Kairat on hard times in Kazakhstan

A turbulent season has left two-time Kazakh champions FC Kairat Almaty in danger of relegation from the Super League with just eight rounds left to play.

Two-time Kazakh champions FC Kairat Almaty are in danger of relegation from the Super League with just eight rounds left to play.

Relegation battle
Kairat, who currently occupy the final relegation place, trail FC Okzhetpes Kokshetau in 14th place by six points. This season's struggles represent a new challenge to the club, who lost their main sponsor, Kazakhstan Temir Zholy - Kazakhstan Railways - last year.

Wholesale departures
As a result of the loss of the financial backing which had made Kairat one of the country's richest clubs, many of the Almaty side's most influential players left. Kazakhstan international midfielder Andrei Karpovitch departed for FC Dinamo Moskva, Andrei Bogomolov and Alibek Bulashov joined FK Aktobe while Uzbekistan international midfielder Viktor Karpenko returned to his homeland. Serbian Goran Bošković, Bulgarian Petr Sopov, and Turkmenistan-born Gochkuli Gochkuliev and Ali Aliyev also left.

Slow start
In addition to these departures, the club also installed the inexperienced Sergei Klimov as new coach prior to the beginning of the 2007 season. However with reinforcements limited to recruits from Kairat feeder club FK Zheleznodorozhnik and financial troubles off the field, Kairat's sluggish start to the season came as no surprise.

The situation began to improve midway through the season as a new board headed by Askhat Akilbekov took over the club and handed former Kairat player and coach Vakhid Masudov the daunting task of keeping the 2004 Super League champions in the top-flight. Masudov strengthened his squad with a number of new players including Macedonian defender Vlado Danilov, and two Serbians - midfielder Nenad Begović and striker Vladimir Ribić - while Kairat were boosted further by the return to fitness of Kazakhstan international defender Igor Avdeev after a one-year injury absence.

Dwindling crowds
However Kairat remain in relegation danger, a situation reflected by the dwindling numbers on the terraces of the Tcentralniy Stadium, as the supporters anxiously wait to see if the five times domestic cup winners can retain their status in the top-flight.