FC Sheriff Transnistria shocks Real Madrid in Champions League | Football news
FC Sheriff Tiraspol, a football club in a pro-Russian separatist enclave in Europe’s poorest country, Moldova, managed one of the biggest shocks in Champions League history by beating the Spanish giants Real Madrid.
“We came here to win,” Sheriff captain Frank Castaneda told AFP news agency after his side’s 2-1 victory at the Bernabeu stadium in Madrid.
The estimated value of the entire Sheriff’s squad is 12 million euros ($ 14 million), roughly the same as Madrid defender David Alaba’s annual salary.
“We didn’t just come here to sit down. We know how good our players are and luckily for us Madrid couldn’t take their chance – and we took ours, ”Castaneda said.
For Sheriff, it was just a second match in the Champions League group stage.
Real dominated but Sheriff scored two excellent goals and a third was disallowed for offside, and now has six out of six points.
Sébastien Thill, who tattooed himself dreaming of playing in the Champions League, smashed into the winner in the 89th minute.
“It’s the best and most important goal of my career for sure,” said Thill.
“The team were so brave with the way we played and luckily I was able to score a bit of a stunner.”
With all the speeches – now abandoned – of a European Super League escaped for the elite, the minnows of the Moldovan championship have rightly recalled the attraction of open competition.
The club is owned by a conglomerate, called Sheriff, which effectively runs the pro-Russian breakaway state of Transnistria, where the football club is based.
The little-known region of Transnistria, of which Tiraspol is the capital, split from Moldova in a short civil war in the early 1990s. Russian-backed forces waged a separatist war that killed nearly 1,000 people and allowed the land east of the Dniester River in Moldova to form a new self-proclaimed state.
Transnistria, also called Trans Dniester, is still not recognized by the international community. Under international law, it belongs to the Republic of Moldova, which was formed in 1991 when the Soviet Union was collapsing.
The territory has a reputation for corruption, organized crime and smuggling and is effectively managed by the Sheriff holding company.
Sporting a five-pointed sheriff’s star as its logo, FC Sheriff Tiraspol takes the name of the eponymous company.
The holding company is owned by a former Soviet police officer Viktor Gushan, who controls businesses ranging from a brandy distillery and caviar farm to supermarket chains and gas stations.
“Viktor Gushan is the person who has the most influence here, both in politics and in economics,” Anatoly Dirun, director of the School of Political Studies in Tiraspol, told AFP.
Dirun, a former member of the ruling Sheriff-funded Renewal Party, said the people of Gushan also hold all key leadership positions in the breakaway region, from Parliament to the Prime Minister’s seat to the presidency.
The company founded FC Sheriff in 1997. No club in the Moldovan league had ever qualified for the group stage of the Champions League.
For Sheriff, the next in the Champions League is Inter Milan, with a qualification now quite achievable in Group D, where they lead – but the club are not getting carried away.
“We’re not thinking about the round of 16 yet because we still haven’t done anything amazing, we’re just taking it step by step,” said Sheriff’s coach Yuriy Vernydub.