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Georgia Loses to Turkey in UEFA Euro Opening Match

Georgia lost 1-3 to Turkey in a dramatic match in Dortmund, Germany on June 18.

The national team still has two more tries to go before the playoffs, with Group F matches against Czechia on June 22 and Portugal on June 26. A first or second place finish in the group will guarantee a place in the playoffs.

Since the historic penalty shootout win over Greece on March 26, which secured the national team’s first-ever qualification for Euro 2024, the football-loving nation has been living in anticipation of the championship.

Thousands watched today’s match from specially set up venues and stadiums in the capital and the regions. Those who were previously indifferent to football have learned the basics and now shed heartfelt tears for today’s match. The most ardent fans traveled to Germany and supported the players from the stadium.

Politicians were no exception. A week before the match, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze and Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze, himself a former soccer player, met with the team in Düsseldorf, Germany, to wish them luck and express their support. Prior to the match, Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze posted a special video on Facebook, wishing the team luck. A similar video was posted by the leader of the opposition United National Movement, Tina Bokuchava. A supporting video collage was also made by the opposition Ahali. Giorgi Gakharia, leader of the opposition For Georgia party, attended the match in Dortmund. President Salome Zurabishvili herself attended the match.

As Georgia paved the way for Euro 2024, football became a factor in pre-election politics, with the ruling party in particular trying to take credit for the Georgian team’s qualification for the European Championship. Hours after the historic match, Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze and Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze, hoping to join the celebrating crowd, took to the stage to congratulate the people on the qualification. However they were met with boos. The day after Georgia’s historic triumph over Greece, government leaders, wearing special scarves in the colors of the Georgian flag in celebration, announced the decision to award orders of honor to 26 football players, coaches and the head of the Georgian Football Federation.

The sense of rare unity was short-lived though: just a week after the nation united in an uplifting celebration of qualifying for Euro-24, the ruling party reintroduced the Foreign Agents Law, sparking protests and divisions. As athletes began to criticize the government for both the introduction of the law and the violence against protesters, government loyalists in turn criticized them for publicly expressing their opinions on the issue.

In a move that was perceived by many as having political undertones, in mid-April Kartu Fund, founded and owned by GD patron and honorary chairman Bidzina Ivanishvili, vowed to award the national team GEL 30 million (about USD 10 472 000) if it advances out of the group stage at EURO 2024, and an additional GEL 30 million for each subsequent successful match.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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