Having signed UEFA Champions League winner Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, FC Kairat Almaty are hoping to go far – first they must finish off FK Crvena zvezda.
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Not only were FC Kairat Almaty the only one of Kazakhstan's three UEFA Europa League first qualifying round contenders to register a win last week, they prevailed in a style suggesting they could make plenty of waves in this season's competition.
Gerard Gohou and Yermek Kuantayev scored as the Kazakh Cup holders registered a 2-0 first-leg victory in Serbia against an FK Crvena Zvezda side hindered by the third-minute dismissal of Savo Pavićević. UEFA.com profiles the club who have made their intent clear with the high-profile signing of Anatoliy Tymoshchuk.
Kairat the Kazakh force
Kairat were Kazakhstan's only representatives in the old Soviet Top League, their best result coming in 1986 when they finished seventh. They claimed the country's first post-independence title in 1992, but just one further championship has come their way since, in 2004 – FC Irtysh Pavlodar and FC Aktobe have each won the division on five occasions in that time. Kairat do, however, have a record six national cups to their name.
Weiss's winning formula
Best known for leading Slovakia into the knockout stages of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Vladimír Weiss is not without repute when it comes to European club football. He led FC Artmedia Bratislava into the UEFA Champions League group stage in 2005/06, coincidentally guiding the Slovakian team past Kairat – in their only competition appearance – in qualifying.
Having taken charge in 2012, Weiss has implemented an attacking style that has led to some spectacular results, including a 7-1 thrashing of Aktobe and 6-1 defeat of rivals FC Shakhter Karagandy in 2014.
Captain Bauyrzhan Islamkhan, Ivorian forward Gohou, Brazilian winger Isael and Serbian defender Žarko Marković are Kairat's main men. Widely regarded as Kazakhstan's most promising player, 22-year-old Islamkhan has quickly become a crowd favourite, while Gohou has been deadly at domestic level in 2015, scoring 18 goals in as many games.
Statement of intent
Kairat showed that they are serious about going far in Europe when they brought Tymoshchuk in. A European Cup winner with FC Bayern München in 2013, the Ukrainian international is the first man to have lifted 'Ol Big Ears' to join a Kazakh club. A replacement for the influential Samat Smakov, who departed at the end of last season, the 36-year-old possesses the requisite experience to help Kairat into the group stage.
The future's bright
Kairat are the only team in Kazakhstan with their own academy, which opened in 2013. A former youth coach at Feyenoord and FC Shakhtar Donetsk, Dutchman Patrick van Leeuwen was recruited as sporting director to oversee the development of youngsters which the club hope will lead to an era of domestic dominance and more notable results like the one achieved in Belgrade.