The Football Union of Kazakhstan (FSK) – UEFA's newest member association – has been making its contribution to the campaign against racism in football by nurturing relations with the Nigeria Football Association (NFA).
Together against racism
The FSK and Nigerian FA recently organised two friendly games between youth teams from the two countries. The matches took place in Kazakhstan under the slogan 'Together against racism'. Kazakhstan was previously a member of the Asian Football Confederation. However, part of the country is in Europe, and following UEFA's approval, it became a new member of the European football family in April 2002.
"Nigeria is a special country to us, because they hosted the only world championship finals in which we have taken part so far – the FIFA World Youth Championship in 1999," said FSK vice-president Tlekbek Akpaev. "Now we are five years on, and we decided to invite Nigeria in support of our activities."
The trip to Kazakhstan was a perfect opportunity for the Nigerian coaches to test the players against different types of football schools. "This experience might be helpful. Here we should get some confidence for future battles," said an NFA spokesman
The first game pitted the Nigerian youngsters against the Almaty football academy squad. Goals from Yerlan Taukeev and Ivan Ignatenko gave the academy team a well-earned 2-0 win over the African side. The second match featured the Kazakhstan and Nigeria Under-19 squads. Despite an improved performance from the Nigerian youngsters, the Kazakhs secured a comfortable 3-1 win through goals from Abzal Zhumbayev, Maksim Teplukhin and Andrey Shabayev, Ihervome replying for the guests.
In September, the Kazakh Under-19 team will travel to Germany for friendly-match action against the team from the Mittelrhein regional association – reciprocating a visit made by a Mittelrhein youth team to Kazakhstan in summer 2003. In October, the squad starts its UEFA European Under-19 Championship qualifying campaign, when it will be competing in the same group as Italy, Portugal and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Looking for improvement
"Our goal is to emulate the success of the 1999 team and qualify for the finals," said skipper Zhumbayev. "For the time being, our clubs are struggling in the European competitions, so we must prove that teams from Kazakhstan can do better."
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