Lasha Chkaidze came to Finland two years ago, after a lengthy career including international caps and over 200 games in the Georgian top flight. He’s been something of a phenomenon in Kajaani, lighting up matches in Kolmonen with his class and composure, so I got in touch to see how he’s enjoyed his time in Finland.
Your career in Finland has been a little bit stop-start so far, and it’s surprised a few people that you started playing so far down the pyramid. Could you tell us a bit about your career in Georgia?
I started training seriously rather late, at around 13 or 14. My first contract was with TSU, Tblisi State University, and after a while I moved to Dinamo and then Locomotiv Tblisi, before I got a transfer to Arsenal Kiev in Ukraine. Unfortunately I got a leg injury and was out for about eight months, and really lost my focus and was thinking about quitting football. My Dad wanted to help though, and with his help I began training and I moved to the new club Mtskheta. That year we won promotion to the highest division in Georgia.
I was playing well, and moved back to my old club Locomotive Tblisi. Everything was going well, I was really enjoying my football, but for some reason things turned bad after a couple of years. In the winter holidays I went to Latvia, for a trial with FC Ventspils, I played one friendly game against Flora Tallinn. I don’t know what happened really (I think an agent made some problems), but I went back home.
Because of my trip to Latvia I had problems with “Locomotive” bosses and I changed my club. I signed a contract with Sioni Bolnisi, Then I got married and my new coach at Bolnisi put me on the bench. As I heard later, his stupid reason was that “a “newly married player” can’t play with 100% commitment.
Then I changed clubs a lot but I couldn’t settle, it seemed that suddenly everybody had forgotten about my calibre as footballer. It should be noted, that football for me is still the only way to earn money for my family. I was close to ending my career when I met with my old friend Giorgi Nikuradze. We had played together for many years in youth teams before he moved to Finland. He had good contacts with Finnish football people. He took my video and CV to Tornio and TP-47 sent me an invitation.
And how did you end up in Kajaani?
For my first few games in Finland I played at a winter tournament in Tampere. TP-47’s management suggested I played for Kemi Kings, who were happy with my performances. After the tournament we went back to Tornio and I played my first friendly game in Sweden against Boden, where I scored the first goal and we won 2-1. After I played some other friendly games I signed a one year contract with TP-47. Then suddenly they changed their minds and sent me to Kajaanin Haka.
I heard many things, but I don’t know what the real reason was. I’m sure it was the coach’s decision, he had some of his own players for my position in central midfield (EDIT – this was confirmed by TP-47 manager Kari Vaalto when HT contacted him). But anyway I found my city, where I have many friends and fans, and I moved from Kajaanin Haka to AC Kajaani for the 2008 season .
Did the move to Haka’s local rivals cause any antagonism?
Some people said that I should have stayed at Haka, but I got much better conditions for life at AC and I made this decision first of all for my family. But this transfer didn’t cause me any problems, I still have many friends at Haka. I have one more season contracted to AC, and we hope that we can get promotion to the second division. We have new coaches now and they, with the club’s directors have really good plans for the next year.
You seem to have had a raw deal from agents when you’ve been looking for a new club.
Without a good agent it’s very hard to find a normal club in modern football. When I was a teenager there were no agents in Georgia, just some foreigners who were working with the main national team players. Then some agents appeared, who were working with young players, but I was 25-27 , so as I heard I was already too old!
I never met the agent who would tell me the truth and really wanted to help me. Those I met were trying to earn big money and thinking only for their pockets, so after some “deceivers” I didn’t trust anybody. But I still hope that I’ll get one more chance in my football life.
You have a strong footballing background. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood?
I was born in a small city called Lanchkhuti, which is on the Black Sea coast. My father, Teimuraz Chkhaidze, was a famous footballer in the old Soviet Union. He was captain of USSR Under 18s, he played for Dinamo Tbilisi and for 12 years he was captain of Lanchkhuti’s club, Guria. He played a big role for a small club when they won promotion into the highest division of the Soviet Union in 1987 and 1989. It was amazing-this small town was playing with the best clubs of 15 republics of the old Soviet Union.
Caucasian players have a reputation as tricky dribblers, and you are a skilful creative player yourself. Do you think this is the coaching, the environment, or something innate to people from that part of the world?
I don’t know about other Caucasian countries, but in Soviet times Georgian footballers were known as the “Soviet Brazilians”. We don’t have any special style of training, so it could be that the main reason is our mentality. We are similar to the Spanish, Italian, Brazilian, Argentinian and those kinds of “hot” people.
Maybe one reason for me personally is Diego Maradona, who was my childhood hero. In my football career, as Diego wasn’t playing any more by the time I started playing properly, my favourite player was Zinedin Zidane. His style of playing is similar to mine and I have heard from the AC fans that I am their “Zizou”.
One more thing. We always have a lot of talented young players, but for some reason – possibly our mentality, or poor football infrastructure – they are often “lost” during their teenage years. So our football bosses have to work a lot harder, if we want to keep our name in world football.
There are a lot of famous players from Georgia, players who have made it abroad. Do you ever try to help each other out to avoid the obstacles caused by poor infrastructure?
Players are not so powerful, but we talk to each other when we go back home. We usually have these street tournaments in the summer, when the big European leagues have a break. We have a lot of mini-stadia in Tbilisi’s streets and almost every evening we play “street soccer”. One good mini-stadium is near my house, and foreign-based and veteran players often play there.
When I was 18 years old me and my friends played against Shota Arveladze, Giorgi Kinkladze, Temur Ketsbaia and other famous players. The losing team had to buy Fanta for the winners, and we won! They were very surprised, and Shota Arveladze said to me that I HAVE to play big football.
Lastly, you were in Kajaani during the war in Georgia this year. How did you keep up with events?
I had daily contact with my family and friends. This war didn’t really get too close to Tbilisi, so my family was in a safe place. But many young people died in this Russian occupation of Georgian historical lands. Russian and Georgian people have very good memories of each other, I have many Russian friends.
But there are some politics on a governmental level, about who wants to take control of the Caucasus. Georgia is the link between Asia and Europe, so strategically it’s a very important place for everybody. Now everything is calmed down and we hope, that my country will keep our lands from “occupiers” once and for all!
Filed under: Football in Finland archive, Kolmonen | Tagged: AC Kajaani, Bad agents, Dinamo Tblisi, FC Ventspils, Georgia, Georgian war, Giorgi Kinkladze, Giorgi Nikuradze, KajHa, Kari Vaalto, Lasha Chkaidze, Latvia, Locomotive Tblisi, Luiz Antonio, Shota Arveladze, South Ossetia, TP-47 |