Kazakhstan Football Federation (FSK) general secretary Sayan Khamitzhanov told uefa.com he believes the country's national side is moving forward despite a poor start to their 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign.
The team is currently in the hands of the country's Under-21 coach Bernd Storck, who replaced Arno Pijpers after the Dutchman had overseen just a single win - a 3-0 defeat of Andorra - from the country's opening three Group 6 qualifiers. Storck, who also coaches FC Alma-Ata in the Kazakh Premier League, was at the helm as Kazakhstan were beaten 5-1 by England at Wembley in October, but Khamitzhanov felt the roots of a brighter future were visible in the defeat. "It was a case when the score was not that important," he said. "I watched the match in London with English FA representatives. After the first half ended goalless, they were starting to get nervous. We liked Storck's approach very much."
While Khamitzhanov's praise indicates Storck has a good chance of making his move to the senior side permanent, the FSK chief insisted the German was just one of several options to replace Pijpers. "In recent times we saw that the team was not progressing any more under Pijpers," said Khamitzhanov, who had been impressed by the Dutchman's achievement of collecting ten points from 14 matches in UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifying. "All credit to him because he worked wonders in qualification, but then it seemed as if the team had reached its limit and stopped improving. And we think that if we are not moving forward, then we are moving backwards."
The domestic season was dominated by Vladimir Mukhanov's FK Aktobe, who completed a league and cup double as well as adding the Kazakhstan Supercup to their trophy cabinet. Despite admitting he was disappointed at Aktobe's first qualifying round exit from the UEFA Champions League, Khamitzhanov was delighted by the side's achievements. "Vladmir Mukhanov is the top candidate for the Coach of the Year title, despite Aktobe spoiling their season with a failure in the Champions League," he said. "I would also like to point out the good work of Oyrat Saduov at Irtysh Pavlodar and Vladimir Nikitenko from Kaisar Kyzylorda, who managed to rival Aktobe and Tobol Kostanay despite their modest financial resources."
Khamitzhanov was also pleased the FSK had reduced the role played by outside influences in the domestic game, and that referees, coaches and players were all agreed that officiating mistakes were on the decline. "We had [former head of the Russian Football Referees' Panel] Nikolai Levnikov monitoring our referees. He managed to get things into shape, and we had a perfectly fair league this season," said Khamitzhanov. "I am proud of what we have done. We proved we are not going to let anybody decide football matters with non-footballing methods."
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