TBILISI: Ramaz Shengelia, one of the brightest blooms from the brief international flowering of Georgian football at the turn of the 1980s, has died, aged 55.
Shengelia was a goal-scoring left winger in the outstanding Tbilisi Dinamo club alongside playmaker David Kipiani and schemer Vitali Daraselia. They won the Soviet league title in 1978 and the now-defunct European Cup-winners Cup in 1981.
Dynamo were a highly skilled, technically adept team whose football was a skilled contrast to the more physical ‘Moscow’ game and the highly scientific ‘Kiev school’ of Valeri Lobanovsky.
Their Cup-winners Cup victory over Lokomotive Leipzig made them the first and last Georgian side to win a European trophy. Shengelia was voted Soviet Player of the Year in both those years.
Shengelia had been discovered for Dynamo by coach Nodar Akhalkatsi while playing for Dynamo Kutaisi. He scored 162 Soviet league goals and made five appearances for the Soviet Union at the 1982 World Cup in Spain.
However Georgian clubs vanished from the international scene in the mid-1980s when the football federation seceded from the old Soviet federation several years before the communist collapse.
Georgian state President Mikhail Saakashvili paid public tribute to Shengelia, who ended his career in 1990 with minor IFK Holmsund in Sweden.
He said: “This is a great loss for the whole of Georgian society.”
Both Daraselia and David Kipiani died in car accidents, Darasela at only 25, Kipiani at 50.
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