Former FC Spartak Moskva coach Andrei Chernyshov has discovered early that being successful in Kazakh football is no easy task, having struggled in his first weeks at the helm of FC Akzhaiyk Uralsk.
Eight games into the season, the 42-year-old's side lie bottom of the table, with just a win and two draws to show for their efforts, though the coach thinks the statistics are hard on his side. He told UEFA.com: "I am not looking for excuses, but we had a very start to the season, playing against the toughest sides in Kazakhstan. We have already played the champions, the bronze medalists, the cup holders and the current league leaders, and we drew against FK Aktobe and FK Atyrau. We are building new team here and that can take some time."
Unbeaten in their last three home games, away form has been Akzhaiyk's big problem – they have lost all four of their games on their quite extensive travels from Oral, which is in the far northwest of Kazakhstan. "We have our fans behind us at home while every away game is preceded by a long journey.
I never imagined there were such huge distances involved in working in Kazakhstan. We usually have to get a charter flight to some big city near our destination and then go by bus the rest of the way. It really is a huge country!"
A former Russia Under-21 coach, the former defender won two titles as an FC Spartak Moskva player, and since hanging up his boots has coached in Georgia, Belarus and most recently Azerbaijan. "If we compare these leagues, Belarus has the best infrastructure; the clubs have modern training bases, good pitches. Georgian football has more skill, while the best wages are in Azerbaijan.
"Kazakhstani football is developing at the moment," added Chernyshov. "Players earn much more than in Belarus and Georgia, while clubs are constructing new stadiums. Here at Akzhaiyk we have two. At the moment we play at one with artificial turf, but we will move to another with natural grass soon. Kazakhstan is a wealthy country; nice cities, good roads, many new buildings."
There is also no shortage of decent football teams, as Chernyshov agreed: "I can single out FC Tobol Kostanay and FC Shakhtyor Karagandy; they are not top of the table by accident. I watch a lot of Kazakh clubs and they play at a good standard. I never expected to see so many good players here. It might be because of the poor media coverage, but now I know it is not easy to beat any Kazakh Premier League side."
Prior to Akzhaiyk's weekend victory against FC Ordbasy Shymkent, few gave Chernyshov much chance of keeping his job for long, but the coach feels the club are right behind him.
"The mood in the camp is not the best at the moment, but we haven't lost our hearts," he said. "I can see our team progress. Our young players get better from game to game. I won't disagree with those who regard us as outsiders, but we will see where we stand in the autumn."
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