Karate man, businessman, public figure, and philanthropist of sport and culture of Georgia and Latvia, Imedi Kokaia, will celebrate the double jubilee in July of this year - 50th anniversary of residency in Riga and 25th anniversary of practicing karate. His name is well known in sports, public and business circles of Latvia, and as a Veteran Karate man he is the winner and prize-winner of many international tournaments: Bronze Medalist 1997 World Shotokan Championship in England (up to 35 years), 1st Place on World Martial Arts Festival in Latvia, Riga 2002 (36-50 years -Blue and brown belts), 2nd place winner on European IKU Katare Championship 2015 Portugal (Senior and veterans +45) and WJKA European Championship Karate 2016 Ukraine (+50), the champion of European Karate Jitsu VI Baltic Olympiad of The Martial Arts 2017 (Veteran +50), silver and bronze medalist of European Cups 2018 and 2019 (51-60 years), double champion and multiple prizewinner of the championship of Latvia , the holder of the black belt in Shotokan Karate-Do, the owner of «Platinum Lifetime Contribution To The Martial Arts» (2017).
A personal acquaintance with Imedi occurred in 2016 in Tbilisi. Then Imedi admitted that along with karate, which has been practicing for many years, he loves football. It turns out that since childhood he dreamed of becoming a footballer, noting that even during his life in his native Ochamchire region he had spent hours on football pitches, recognizing that his idol was the legendary Georgian footballer Murtaz Khurtsilava, the captain of Tbilisi «Dinamo» and the USSR team, a vice-champion of Europe and Bronze medalist of Olympic games 1972, Small bronze medalist of World championship 1966. To the question “Do you personally know Murtaz Khurtsilava?” Imedi answered: “I watched the matches with his participation on television and at stadiums many times, but I never met”. On the second day I organized his meeting with Murtaz Khurtsilava, Vladimir Gutsaev, Revaz Dzodzuashvili, Levan Nodia, and Sergo Kutivadze, we visited the “Alley of Georgian Football Stars” located in the territory of the Mikheil Meskhi Stadium near to the Georgian Football Federation. It was a very touching, sincere meeting: there was a feeling that Imedi and these football veterans have known each other for many years, they did open the heart to each other.
In October 2018, the author of these lines and Georgian movie director Gogi Thoradze had been attended to the League of Nations football match Latvia-Georgia in Riga. I. Kokaia met another legendary Georgian footballer Aleksandre Chivadze, former captain of Tbilisi «Dinamo» and the USSR national team, at the Riga International Airport. Then I. Kokaia organized at the Riga airport an emotional and warm meeting of the Georgian football delegation and A.Chivadze together with representatives of the Georgian diaspora in Latvia on October 2018. Imedi Kokaia and the chairman of the board of the Latvian society of Georgians “Samshoblo”, the famous Georgian tennis player and coach Nugzar Mdzinarishvili, who lives in Riga since 1986, did organize a meeting of the Georgian diaspora in Latvia and representatives of national minorities of Latvia with Chivadze and same time the presentation G. Toradze’s film "Professor of Football" dedicated to the legendary captain. Considering his multilateral sporting and social activities, actively helping Georgian Diaspora in Latvia and promoting the development of the relationship between the two mentioned countries, I. Kokaia deserves to be known better.
- Mr. Imedi, did you dream of becoming a footballer in your childhood?
- I was born on October 6, 1948 in the village Akhaldaba, Ochamchire region (Georgia). My father Theodore (1907-1975), a participant and disabled person of the Second World War, an officer, was awarded military awards in battles against the Hitler Nazi troops, after the war, he had returned home he was elected a chairman of the Akhaldaba village council and worked as a physical trainer and a civil defense teacher in a rural school. My mother Eteri Janashia-Kokaia (1923-2003) worked at the Akhaldaba rural school. I have four brothers and one sister. My relatives and fellow villagers were very fond of sports, this was also transmitted to me. Since childhood, I have been involved in athletics, weightlifting and wrestling, loved to fend for myself and relatives, participated in children's and youth tournaments and won prizes, but especially I loved football. And it is no coincidence: in the 1960’s, «Dinamo» Tbilisi was one of the most technical teams in the USSR and Europe, which was then called the “Soviet Brazilians” and the team was adored by many. Every day I spent hours playing football with the village children, but there were many objective and subjective factors of that period that would not allow me to become a footballer. But what I got from football - sports excitement and the beauty of the game - helped me a lot in life, including karate, which I have been doing for more than 25 years. After a school graduating (1966) I was applying to the Kutaisi branch of the Georgian Polytechnic Institute, but I had narrowly failed to pass examinations, then it was time to serve in the army. My service took place in Belarus 1967-1969, being as a soldier I was involved in weightlifting and athletics, participated in army tournaments and won prizes. After serving the army I returned to Akhaldaba, began to prepare for admission to the university in Leningrad (renamed in old name St. Petersburg in 1991). But my neighbor Marlen Mikiani advised me to go to Riga, whereby that time he had finished the first year of the Riga Polytechnic Institute. His story about Riga and his arguments convinced me, so in 1970 I went to Latvia.
- You did study and stayed in Riga and there are entire 50 years of what you are living there.
- I graduated from the Riga Construction College in 1976 with a degree in industrial and civil engineering, then continued my studies in the same specialty at the Riga branch of the Leningrad (St. Petersburg) Institute of Railway Transport. I worked in building companies in Latvia from 1975 to 1990, a lot of industrial and residential facilities were built with my participation. I established the freight forwarding and customs brokerage company K.I.F. (after the first letters of my surname, name, and patronymic) in Riga 1991 and I am a timeless director of this company to this day. This company has been almost 30 years operating on the international market in the field of providing logistic services for all types of transport. The State Revenue Service of Latvia awarded company K.I.F. the Honorary Diploma, as the largest taxpayer in the small business group 2003 and the Latvian State Defense Fund “Lāčplēsis” awarded me the Badge of Honour (in bronze) for significant contributions to the economic development of Latvia and for active participation in the development of friendship with Georgia in 2016.
-You supported in organizing activities related to Georgia in Latvia.
- As far as possible, I support events related to the popularization of Georgian culture and art in Latvia. Since 2011, I have been a member of the board of Latvian society of Georgians “Samšoblo”, for the last 10 years chaired by a famous Georgian tennis player, coach and a participant of Wimbledon in the early 1960’s Nugzar Mdzinarishvili. About three months ago I was elected Chairman of the board of this society and I intend to continue supporting the development of cooperation between Latvia and Georgia in the fields of sports, culture, and education. These activities are carried out in cooperation with the Georgian Embassy in Latvia. As a businessman and philanthropist, I financed the organization of concerts of song and dance ensembles from Georgia, Georgian art exhibitions, and publication of books related to Georgia and cooperation with Latvia. I would like to express my gratitude to the Latvian authorities, representatives of the public, culture, and sports of this country for their support and assistance in organizing events designed to promote the popularization of Georgian culture and cooperation between the two countries.
-You have succeeded in sports and continue to participate in international tournaments.
- Actually, I can’t imagine my life without a sport – It’s great pleasure, it’s self-survive, it’s a grain of a happy and beautiful life. I began to practice karate in Latvia 25 years ago and still participate in local and international sports tournaments among the veterans including the European Championships and World Cup – about my achievements you've indicated in my profile. I am the holder of the black belt in Shotokan Karate-Do. In 2017, I was invited to the prestigious international event “Hall Of Honors”, held annually in Atlantic City and organized by the “Action Martial Arts Magazine”. For outstanding achievements and special contribution to the development of martial arts, I was awarded the “Platinum Lifetime Contribution the Martial Arts” award. This award means so much to me, it represents the recognition of many years of activity in karate.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude to my coaches in Latvia - Leonid Vasiliev, Alexander Dudoladov, Igor Sirotkin, and Valery Novakshenov. They gave me so much and without whose assistance, my success would not have been possible. I wish to mention my wife, Aelita Kiziria (we got married in Riga in 1971, she graduated from Latvian State University), my son Biktori (graduated from Riga Technical University, economist) and daughter Inga (graduated from Latvia Medical Academy- dermatologist) that they are understanding me that in my 71-year-old why I continue practicing sports and participating in competitions. My family understands the philosophy of my life.”
I would like to add as an author of this article that Imedi’s philosophy of life, his character traits were perfectly described by one of his coaches, the Technical Director of the Latvian Federation of Karate-Jitsu Igor Sirotkin. He writes: "I am so used to seeing Imedi Kokaia doing karate among others, that it seems to me that he was always there. Imedi began his journey in karate Shotokan at a fairly mature age. Many of his peers have completely forgotten what sports training is, but Imedi active life continued - after doing wrestling, boxing, weightlifting, football, he tried his hand at karate and did not hesitate to stand alongside with the beginners, wearing the beginner’s white belt. Year after year, stubbornly learning this ancient art, he has steadily progressed, successfully passing the certification exams and passing all the student steps marked with colored belts, until he successfully passed the black belt test! But Imedi did not stop there, he continued his sporting life, participating in national and international competitions, winning and becoming a prize-winner both in Kata (formal exercises) and in Kumite (free fights)! Every time he gets on the tatami does not leave fans indifferent - notwithstanding of the decision of the judges, they reward him with applause. That is not a surprise - in every fight, Imedi demonstrates respect for rivals, his will to win, excitement and excellent technique! In any competition, in any country, he finds many friends. It cannot be otherwise with a person with an open heart and pure thoughts. His contribution to the development of karate cannot be overestimated. Imedi convincingly shows how to understand karate and how karate affects to the development of the best human qualities and physical conditions. He became a talisman for Latvian karate people, our wise elder, whose advice was sought and valued”. These words of the coach need no further comment - they reveal the character and meaning of the life of I. Kokaia.
In conclusion, I as the author of these lines would like to point out that I. Kokaia actively helped the famous Georgian filmmaker Gogi Thoradze during the episode’s filming of "Spade" in Riga dedicated to the life and works of Admiral Theodore Spade (1891-1970) - The National Hero of Latvia, the Commander of the Latvian Navy in the late 1930s, who played a crucial role in the creation of a fleet of an independent Georgia in the late 1917 and early 1918. T. Spade was married to the Georgian Nadezhda Shvelidze, whom he met during his stay in Batumi.
This film is a co-production between Georgia and Latvia, the filming took place in Riga and Batumi in the first half of 2019. “The film was created with the financial support of the Ministries of Defense of Georgia and Latvia, with the assistance of the Latvian airline airBaltic and the Ambassador of Latvia to Georgia Ingrida Levrence. During the filming in Riga, Imedi Kokaia, one of the most prominent people of Georgian diaspora in Latvia, actively helped us in organizational and technical aspects”, - the filmmaker told the author of these lines. The presentation of the Georgian-language version of this film was held at the Cinema House in Tbilisi in October 2019. And the premiere of the Latvian-language version of the film will take place in Riga in the coming months with the participation of the representatives of the Ministries of Defense of Latvia and Georgia, cultural figures and members of the public of Latvia, members of the Georgian diaspora and Imedi Kokaia, who not only helped in organizing the filming in Riga, but also played a role in one of the important episodes of the film.
AIPS Member The Vice-President of Georgian sports journalists Association