South Ossetia prepares its team for Artsakh 2019
Bigger sides with more reputation and logistical backing will likely be able to sort everything out a lot earlier, but for the likes of South Ossetia, last-minute preparations are completely normal. With the announced changes to the 2019 CONIFA European Cup, there have also been some opponent alterations to get used to.
South Ossetia has already spoken about how they feel confident of their chances in the coming weeks, but after the competition was trimmed from 12 teams to eight because of various unforeseen issues, the goalposts have moved a little. There is no longer a group stage of just two games to play, as it is now two groups of four teams. This means entering the semi-finals straight from the group stages, which places more emphasis on everything from the first game.
Sergey Zasseev leads the South Ossetia side, using his background as the committee chair for youth policy, sports and tourism to try and use football as a way to create lasting positive change in the region and to enable facilities and infrastructure to be built to energize future generations.
Speaking of what he expects from his side when they touch down in Artsakh on 1 June, he said that “our team needs to show good, dynamic football in order for the fans to like the game”. If they can get the home support on their side when they are not playing the hosts, it will also boost their profile and show how seriously they are taking their improvement of the sport.
Zasseev also wanted to ensure that any team he puts out to compete in the 2019 CONIFA European Cup fits the profile of the region. On that basis, he said that “the core of the backbone consists of the players of the only adult football team that is in the republic”. It also meant extending a branch to other players with ties to the region, so “we invited players, our countrymen playing in the clubs of North Ossetia”.
Like many teams competing in CONIFA tournaments, they have struggled to keep players together regularly, because club sides do not always like their players travelling away for competitions that are not sanctioned by FIFA. While this is unlikely to change anytime soon, the more exposure they get, the better the chances.
Soslan Kochiev is the head coach of South Ossetia, and he said although there is a positive “microclimate” within the squad, they are currently struggling a bit because many of their key players are still competing in various Russian leagues.
This means they will not arrive until the end of the month, which poses problems of fatigue and disruption of squad harmony. However, Kochiev is confident they will be prepared in time to try and win the 2019 CONIFA European Cup.
Words: Jonah Farrell