TBILISI, DFWatch – Public figures continue coalescing around a Georgian billionaire businessman who recently decided to go into politics and a few days ago officially established a new movement called Georgian Dream.
At the movement’s launch ceremony in Tbilisi Concert Hall December 11, a famous Georgian football (soccer) player announced that he is leaving the national team, where he has been captain for fifteen years, and expressed his full support to the newly established movement and its goals.
FC Milan paid 16 million euros for Kakhi Kaladze’s transfer and in 2001 he became the most highly paid Georgian player.
At the presentation of Bidzina Ivanishvili’s new movement he said that this was a very difficult decision for him to make, as he had been protecting the dignity of his team for 15 years.
“During this period I had 83 matches with the national team. The most regrettable was one match, which is affecting me. It happened by accident, but once again I apologize to the Georgian fans,” he said, referring to the match on September 5, 2009, against Italy when he scored two own goals.
A few days later, the Georgian Football Federation released a statement about Kaladze leaving the team. It said that they will not make any official statement regarding political processes, adding that for the last few months the inner processes in Georgia led to loud political statements by some members of the football team.
“A member of the national team (and especially the captain) should have well thought of his duties and responsibilities, especially when he is making the public statement about leaving the team.” The statement says. “We think that he should first have told he was leaving to the team coach, with whom he has protecting the dignity of the team for years.”
The statement says that membership in the national team for each team member carries with it a civic duty to both the team and the country.
“We want to call for all members of the Georgian football family, active or veteran players, to speak on their own behalf while making public speeches, and not on the behalf of Georgian football.”
A few days after his first statement, Kaladze released his first lengthy letter about the reasons for why he left the team. He also responded to the GFF statement, saying that ‘at least they could have said thank you for the fifteen years of his being in the team.’
“Didn’t I give at least fifteen minutes of joy to the people employed in the Football Federation during these years?” he asks, adding that it’s a little bit comical, when today they talk about the Georgian government not intervening in football.
He names several reasons for why he left the team. The main reason, he says, is that he didn’t have any moral right to play on the team more years while the Georgian football player Giorgi Demetradze is in the jail. In March 2011 Tbilisi City Court found Demetradze guilty and sentenced him to 6 years in jail. He was arrested for being a member of the so-called ‘criminal world’. It later came out that he is very badly treated in the jail, and the Labor Party tried to defend his rights, saying that Demetradze is on the border of suicide in jail.
“I think that this kind of protest to injustice will be correctly perceived by society. Moreover, all this time, the federation did not say any good words in relation to Demetradze,” Kaladze writes.
As another reason, he names the activities of ‘some pocket journalists’, who started discussing his age, saying that the whole team is sacrificing themselves to Kaladze.
He also says that for many years he had questions, which remain unanswered, from the assassination of Sandro Girgvliani to the revoked citizenship of Bidzina Ivanishvili.
“Some don’t like my statement about leaving the team and say that I didn’t have to leave to set up a new political party. I repeat: this wasn’t setting up a political party but a public movement,” he says, adding that it was great to get his message across to the people gathered in the hall.
(Photo: Alexander Malinkov.)