Gocha Jorjoliani – The Only Georgian footballer The Champion of China

Gocha Jorjoliani – The Only Georgian footballer The Champion of China

The football in China has been developing rapidly in recent years, the eminent European football players have played in China clubs. The revival of football in such giant country is considered to be the 1990s, when the first dozens of legionnaires from different countries appeared in China. One of them was the famous Georgian football goalkeeper Gocha Jorjoliani. He had pinned in history as the first and only Georgian footballer - The Champion of China.

- Gocha! Why did you decide to become a goalkeeper, usually children are aspiring to play in the attack?

-I was born in Sokhumi (an antique Black Sea town of Georgia) on September 27th, 1965.  I dreamed of playing in the attack as mostly children as, especially my height was permitted me to play in it. But a short distance away from my house in Sokhumi  the guys older me on two or three years  played football and they called me to the team in case of goalkeeper. I liked playing with the older guys, and it was an honor to play with older adults (laughs). I had 11 years old when I was taken to the football section, later to the children's youth sports school in Sokhumi and at the age of 17 I was attended into the Sokhumi “Dinamo”, which played in the second league of the USSR championship. I commonly played in friendly matches as a young goalkeeper , sometimes in official matches too. The main goalkeeper was an experienced player Gurgen Benidze. At the beginning of 1985 (in my19 years old) I ended up on the SKA team in Rostov-on-Don.

- SKA was playing at the USSR Premier League in 1985;  the famous players, including USSR national team players, played on the team, it’s so success for 19 old teenager.

-Yes, among the players I will mark the USSR national team striker Sergey Andreev and experienced Alexander Vorobyov, Alexander Tarkhanov, Armen Sarkissian, also the goalkeepers Alexander Balakhnin and Hasan Bidzhiev, as well as the midfielder Marat Kabaev, who played for SKA in 1986. As a goalkeeper of the main squad of SKA in 1985-1987 I held several official and friendly games, but I had been commonly playing for the backup team (in 1985 SKA played in the prime league, in 1986-87 in the first league). In early 1988 I back to Sokhumi  “Dinamo” and with Gurgen Benidze became one of the two goalkeepers of the main team of the hometown. In 1988 the Sokhumi “Dinamo” was one of the leaders of its group the second league of the USSR and by the end of the 1989 season it won first place in the group, next won transitional matches and reached the right to play in the first league of the USSR. Since March 1990, I played for “Tskhumi” Sokhumi one of the best teams in the independent championship of Georgia, becoming a twice finalist of the Cup of the country (1990, 1992) and a silver medalist of 1992. Since the fall of 1993, I played for the club “Temp” Shepetovka the prime league of Ukraine  where I played for more than one year.

- You were in St. Petersburg, a few later in China — how did you get to China?

- At the beginning of 1995 I was playing  for “Smena-Saturn” St. Petersburg  the first league of Russia, several experienced “Zenit” players played for it, I played for the main squad. Once we were preparing for the championship of Russia, the representatives of FC “Shanghai Shenhua”, one of the best teams of China arrived in St. Petersburg. They wanted to select and invite experienced football players from St. Petersburg. The management of “Smena-Saturn” decided to send me and two more players  who had experinced for “Shanghai Shenhua” in 1994,  they were  Alexander Zakharikov and Vladimir Nakhratov to China. It was marvelious decision which brought me The Championhood of China.  In 1995 our team became the champion of China, I was in the club’s main team all season, I won the gold medal of the Chinese championship and I was recognized as the best goalkeeper of China. According to the results of the 1995 season, I was invited to the national team of clubs of southern China, which played a match against the national team of the north China, it was a match of the "Stars" of the Chinese championship. I played for “Shanghai Shenhua” for two years 1995 and 1996.

- Had it been hard to get used to China, to the traditions and realities of the country?

- I knew a lot about China, I used to read and hear a lot about this ancient country. I was not alone in Shanghai, with me were my wife Nato Kokaia and the five-year-old son Temur (he tragically died in Tbilisi in 2003 –author marks). We lived in a three-room apartment rented by the club rented especially for foreign players. Both the fans and the teammates were very warm to me. The Chinese are very hospitable people. Chinese television paid much attention to the events in the former republics of the Soviet Union, including Georgia: on Fridays they showed a two-hour football review, which often included fragments of matches involving club and national teams of the CIS countries  including Georgia.

In 1996 there were three football players from France played for our club – the semi-deffender Christian Perez - the player of the Franch national team, Clement Garcia - the forward  and Jose Bray - the defender  as well as St. Petersburgian Vladislav Baskov and I. During the period of my performance in “Shanghai Shenhua”  the captain and scorer at the club was an experienced midfielder Fan Zhiyi, who was playing for the Chinese national team at the World Cup 2002, as well as played in English “Crystal Palace” (1998-2000) and Scottish “Dundee” (2001-2002). I'd like to underline the brilliance job of outstanding trainer Xu Genbao - he was head coach "Shanghai Shenhua" while i was playing for this FC (1995-96). He was not only top quality coach but also excellent person and teacher and I called him as A Father.

- Did FC “Milan” come to Shanghai and meet with your club In 1996? 

- “Milan” was almost its strongest but with the strong support of the audience we were able to provide him with decent resistance. I played all 90 minutes  and the Italians scored the only goal in the second half of the game.

-Your team played in the Asian Champions Cup in 1996 is not it?

- In the first round we beat “Hong Kong”: 7: 1 - at home and 2: 1 - away. The draw brought us together with the South Korean team “Ilhwa” which had won the Asian Champions Cup, the Asian Super Cup and the Intercontinental Cup (which are contested by clubs - the champions of Asia and Africa) in the previous season. The first away match we ended with a score – 0:0. The second one home game  “Shanghai Shenhua” held in the attacks but unfortunately on the 87th minute we missed the goal and dropped out of the Asian Champions Cup. I played at the club “Guangzhou” 1997. In the same year I returned to Georgia because of serious injuries in China. Later I was invited to the “Chkalovets” Novosibirsk (the second league, Russia) 1998, held several games there, football players and coaches warmly welcomed me but there had appeared the club's financial troubles and I decided to back home to Georgia,Tbilisi. Since 2002 I have been engaged in coaching in Georgia, last three years I am a coach the “Algeti” Marneuli (40 km from Tbilisi), live with my loved wife and younger son 16 year-old Luka in Tbilisi. Taking this opportunity, I want to convey greetings to the players and coaches with whom I performed together at “Shanghai Shenhua”, as well as special greetings to the fans. I follow the performance of the team and wish her good luck.

On the photos: G. Jorjoliani in China 1995-1996

Tengiz Pachkoria, AIPS Member
The vice-president of Georgian sports journalists Association