Tarkhnishvili aiming high with Sheriff

Captain Vaja Tarkhnishvili will lead FC Sheriff into UEFA Champions League qualifying for the ninth straight season this week as the Moldovan titleholders aim for uncharted territory in the competition.

Vaja Tarkhnishvili with the 2009 Moldovan Cup
Vaja Tarkhnishvili with the 2009 Moldovan Cup ©FC Sheriff

FC Sheriff captain Vaja Tarkhnishvili will lead his side into UEFA Champions League qualification for the ninth time in a row as the nine-time Moldovan titleholders visit FC International Turku in the second qualifying round on Wednesday.

Double success
The 37-year-old Sheriff stalwart has had a hand in all the club's recent successes from their first Moldovan Cup victory ten years ago to the domestic double last season. Sheriff fans are used to seeing Tarkhnishvili, voted best player in the history of the club, lifting trophies and the Georgian is keen to give them some more reasons to celebrate in the future. "For several years in a row I have wished to end my playing career," he said. "But every time I imagine myself doing that I cannot understand what I am going to do without football. And every time I extend my contract for another year."

Georgian in Tiraspol
Having moved from FC Lokomotivi Tbilisi in 1999, Tarkhnishvili is now at home in Tiraspol. He rarely visits his homeland and is keen to continue working at the club when he finally hangs up his boots. A diminutive, no-nonsense defender with great vision, Tarkhnishvili is capable of leading his colleagues in hard times and has featured in almost 500 competitive fixtures for Sheriff. He has overseen the coming of age of many former Sheriff players, including PFC CSKA Moskva's Chidi Odiah, FC Moskva's Alexandru Epureanu and FC Lokomotiv Moskva's Răzvan Cociş, all of whom who might remember him as one of their mentors.

European failure
Tarkhnishvili is now the most decorated player in Moldovan football having won nine league titles, six Moldova Cups, four Super Cups and two Commonwealth Cups with Sheriff. However, despite all those domestic trophies the Tiraspol side have failed to progress past the second qualifying round in the UEFA Champions League and that is what the captain is dreaming about. "Together with the rest of the team I am getting myself ready for the new season with all responsibility and full commitment," he said. "Our first goal is the UEFA Champions League and then the marathon in the league. I am determined to play until the very end. Time will dictate what happens after that."

'Serious side'
Tarkhnishvili has much respect for their first European opponents this season, though. "They do not have as much silverware as we do, so that is 1-0 for us, but only the game will tell us how this battle will go," he said ahead of the second qualifying round first leg, with the home return on 21 July. "I do not think we can say we are better just because Finland is not a football powerhouse. Nowadays everyone can play football and cause surprises. Inter are a serious side but we will do our best to make our fans happy."