tajikistan between 1992 to 1996 and four for Russia coming between 1994 to 1995. This statistic does not however persuade me to change my mind on my notion that he is arguably the greatest Tajik footballer of all time. This is due to the fact that he played in several European leagues and was a success to varying degrees in all of those he played in.

Briefly, other players that could well be considered for the best Tajik player of all time are – Oleksiy Cherednyk (CSKA Pamir Dushanbe, FC Dnipro, and Southampton), Sergei Mandreko (CSKA Pamir Dushanbe, Rapid Wein, Hertha Berlin, and VfL Bochum), Sergei Nikulin (FC Dynamo Moscow), and Oleg Shirinbekov (CSKA Pamir Dushanbe, FC Torpedo Moscow, and Vasas SC)

Q. Who is currently the best player in the national side?

In my opinion, the best player currently playing for the Tajik national team is the 27-year-old midfielder Parvizdzhon Umarbayev.

Parvizdzhon Umarbayev

Umarbayev, as a youngster, played for the Tajik club Regar-TadAZ Tursunzoda before being spotted by the Russian Premier League club, FC Rubin Kazan for whom he signed in 2009. The Khujand-born player played at various youth team levels for Kazan before signing on as a professional in 2012. Umarbayev made just one full senior appearance for Kazan which came in a 2012/2013 season Russian Cup game against FK Yenisey Krasnoyarsk.

Towards the end of the 2012/2013 season, Umarbayev was sent out on loan to the Russian second-tier club FC Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk where he was to also stay at for much of the 2013/2014 campaign and managed to make 19 league appearances for the club. Following this successful spell, Umarbayev then moved to another Russian second-tier club by the name of FC Khimik Dzerzhinsk before signing for Football Club Istiklol in Tajikistan.

The move to Istiklol proved to be a good one for Umarbayev as he was to put in some impressive appearances for the club between 2015 and 2016, helping the club to several domestic honours. These performances did not go unnoticed and after helping Istiklol to win the 2016 Tajik Super Cup he was signed by the Bulgarian club PFC Lokomotiv Plovdiv. Umarbayev remains at Plovidiv to this day and he has played a major part in the club’s success over the years since joining them. At the time of writing, he has played 181 league and cup games for Plovdiv and was a member of the team that won the Bulgarian Cup twice in a row in 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 as well as winning the 2020 Bulgarian Super Cup.

Umbarbayev is also to my knowledge one of the very few Tajik players to have played in European club competitions in recent years. In the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, he appeared for Plovdiv in the qualifying rounds of the UEFA Europa League and earlier this season played in the UEFA Conference League for the club.

In terms of international football, although Umbarbayev has to date played for the Tajik national team on 29 occasions, he made his international debut for the Russian Under 18s national team due to him having Russian citizenship. He only played once for the Russian youngsters and made his debut for the Tajik Under 23’s national team in 2015 and later in the same year made his debut for the senior Tajik national team. Umbarbayev scored his first goal for Tajikistan in June 2016 in a 5-0 victory against Bangladesh.

There are two other players that deserve a mention in this section. The first is the record appearance holder for Tajikistan, Davronzhon Ergashev who to date has played 69 times for his country and is currently playing his club football for Football Club Bunyodkor in Uzbekistan.

Manuchekhr Dzhalilov

The other player is the Tajik national team’s record goalscorer, Manuchekhr Dzhalilov who has found the net for his country an impressive 19 times in just 39 games. Dzhaliov was a member of the Tajik Under 17’s national team that impressed many by reaching the knockout stages of the 2007 FIFA U-17 World Cup held in South Korea. The Tajik goal-scoring machine made his full international debut in 2011 but then saw a gap of four years before making his second appearance in 2015. The year 2015 was also the year when he scored his first goal for his country, coming in a 2-0 friendly win against the Maldives. As well as impressing on the international stage, Dzhalilov has also won many honours during a club career that has seen him playing in Russia, Indonesia, and Tajikistan.

Q. Who could be considered as the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?

One of the players who can be considered for this accolade has got to be the 17-year-old midfield player, Alidzhoni Ayni. The Bogi Habib-born player started his career with FC Lokomotiv-Pamir in Tajikistan but at the time of writing is currently without a club. However, he has already played three times for the Tajik national team, making his debut on 25th March 2021 in a 3-0 home victory against Mongolia.

Shokhrukh Kirgizboev

Another player is the 19-year-old goalkeeper, Shokhrukh Kirgizboev. The Istiklol custodian has played all of his club football in Tajikistan to date and amazingly made his debut for the Tajik national team aged just 16 in 2018 against Oman. Since then this bright prospect has played a total of six games for his country, most recently on 16th November in a 1-0 defeat in Kazakhstan.

Shakhrom Samiyev

The third player I would like to include in this section is Shakhrom Samiyev, a 20-year-old striker who is currently playing club football in Belarus for FC Torpedo-BelAZ Zhodino. The Dushanbe-born prospect had previously been on the books of FC Rubin Kazan in Russia and Moldovan football giants FC Sheriff Tiraspol. FC Sheriff sent the striker out on loan to fellow Moldovan National Division club, FC Dinamo-Auto Tiraspol where he impressed in the 2020/2021 season by scoring 9 league and cup goals. Samiyev signed for his current club earlier in 2021 and scored three goals to help his side finish in 8th position in the Belarusian Premier League. He made his debut for the Tajik national team on 7th June 2019 and scored in a 1-1 draw against Afghanistan. Since making his debut, Samiyev has played ten times for his country and scored four goals

Besides the aforementioned players above, the future of Tajik football at the national team level does appear to be quite bright as in 2019 the Under 17s qualified for the 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Brazil. Although they were knocked out in the group stages, they did record an impressive 1-0 victory against Cameroon before going on to lose against Spain and Argentina respectively.

Q. What is the current state/performance of the national team?

In 2021, Tajikistan has played a total of eight games which have been made up of five friendlies and three FIFA 2022 World Cup qualifying games.

  • 1st Feb [Friendly]: Jordan (n) 0-2
  • 5th Feb [Friendly]: Jordan (n) 1-0
  • 25th Mar [2022 WCQ]: Mongolia (h) 3-0
  • 24th May [Friendly]: Iraq (a) 0-0
  • 29th May [Friendly]: Thailand (n) 2-2
  • 7th June [2022 WCQ]: Japan (a) 1-4
  • 15th June [2022 WCQ]: Myanmar (n) 4-0
  • 16th Nov [Friendly]: Kazakhstan (a) 0-1

The team started the year by playing two back-to-back friendlies against Jordan in February which both took place in Dubai. The first of these games resulted in a 2-0 defeat for Tajikistan but they got back to winning ways just four days later by beating their Jordanian opponents 1-0. Next up was a FIFA 2022 World Cup qualifier at home against Mongolia in the Markazii Tojikiston Stadium on 25th March. The Crowns who were roared on by 9,300 adoring supporters recorded a fine 3-0 success courtesy of goals scored by Manuchekhr Dzhalilov, Alisher Dzhalilov, and Shakhrom Samiyev.

The fine result against Mongolia was then followed by two friendlies that took place in May. First of all they fought out a 0-0 draw away from home against Iraq and then a second successive draw, 2-2 against Thailand in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.

June saw two more FIFA 2022 World Cup qualifying games, the first of which was a very tough-looking fixture in Suita against one of the powerhouses in the AFC, Japan! The game finished in a 4-1 defeat for Tajikistan but they were far from disgraced and put in a decent performance. In fact, for a while, there was some hope for a memorable result for the Tajik team. Despite going down 1-0 to a sixth-minute Japanese strike, they got back on level terms just three minutes later courtesy of a goal scored by Ekhson Pandzhshanbe. It took until the 40th minute for Japan to regain the lead and they went on to score two more goals to secure the victory.

Action from Japan 4-1 Tajikistan

Tajikistan’s next game was against Myanmar in Osaka, Japan which was also their last of this World Cup qualifying campaign. Despite not being able to proceed from their group they signed off in fine style by beating Myanmar by 4 goals to 0 which saw them finishing in 2nd place behind group winners Japan.

The final game of 2021 for Tajikistan was a friendly against Kazakhstan which resulted in a 1-0 victory for their opponents.

All in all, 2021 has seen a mixed bag of results but, I for one, think there is some hope for the future if their strong performance against Japan is anything to go by.

Q. Looking at Tajikistan’s international history, what has been the best game, result, or performance for the national team?

I think for this question we need to go back to 2006 when Tajikistan won the now-dissolved AFC Challenge Cup.

The AFC Challenge Cup was a competition that ran from 2006 to 2014 on a two-yearly basis and was designed for those AFC teams that were deemed to be emerging football nations within the Vision Asia Programme. The inaugural tournament in 2006 which was held in Bangladesh saw sixteen teams competing to be declared the first champions of the competition.

The first stage of the competition saw four groups of four teams each with Tajikistan being drawn in Group D alongside Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, and Macau. In their first group game, Tajikistan came up against Macau and produced an excellent display to record a 4-0 victory. In their following game, they recorded another win, this time 2-0 against Pakistan, courtesy of goals by Nu’mon Xakimov and Odil Irgashev, both in the first 20 minutes of the game. Despite Tajikistan losing their final group game by a goal to nil against Kyrgyzstan, their two earlier victories were enough to see them top the group and progress through to the knockout stages along with Kyrgyzstan.

In the quarter-finals, Tajikistan was given a tricky-looking match against tournament hosts Bangladesh. However, any hopes of a home win were well and truly extinguished due to the Crowns winning the game by 6 goals to 1! Onto the semi-finals, where they were to come against the team who defeated them in the group stage, Kyrgyzstan. The Tajik team exacted revenge for that earlier defeat by beating their semi-final opponents by 2 goals to 0.

The 2006 AFC Challenge Cup final saw Tajikistan taking on Sri Lanka who had defeated Nepal in their semi-final match, 5-3 on penalties after 120 minutes of football saw the two teams level at 1-1. The final was played at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in the Bangladeshi capital city of Dhaka. History tells us that a lot of football finals can sometimes be close-run things – not this one though as Tajikistan roared to an emphatic 4-0 victory which included a goal in the very first minute of the game by Çomixon Muxiddinov. Muxiddinov doubled his tally in the 61st minute and completed his hat-trick just ten minutes later! For the record, the other goal scorer for Tajikistan was Khurshed Mahmudov on the stroke of halftime.

As well as winning the tournament as a whole, a Tajik player was also awarded the most valuable player of the tournament award. That player was their midfielder Ibrahim Rabimov.

Other results/performances of note that Tajikistan has recorded over the years are their 16-0 victory over Guam in a 2002 World Cup qualifier on 26th November 2000 which remains as their biggest ever victory to this day.

The 2008 AFC Challenge Cup could also be considered somewhat of a success for Tajikistan as they narrowly failed in defending the championship they had won two years previously. On their way to the 2008 final, they recorded a very notable victory over North Korea in the semi-final by one goal to nil. Notable due to the fact that North Korea was to qualify for the 2010 World Cup held in South Africa. In the final of the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup, Tajikistan came up against tournament hosts India. Despite putting up a valiant performance the host nation won the final by four goals to nil.

The 2008 AFC Challenge Cup Final – India 4-1 Tajikistan

Q. What is your favourite shirt from the Tajikistan national team?

After taking a look at some of the shirts worn by the Tajik national team over the years, the one that caught my eye is this away shirt that was worn by them in 2017. I really do like the green and white horizontal stripes that are displayed on the predominately red background.

Tajik Domestic Football

Q. What is the Tajik football pyramid like?

At the time of writing, the Tajik football pyramid has four levels:

  • Tier 1: Ligai Olii Tojikiston
  • Tier 2: Ligai Yakumi Tojikiston
  • Tier 3: Ligai Duvvumi Tojikiston
  • Tier 4: Regional Leagues
Dynamo Dushanbe

Up until the break up of the Soviet Union, Ligai Olii Tojikiston (Tajikistan Higher League) was played for in a regional league without the presence of the clubs representing the republic at national levels. The championship was first held in 1937 with the first winners being Dinamo Stalinabad who were to become known as Dynamo Dushanbe in 1971. In 2007 the club merged with Oriyono Dushanbe, keeping their name as Dynamo Dushanbe.

Other winners of the Tajik Championship before Tajikistan became an independent country include – Profsoyuz Leninabad, Volga Dushanbe, Kuroma Taboshary, and SKIF Dushanbe. Meanwhile, the final winners of the championship before the break up of the Soviet Union were Sokhibkor Dushanbe in 1991.

With the Soviet Union breaking up, it meant that Tajikistan would now be able to hold football competition as a national structure rather than regional. The first national championship in Tajikistan was held in 1992 which saw twelve clubs taking part. At the end of the proceedings, the club that was declared as the inaugural winners of the Tajik national football championship was CSKA Pamir Dushanbe. The final standings from the first-ever national championship in Tajikistan are shown below:

The 1992 Tajik League table.
[IMAGE: Wikipedia]

The two teams at the bottom of the table, Khosilot Farkhor and Ravshan Kulob, both withdrew from the 1992 championship due to political reasons.

The most recent winners of Ligai Olii Tojikiston were Football Club Istiklol who won the 2021 title.

As well as the four levels of domestic league football, there is also a national cup competition in Tajikistan called Jomi Tojikiston (Tajikistan Cup) – like the Tajik league championship, this was competed for as a regional cup competition before the break up of the Soviet Union. The first winners of the cup were Dinamo Stalinabad in 1938 with the last winners being Avtomobilist Kurghanteppa in 1991. Following independence, the first winners of the cup were CSKA Pamir Dushanbe (achieving a league and cup double in 1992) This year’s competition was won by Khujand who beat Istikol 2-0 in the final.

Another Tajik cup competition is the TFF Cup (Tajikistan Football Federation Cup) which was founded in 2012. The tournament is the successor of the Memorial Rustam Doltabaev and is traditionally held from mid-January to mid-February before the main Tajik league season commences. The first winners of the TFF Cup were Regar-TadAZ Tursunzoda who beat Khayr Vahdat FK 1-0 in the 2012 final. The winners of the 2021 tournament were Football Club Istiklol who won this year’s final by one goal to 0 against FC Khatlon.

As well as the Jomi Tojikiston and the TFF Cup there is also the Superjomi Tojikiston (Tajikistan Super Cup) which has been played for since 2010 and sees the winners of the Ligai Olii Tojikiston taking on the winners of the Jomi Tojikiston. If the league championship and cup are won by the same club then the other participant is the runner-up in the Ligai Olii Tojikiston.

Q. Which Tajik teams are historically the most successful?

To answer this question I will be looking at Tajik football from 1992 following the break up of the Soviet Union.

There are two clubs in Tajikistan that stand out as being historically the best clubs in the country. The first of these clubs is Football Club Istiklol who at the time of writing have won an impressive ten Ligai Olii Tojikiston, ten Jomi Tojikiston, and six Superjomi Tojikiston. All of this after only being founded as recently as November 2007. On top of all of the club’s domestic honours is one triumph in the now-dissolved AFC President’s Cup which they won in 2012 by beating the Palestinian club, Markaz Shabab Al-Am’ari, 2-1 in the final. The club won their first Olii Tojikiston in 2010 with their most recent success being when they clinched their 10th league title earlier in 2021. This also happened to be their 8th league title in a row!

A list of all clubs to win the Olii Tojikiston since 1992 is shown as follows:

  • 10 Titles: Football Club Istiklol
  • 7 Titles: Regar-TadAZ Tursunzoda
  • 3 Titles: BDA Dushanbe, FC Khatlon
  • 2 Titles: Sitora Dushanbe, CSKA Pamir Dushanbe, Ravshan Kulob
  • 1 Title: Dynamo Dushanbe

Before FC Istiklol arrived on the Tajik football scene, Regar-TadAZ Tursunzoda was the dominant club in terms of honours. From 2001 to 2008 the club won all of their seven league titles to date as well as winning three Jomi Tojikiston. It could be argued that they are historically the best club in Tajikistan due to the fact that they won three continental competitions, namely the AFC Presidents Cup in 2005, 2008, and 2009 respectively.

Q. Who are currently the best teams in Tajikistan?

The 2021 Tajikistan Higher League table.
[IMAGE: Wikipedia]

I think that it goes without saying that the best team in Tajikistan at the moment is one of the nation’s historically best teams – FC Istiklol. This year the club has won three of the four football tournaments in Tajikistan. They won their 10th league title by finishing a massive 13 points clear of nearest rivals FC Khujand, only losing one game along the way. This latest league title win also means that they will compete in next season’s AFC Champions League, entering at the group stage of the competition. On top of this, they have also won the Superjomi Tojikiston by beating Ravshan Kulob 2-0 in the showpiece final and have also triumphed in the TFF Cup. As I mentioned earlier in the blog, Istikol beat FC Khatlon 1-0 in this year’s final.

Although Istikol did not make it past the first knockout rounds of the 2021 AFC Champions League, they still did however record a memorable 4-1 victory in the group stage against the eventual champions of the competition, Al Hilal SFC from Saudi Arabia.

In my opinion, this was a very important moment for football in Tajikistan and shows what huge potential the game has in the country.

The links for the Tajikistan Football Federation official social media channels can be found below:

So that completes the look at the Tajikistan national team and its domestic league. If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at the94thmin@gmail.com, or send a message to the author @Gareth19801, or to the editor @The94thMin on Twitter.

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