Leading 2-0 at the halfway stage of their UEFA Champions League play-off against Celtic FC, FC Shakhter Karagandy are on the verge of becoming the first side from Kazakhstan to reach the group stage of the competition.
This kind of success is a relatively new experience for the Miners, who had never finished higher than third domestically before winning their maiden Kazakh Premier League title in 2011 – a feat they repeated one year later. Get through, and Kazakhstan would become the 32nd nation represented in the UEFA Champions League, five years after Belarus and Cyprus became the 30th and 31st.
Speaking ahead of the crucial return leg at Celtic Park, Shakhter coach Viktor Kumykov acknowledged that the club have made huge strides in recent years and paid tribute to the hard work of the players and staff in that time.
"We’ve been working for three years in order to achieve this success," he told UEFA.com. "This achievement is down to the good understanding between the players, as well as training and tactical discipline."
Kumykov also admitted that qualifying for the group stage would be a major coup – not just for the club but for the game in Kazakhstan. "It would be a fantastic achievement and would show that Kazakh football is developing in the right way. It would be a great success for the country to have a representative among the best clubs in Europe. This would stimulate progress in our game," he added.