Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, a 21-year-old midfield player of the Georgian national team and Italian “Napoli”, recently has become the most popular and the most famous Georgian not only in our country and Italy but throughout Europe. His bright and technically brilliant game, easy, charming, and natural manner of communication bring joy to millions of football fans around the world, surprise specialists, and upsets opponents on the field. Thanks to Khvicha dozen of Italians and other European countries’ residents lately have learned about Georgia as a country of extraordinary talents, he has become an idol for more young people of Georgia and Italy, for adults as well who, in this difficult time for the Planet, cherish these unique positive moments in life. Khvicha’s popularity is growing daily, nevertheless, he and his family members remain as sincere and simple as they were known by many residents of our country, including the author of these lines. I have known Khvicha’s father, a famous football player Badri in the past, for almost 30 years. His father successfully played for several clubs in Georgia and Azerbaijan and became the champion of both countries.
The author of these lines had a conversation with 57 old Badri Kvaratskhelia, who lives in Tbilisi, and asked him about his career and his sons who followed in the footsteps of their father.
– Mr. Badri, I heard that you were fond of football from early childhood, imitating your father.
– I was born on February 15, 1965, and grew up in the village of Nakipu, Tsalenjikha region in western Georgia. In my childhood and youth almost all the boys in my country were fond of football, it was the golden period of “Dynamo” Tbilisi (1976-1982), the team that won the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1981. Neighbors gathered in our house in the village of Nakipu and watched “Dynamo” matches on TV together, tables were laid and everybody was very excited. I have been fond of football since childhood and the reason for this is not only the success of “Dynamo” but the fact that my father Mamiya Kvaratskhelia (1926-1998) was also a football player. My father played at the same time as Sasha Kvaratskhelia (1923-2004), a football player with the same family name, popular in the Tsalenjikha region, who later became one of the leaders of the local Football Club “Skuri” which played in the top league of the Georgian championship in 1970-1980 yrs.
By the way, my mother Duna (in her 92 years still lives in the village of Nakipu) is one of the football experts, she always supported my passion for football. There was a special atmosphere in my childhood, at first, I played for a rural team, from the age of 14 I played for the youth team “Skuri” Tsalenjikha, and at the age of 18 I played for the main team “Skuri” in the Georgian Premier League, playing as a forward. I was invited by stronger clubs of Georgia, but “Skuri” fought to keep their place in the Premier League and did not let the players leave the team. I was 22 years old, I was offended a little by this (he smiles), and even more, I quit football for a while. Then, from December 1986 to December 1988, I served in the army, when I got back, I began to play for “Skuri” again. In February 1990, the Georgian Football Federation announced the withdrawal of the republic’s teams from the USSR championship and the holding of a national independent championship, “Skuri” was in the first league of the championship – however, the major league was represented by those Georgian clubs that played in the highest, first and second leagues of the USSR.
– In 1990, in 33 games for “Skuri”, you scored 17 goals, on the spring championship of 1991 in 14 matches – 5 goals, on the championship of 1991-1992 in 28 games – 25 goals and were transferred to “Dynamo” Tbilisi.
– They say that I not only often scored in those years, but helped my teammates to bit the goal as well (laughs), apparently this attracted the attention of the head coach of “Dynamo” Tbilisi Revaz Dzodzuashvili (European vice-champion 1972, bronze medalist of the 1972 Olympics and participant in the 1970 World Cup). In the summer of 1992, I was invited to “Dynamo” by him, I played 18 matches in the championship of 1992-1993 for “Dynamo”, scored 5 goals, and became the champion of Georgia. Then the brothers Shota, Archil and Rezo Arveladze, Georgy Kinkladze, Murtaz Shelia, Gocha Jamarauli, Gela Inalishvili, and other talented football players played at “Dynamo”. A year later, I left “Dynamo”, played for Georgian clubs “Kakheti” Telavi and “Metalurgi” Rustavi for one season, and in early 1995 I ended up in “Spartak” Nalchik (the top league in Russia at that time), but “Spartak” and Rustavi ” Metalurgi” failed to agree on the transfer terms. I left “Metalurgi”, played for the Tbilisi club “ShSS Academy”, on my 30 years I thought about ending my career, but an experienced coach Temuri Makharadze invited me to the Tbilisi “Merani” (Georgian top league). Playing for “Merani” in the championship 1996-97 I scored 11 goals in 28 matches, in 1997 I played the “Intertoto Cup” against the Moscow “Torpedo”, the Austrian “Ried” and the Greek “Iraklis” – “Merani” reached the second place in the group after “Torpedo”.
– Then you played in the clubs of Azerbaijan, became the champion and the owner of the Cup of Azerbaijan.
– I spent the 1997-1998 season to the “Kapaz” Ganja club, scored 20 goals in 22 matches, becoming the scorer of the Azerbaijan championship and the country’s champion. “Kapaz” also won the Cup, in the final game I scored one goal. Then I played for “Shamkir” FC for five seasons – during this period I became the champion of Azerbaijan three times, twice the finalist of the Cup, once the scorer of the championship, and scored 51 goals for “Shamkir” in 110 matches. In Azerbaijan, I scored a hat-trick three times, I scored three goals in the Champions League qualifying round match against “Skonto” Riga, Latvia (2000).
– In the end, you were invited to the national team of Azerbaijan?
– In the 1980s, I played for the junior and youth national team of Georgia several times and I am proud of it. There was such a high competition for the Georgian national team in the 1990s that I did not hope to be invited there. An offer to play for the Azerbaijani national team I got in 1998, but I refrained, believing that it was too late to start at the age of 33. At the end of 1999, I was invited to the Azerbaijani national team again and I took a risk: I played two matches of the 2000 World Cup qualifying tournament (against Sweden and North Macedonia teams), as well as a friendly game with Georgia. At the end of my career, I continued to play for “Shamkir”, finishing playing at the age of 39.
– Returned to Georgia you became as a coach …
– Playing in Azerbaijan, I often came to Tbilisi because of just 180 km distance from “Shamkir” to the capital of Georgia. A year before moving to Azerbaijan, I got married In 1996, my wife Maka Lukava loves football, and she played a significant role in the fact that our children became interested in football. The eldest son 25-year-old Nika had played in children’s and youth clubs in Georgia, but at the age of 19 he quit football and focused on his studies. The middle son Khvicha was born on February 12, 2001, in Tbilisi, by the way, my youngest son 12 year- old Tornike, who also plays football in the capital of Georgia, was born in February as well… Yes, after finishing my football career, I returned to Tbilisi, became a coach, having received a license: in 2005-2007 worked as an assistant to the head coach of “Sioni” (Bolnisi), which is 2006 became the champion of Georgia, since the summer of 2008 I was an assistant to the head coach of “Standard” Baku, and from February to June 2009 – head coach of the same team. Then I worked in the club “Spartak” Tskhinvali (the highest league of Georgia), since 2012 – as assistant chief. coach of the Azerbaijani club “Gabala”, then I was the head coach of “Martvili” (then the highest league of Georgia), the Azerbaijani teams “Turan” and “Shamkir”, the Georgian clubs “Samtredia” and “Rustavi”. In 2019, because of my health condition (heart surgery), I stopped coaching.
– How it appears you are not only a father but also a coach for Khvicha?
– At first, I am Khvicha’s father, senior friend, and adviser, but not a coach. I sometimes gave him professional and everyday advice, but I did it gently, without imposing my considerations on him. Khvicha lives for football, football is not only a profession for him, it is his way of life. From the age of 6, he began to play in the children’s team of the Tbilisi Academy “Olympic”, founded by the former “Dynamo” Tbilisi goalkeeper Carlo Mchedlidze (his son Levan Mchedlidze played for ten years in Italian clubs-2008-10 “Palermo”, in 2010-19- “Empoli”). Then Khvicha played in the “Avaza” club, and since 2013 he played for five years at the Tbilisi “Dynamo” Academy – at the children’s and then the youth team, in 2017 my son in his 16 made his debut in the main team “Dynamo” Tbilisi in the Georgian championship. He played for the youth teams of Georgia (U-16, U-17, U-18, and U-19) and since 2020 for the Georgian national team. From April 2018 he played for “Metalurgi” Rustavi, and from the beginning of 2019 – for Moscow “Lokomotiv”, from July 2019 to March 2022 – for Kazan “Rubin”, from the end of March to June of this year for “Dynamo” Batumi-champion of Georgia 2021, and from July for “Napoli”. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the coaches, football players, and administration of “Napoli” for the warm welcome given to Khvicha. In Georgia, the “Napoli” team is well known, and as my son moved there, many residents of our country became fans of this Italian club.
By Tengiz Pachkoria
AIPS member, Honored journalist of Georgia
Photos from Kvaratskhelias’ family archive:
1. B. Kvaratskhelia, M. Lukava, sons Khvicha, Nika and Tornike 2010;
2. 10 year –old Khvicha, “Avaza” Tbilisi 2011;
3. B. Kvaratskhelia – The match “Shamkir”-“Skonto” 2000;
4. Khvicha and Tengiz Pachkoria 2021.