FK Almaty have received a reprieve from relegation and a place in the new slimmed-down 16-team Kazakhstan championship for 2005.
Almaty, only promoted a year ago, lost 2-1 to ACSC Bolat Temirtau in a play-off in November, becoming one of four teams to lose top-flight status in the reduction of the division from 19 clubs. However, FC Ordabasy Shymkent and FC Yassy Sayram have now decided to merge, freeing up a berth to be filled by Almaty when the new season begins in spring.
With the domestic season over, the focus in Kazakhstan switched to the national team. On 17 November, Kazakhstan were defeated 3-1 away by European champions Greece, their fourth defeat in as many FIFA World Cup qualifiers. This is their first campaign as UEFA members - they played in the Asian qualifying tournament previously - and the most recent meeting of the Football Union of Kazakhstan (FSK) executive committee focused on this adjustment to European competition.
National coach Sergey Timofeyev reported: "I think that the biggest success is that we are getting used to the European stage. The players are not afraid of big names any more, they are playing against the best in the continent with courage and composure. In the match against Greece we had some dangerous attacks and could have scored more than one goal. We will pick up some points in the qualifying matches soon."
Meanwhile, the executive committee has decided to take over the running of the Kazakhstan championship and cup plus all other domestic tournaments, with the league under the direction of Kairat Adambekov. He has left his role as chairman of the FSK's technical committee to become director of the National Football League. The licensing of all clubs and coaches will be the priority, with a new independent board of referees founded to appoint officials to matches. A seminar for coaches has also been organised with the assistance of Czech UEFA instructor Zdenek Civek.
FSK president Rakhat Aliyev, finally, has ended the year with two awards. FIFA president Joseph S. Blatter handed Aliyev an order of special merit, and he was also named the person of the year in Kazakhstan for services to local football.
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