The global credit crunch has forced companies worldwide to re-evaluate, take stock and consolidate and Kazakh football is certainly not immune, with Almaty sides FC Megasport and FC Alma-Ata deciding to merge to create FC Lokomotiv Astana.
Finance has become a central issue in the Kazakh Premier League with many teams in debt, and the worldwide economic crisis has simply exacerbated those problems. Difficult times call for ingenuity and Megasport, fifth in the 16-strong table last term, have decided that two heads are better than one, putting their lot in with the side that finished three places below them, Alma-Ata. The new club will be known as FC Lokomotiv Astana, a nod to their sponsors, Kazakhstan Railways. It could be a positive omen as the company started a three-year sponsorship of FC Kairat Almaty in 2003 and, 12 months later, the club were celebrating their first title in 13 years.
Indeed, as Lokomotiv eases away from its platform they are displaying ambition, with Vahid Masudov arriving from Kairat to take charge of a squad drawing the best players from the disbanded teams and a few from his ex-employers. Former Megasport coach Vladimir Gulyamkhaidarov will stay on as a consultant, though Alma-Ata's Bernd Storck has moved on. Where Lokomotiv will play is still to be determined. As part of their sponsorship deal they will now be based in Astana, though they may initially have to play home games in Almaty, 1,000km away. "Our stadium problems are still unresolved," explained Kenetayev. "The construction of a new arena in Astana is ongoing."
The lack of a home has not deterred some of Kazakhstan's top players attending trials recently, including FC Shakhtyor Karagandy pair Murat Suyumagambetov and Kairat Ashirbekov, and Maksat Bayzhanov, Roman Nesterenko and Roman Pakholiuk from FC Kaisar Kyzylorda. "I would love to bring in the best players from the Kazakh league, but they have other offers to consider. In any case, I'm sure we can build a complete team," said Masudov.
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