It is three months since FK Aktobe claimed the Kazakh Premier League title in the most dramatic of circumstances, beating FC Tobol Kostanay on penalties in a play-off after the sides had finished level at the summit. After such a frenetic finale and with a few weeks to go before the 2009 edition kicks off, uefa.com takes a step back and examines the story behind the names of the division's sides.
Club football in Kazakhstan dates back to 1913 when revered Kazakh writer and scientist Mukhtar Auezov was one of the founding members of FK Yarysh Semipalatinsk. Other clubs sprung up, usually with the same generic names used throughout eastern Europe: Lastochka (Swallow), Yastreb (Hawk) and then later Dinamo and Torpedo. It was only when Kazakhstan regained independence in 1991 that more idiosyncratic names began to appear.
Of the 14 clubs that will line up for the new Premier League season only three simply bear the names of their home cities: Aktobe, FC Taraz and FK Atyrau. FC Tobol Kostanay and FC Irtysh Pavlodar take their monikers from nearby rivers, the Tobol and Irtysh, while FC Zhetysu Taldykorgan refers to the 'seven rivers' (Zhetysu) that flow near to the city of Taldykorgan.
FC Kaisar Kyzylorda equalled their best ever Premier League finish last year, picking off opponents in a manner that befits their nickname, the Wolves. Yet despite the moniker, the club logo is no longer adorned by an image of the fearsome canine but by the saiga antelope. "In 2004 we were relegated," explained Kaisar press officer Alibek Baishulenov. "We wanted to leave our old problems behind and so we changed our logo. The saiga is a cute animal that runs very fast."
In the past the club were known as Avtomobilist (Mechanic) and Meliorator (Land reclamation expert) so fans may find that Kaisar, which translates as fearless or brave, slides easier off the tongue. Yet the Soviet tradition of naming clubs after respected professions lives on through FC Shakhtyor (Miner) Karagandy and FC Ordabasy (Army commander) Shymkent. FC Vostok translates simply as FC East and FC Kazakhmys Satpayev bears the name of their sponsor.
The origins of FC Okzhetpes Kokshetau is more interesting. It takes its name from a cliff, the Okzhetpes, which itself means 'an arrow won't reach'. "It comes from an old legend," explained the side's fan club president, Viktor Kruk. "[Eighteenth century] Kazakh ruler Ablai Khan could not decide which of his warriors to give a captive girl to and so allowed her to choose a husband for herself. She climbed to the top of the highest cliff and said she would marry whoever hit her shawl with an arrow. Nobody managed it." The club are yet to hit the heights either, never finishing higher than ninth in the league.
Aside from FC Lokomotiv Astana, created by the merger of FC Megasport and FC Alma-Ata, the newest name in the division belongs to FC Kyzylzhar Petropavlovsk. Formerly FC Yesil Bogatyr Petropavlovsk, they now take their name from the nearby region of Kyzylzhar, which means 'Red ravine', and it was not long before their fans had nicknamed the side the 'Red Terror'. "We have never been accused of terrorism before," joked club president Alexandr Menshikh. "But it would be good to start terrorising our opponents next season."
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