Last night the small Moldovan state of Transnistria would have been full of jubilations and fireworks since their football club, Sheriff Tiraspol created history by winning their first-ever Champions League game against Shakhtar Donetsk. FootTheBall brings you the history, their chances in the Champions League and the wholesome journey of Sheriff Tiraspol from Moldova to competing and winning amongst Europe’s finest.
A CLUB WITH NO COUNTRY
Although Sheriff Tiraspol plays in the Moldovan National League, they don’t officially lie in Moldova. Transnistria is a breakaway state of the Soviet Union in the middle of Moldova and the Ukrainian border which gained its independence in the year 1990. Since the United Nations doesn’t officially recognise Transnistria as a separate country, they are internationally considered to be a part of Moldova.
The club’s name is based on the company that owns it. Sheriff is the second largest company in Transnistria and is owned by Viktor Gushan and Ilya Kazmaly, former members of the special service. They own a chain of petrol stations, supermarkets and have a massive influence in the country’s politics and economy. They also have their very own TV channel and are the elites of their locality. The rich owners recent;y built a stadium for the club that costs around 200 million dollars and also has a 5-star hotel being constructed.
Although Sheriff Tiraspol might seem like a small underdog club for us commoners, they are a big deal in their home country. The club was founded in 1997 and they quickly established their dominance in Moldova. They started their title-winning spree in 2001 by winning the league and since then, they have won the title 19 times so far. They missed out on the title in the 2010/11 seasons but since then, they have won every single one of them.
QUALIFICATION TO THE UCL GROUP STAGE
Despite being dominant in their domestic league, Tiraspol haven’t made much impact in Europe. They have taken part in the qualifying stages of the Champions League many times now but have failed to complete their voyage time and time again. They have been part of the Europa League’s group stage 4 times by now and have never made it to the knockout rounds. In 2011, they came teasingly close to book a place in the Champions League group stage.
But in 2021, they defied all odds and for the first time in Moldova’s history, a club from their league qualified for the Champions League. They defeated Albanian champions Tueta in the first qualifying round and coasted through to the 2nd and 3rd round against Alashkert and Crvena Zvezda respectively.
History is made! 🇲🇩
Sheriff Tiraspol become the first Moldovan side to EVER qualify for the Champions League group stage! 👏#UCL pic.twitter.com/JxkJtOKYOH
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) August 25, 2021
Tiraspol were set to face Dinamo Zagreb in the play-off round and a win over the 2 legs would confirm them a spot in the Champions League. They had fallen before at this stage against Basel in 2010 but there is no way they were going down again that easily.
The Croatian giants have already played in the competition 4 times in their history and were the favourites leading up to the game. Sheriff Tiraspol beat them 3-0 at home in the first leg and followed with a 0-0 draw away from home.
AN EXCITING PROSPECT
Sheriff Tiraspol have Real Madrid and Inter Milan along with Shakhtar Donetsk in their group. They have a challenging few weeks ahead of them but their opening 2-0 win would surely give them enough momentum to push through for a spot in the knockout rounds. Although they couldn’t dominate the game, Tiraslpol had more shots on target which means they can be clinical on the counter.
They have recently strengthened their squad by bringing exciting new players to fill their weaknesses. Every team needs a solid man between the sticks and Tiraspol have done a good job by signing Georgios Athanasiadis from Athens on loan and they have added many players in their ranks to increase their squad depth, now that they will be compelled to play more games. Momo Yansane scored a goal for them last night who is also brought in this summer from Black Stars FC. Their young and talented left-winger, Adama Traore is also on top of his game and can lead this team to great heights.
Qualifying for the Round of 16 might be a task too big for them to chew but they shouldn’t give up as well. We have seen big clubs bottle in the group stages many times in the Champions League and the same thing could happen to Real Madrid and Inter. It would be a huge achievement to finish 3rd in the group for Tiraspol and could also qualify for the Europa League knockout stages for the first time. The club and the players shouldn’t think too much about their future as of now and can just enjoy their Champions League run while it lasts.