Sheriff's year off to mixed start

Monthly review: Moldovan champions FC Sheriff made an early exit from the Commonwealth Cup in Moscow.

By Miron Goihman

As always, the end of the year in Moldovan football was a time for reflection and planning, with the domestic season in hiatus until well into March.

Sheriff signings
Most teams are now back in training, with reigning champions Sheriff FC having returned early to get ready for the Commonwealth Cup in Moscow against the title-holders from the other former Soviet states. Their preparations were boosted by the signing of promising African pair Samuel Yeboah and Sumaila Tassembedo.

Early exit
However, a 1-0 defeat by PFC Neftchi on Saturday ended their campaign as the Azerbaijani champions went on to beat Nebitci Balkanabat of Turkmenistan the following day to guarantee the quarter-final place on offer. Sheriff, trophy winnners in 2003, at least ended the tournament on a high with a 5-0 victory against Nebitci on Tuesday.

Annual awards
Nevertheless, Sheriff remain on course to defend their domestic title, standing ten points clear of FC Nistru Otaci at the halfway point, having won 13 of 14 games and drawn the other. Unsurprisingly, the leading pair dominated the player awards for 2004, with Sheriff goalkeeper Sebastian Hutan and forward Razvan Cocis named as the best in their positions, and Nistru defender Serghei Lascencov and midfielder Iulian Bursuc similarly honoured. FC Spartak Moskva's Serghei Covalciuc won the overall Player of the Year prize for the second year running ahead of FC Moskva's Radu Rebeja and PFC CSKA Moskva's Serguei Dadu.

U19 success
Meanwhile, the Moldovan Football Association (MFA) has been taking stock, with president Pavel Ciobanu expressing his pleasure at the national youth teams' performances this year - particularly reaching the Elite round of the 2004/05 UEFA European Under-19 Championship. However, the senior squad have fared less well, with one draw against Scotland and three defeats in their FIFA World Cup group.

Stadium plan
Ciobanu also announced that in order to solve the problem of the lack of modern stadiums in Moldova, the MFA plans to build a new venue in Chisinau. However, his own position is uncertain with elections on 6 Feburary,. "I will do my best to give Chisinau a new, quality stadium. If I fail to be re-elected, the MFA will finish the job," said Ciobanu.

Teslev plan
Taking on Ciobanu is former player Anatoliy Teslev. Having gone on to achieve success in coaching and administration, Teslev's programme includes a plan for the long-term development of Moldovan football.