Anorthosis Famagusta FC coach Temur Ketsbaia is not only idolised by his club's fans but also by thousands of football lovers throughout Cyprus. Tonight, for his latest trick, he intends to complete a UEFA Cup second qualifying round victory against Romania's ambitious CFR 1907 Cluj.
In June, the 38-year-old Georgian striker ended his playing career and his club paid tribute with a well-attended testimonial at their Antonis Papadopoulos Stadium. The passionate Ketsbaia admitted he would miss playing, but having already tasted success as a coach was ready to take up management full time. "Of course I miss playing but what can you do?" Ketsbaia told uefa.com. "However, the joy of being on the pitch is usually eclipsed by the success you have as a coach so that keeps me going. I have been lucky in my career to be a successful player and win trophies and I am now hoping to also be successful as a coach and win more trophies with Anorthosis."
Cyprus, and specifically Anorthosis, have long been part of Ketsbaia's life. Making his breakthrough as a teenager with FC Dinamo Tbilisi, he moved to Anorthosis in 1992 and in two seasons averaged nearly a goal every two games. AEK Athens FC soon signed him and he tasted Greek Cup success in the Greek capital in 1995. His profile rose a notch in 1997 when he joined Newcastle United FC and there he became a cult hero with fans, especially on the day his frustration at being used as a substitute boiled over against Bolton Wanderers FC, when he set off on a bizarre goal celebration during which he threw most of his kit into the crowd and assaulted an advertising hoarding. Spells at Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and Dundee FC preceded a 2002 return to Anorthosis.
In January 2004 he was made player-manager, and Ketsbaia proved a success as a summer overhaul led to a league title in his first full season in charge. Even better, there was a famous defeat of Turkish side Trabzonspor in the subsequent UEFA Champions League second qualifying round, arguably the greatest ever Cypriot result in Europe. "That memory has to stand out above the rest although other fond memories of mine include the national titles and cups we have won in recent years," said Ketsbaia.
UEFA Cup run
The list of memories was added to last season when Anorthosis won their tenth Cypriot Cup, earning them a run in the UEFA Cup. After accounting for FK Vardar and then beating Cluj 3-1 in Romania a fortnight ago, Ketsbaia's side are now a short step away from tomorrow's first-round draw. That is just one tie from the group stage, but the coach remains cautious. "Although we have the advantage against Cluj, the tie is not over. And apart from that, we know that we will be playing against another difficult team from a superior league in the next round. It is therefore far too soon to be even be thinking about the group stage."
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