Sport in Abkhazia

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Football is a major sport in Abkhazia (a territory in the Caucasus). During Soviet times the main club within Abkhazia itself was FC Dinamo Sukhumi, but Abkhazian footballers were prominent in the Georgian team FC Dinamo Tbilisi and in other Soviet teams. After Abkhazia declared itself independent from Georgia, in 1994 it organised a nine-team amateur league.

Outside football, many Abkhazian sportsmen participate in international competitions as Russian citizens, especially in boxing and freestyle wrestling. A basketball team based in the capital Sukhumi plays in a Russian league.


Football was the most popular sport in Abkhazia during Soviet times. The main club of the republic, FC Dinamo Sukhumi, played mostly in the lower leagues of Soviet football. However, Abkhazia produced several football talents who played in the top Georgian team FC Dinamo Tbilisi and in other Soviet teams. Natives of Abkhazia Vitaly Daraselia, Nikita (Mkrtych) Simonian, Avtandil Gogoberidze, Niyazbey Dzyapshipa, Giorgi Gavasheli, Temuri Ketsbaia and Akhrik Tsveiba were among the most prominent footballers of the Soviet Union.

Dinamo Sukhumi achieved their best result in 1991 finishing in 10th place in the first league (second tier of Soviet football).[1] They were the only Georgian team to participate in the Soviet football system in 1990–1991 as other Georgian teams left for political reasons before the 1990 season.[2] Several players of the 1990–1991 Dinamo Sukhumi squad including Sergei Ovchinnikov and the Adzhindzhal brothers played later for Russian teams and achieved varying degrees of success, as did Oleg Dolmatov, Dinamo's coach in 1990–1991.

After Abkhazia broke away from Georgia, it organised its own amateur Abkhazian football league in 1994 which is not part of any international football union. The league consists of 9 teams: Nart (Sukhumi), Gagra, Kiaraz (Pitsunda), Samurzakan (Gali), Afon (New Athos), Ertsakhu (Ochamchire), Kudry (Gulripsh) and Abazg-AGU (Sukhumi).[3] The Gagra football club was the 2006 champion.[4] The Abkhazian team will probably participate in the Amateur League of the Southern Federal District (fourth tier of Russian football pyramid).[5]

The Tbilisi-based FC Dinamo Sokhumi, composed chiefly of Georgian IDPs from Sukhumi, play in the Umaglesi Liga, the top division in Georgian football.

Since 2012 Abkhazia has been operating its own national football team and are members of the Confederation of Independent Football Associations. The team includes a number of professional footballers playing in countries such as Russia and Turkey. Many players have played for other national teams such as Feras Esmaeel who played for the Syrian national football team until 2016 and made 81 caps before playing for Abkhazia.

Other sports[edit]

The majority of Abkhazia's population have Russian citizenship so Abkhazian sportsmen participate in international competitions as Russian citizens. They had their biggest successes in boxing (2005 European Champion David Arshba;[6] 2006 Russian Championship prize-winner Aslan Akhba) and freestyle wrestling (2006 American Airlines Freestyle Wrestling Tournament winner Denis Tsargush[7]).

National Basketball Team of Abkhazia played its first game with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus Basketball team on 27 May 2015, which Abkhaz team won by 76–59. [8] Abkhaz basketball team "Apsny" also plays in the Russian Basketball League's Third-Tier in Krasnodar Krai.

See also[edit]