Georgians victorious over Russia despite Sochi obstacles
By Salome Modebadze
Monday, March 21
On March 19, the Georgian rugby team completed a flawless European Nations Cup campaign by beating Russia 15:9 in Sochi. Despite the hard rain in Sochi, the Georgian sportsmen took control of the match from the very beginning and eventually ran out deserving victors. The hosts showed great resistance against the Georgian “Lelos” in the opening period but Georgia eventually prevailed in the second half where they scored two tries, the first of which was a penalty try.
There were 4-5 thousand spectators at the match which was held at the stadium named after Slava Metreveli and among them were Georgians living in Sochi and some other cities of Russia supporting the “Lelos”. The Georgian national rugby team left for Sochi by a charter flight but met some trouble entering Russia. They were stopped at customs duty and searched and questioned. They were stuck until Gia Nijaradze, President of Georgian Rugby Union, talked to the President of the Russian Rugby Union and fixed the problem. But unfortunately the delay meant the Georgians could not train properly before the match and Coach Richard Dixon trained the team theoretically.
There was controversy surrounding the scheduled game even before the team’s departure. The Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs of Georgia (MSY) Lado Vardzelashvili accused the Russian side of deliberately refusing to provide live televised broadcasting of the game from Sochi. RTR – Russian TV, the station responsible for broadcasting the rugby games, at the last minute refused to conduct a live broadcast of the game and even blocked the Georgian Public Broadcaster’s attempts to organize live televised broadcasting through a local TV station in Sochi.
“Such actions should not be left without reaction,” Vardzelashvili said doubting the political decision from his counterparts. “There were negotiations between the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) and RTR for more than a month; they had been checking the technical details and could have informed us about the possible failure earlier before the game. This all points out that Russian side took a political decision…” said the Minister stressing that their offer to cover the cost of airing the game had also been rejected by the Russians.
Claiming to inform the International Rugby Board of the violations hindering Georgia’s victory, Vardzelashvili intended to send an official letter to the International Rugby Board and the International Olympic Committee to appoint the games with Russia on a neutral territory in the future. RTR authorities denied any political bias stressing that they had previously abolished the Russia-Portugal match on February 12. “Rugby has become an unsuccessful sport for Russia that’s why the TV station didn’t’ find it necessary to air it,” was their answer.
But nothing could prevent the “Lelos” from proving their superiority on the field. It was the 7th victory in a row for the Georgian team giving them an additional 0,751 points in ranking. The Georgian team is still ranked in 14th place, closely behind Japan. The Georgian fans learnt about the match from the local radio stations. Disappointed with the absence of live TV coverage, Georgian rugby fans greeted the triumphant sportsmen at Tbilisi International Airport later on the same day.
The Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs of Georgia Lado Vardzelashvili with hundreds of Georgian supporters congratulated the “Lelos” on a great victory. Highlighting the “principal importance of the game", the Minister thanked the team for their endurance against all the obstacles they had met in Sochi. “The guys have tried their best at the game and special thanks to our Georgian supporters for encouraging us during a stressful match,” Mamuka Gorgodze Georgian national team member told the media.