By Vladimir Bogachov
There have been two close-season coaching changes in Georgia in the last month while Levan Kobiashvili and Levan Melkadze were both honoured and there is a new Football Federation of Georgia (GFF) president.
FC WIT Georgia, who as defending league champions finished sixth in the ten-team top flight in 2004/05, have appointed Nestor Mumladze, a former FC Dinamo Tbilisi assistant, though he was unable to prevent their UEFA Intertoto Cup exit at the hands of Hungary's Lombard-Pápa TFC. Meanwhile Khvicha Kasrashvili, who has coached Dinamo's first (as caretaker) and reserve teams, has taken the helm at FC Sioni Bolnisi, who finished seventh.
Dinamo themselves have been paired with FC Levadia Tallinn in the UEFA Champions League first qualifying round, and visit Estonia on 12 July with the return a week later, the winners to play Brøndby IF. In the UEFA Cup first qualifying round, FC Lokomotiv Tbilisi play Armenia's FC Banants while FC Torpedo Kutaisi meet FC BATE Borisov of Bulgaria on 14 and 28 July.
FC Schalke 04 midfield player Kobiashvili has been named Georgia's player of the year. Kobiashvili, who also took the honour in 2000, finished ahead of 24-year-old FC Lokomotiv Moskva central defender Malkhaz Asatiani, while national captain Kakha Kaladze, who this week signed a new AC Milan contract, was third in the pool organised by leading sports newspaper Sarbiel.
Georgian Premier League top scorer Melkadze of Dinamo was recognised as the best player of 2004/05 in the Georgian league. He was followed by Lokomotivi goalkeeper Zviadi Sturua, while Dinamo midfield player David Odikadze finished third.
Meanwhile, 32-year-old Georgian international forward Shota Arveladze has returned to the Netherlands, signing a two-year contract with UEFA Cup semi-finalists AZ Alkmaar after moving on a free transfer having rejected a new deal with Rangers FC. Arveladze previously played for AFC Ajax between 1997 and 2001.
Following a GFF extraordinary congress in Tbilisi on 11 June, Nodar Akhalkatsi Jr has been appointed president until 2006, winning the votes of 25 out of 26 delegates. He takes over from Merab Jordania following the latter's arrest in April, after rivals Georgi Nemsadze, Revaz Arveladze and Vladimir Gutsaev all withdrew their candidatures. Akhalkatsi is the 28-year-old son of the former Soviet Union and Dinamo coach of the same name, who was himself the first post-Soviet FFG president.
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