***I DON’T HAVE FIFA’S PRIOR WRITTEN CONSENT TO USE, TALK, THINK OR EVEN YELL AT RANDOS FROM MY BALCONY ABOUT ANY NAMES, COUNTRIES OR EVENTS MENTIONED IN MY FIFA WORLD CUP QATAR 2022 COVERAGE, SO FOR COPYRIGHT REASONS FROM HERE ON IN, THE EVENT WILL BE REFERRED TO AS QLAMQTAR 2022.***
The Qlamqtar 2022 World Cup is only about 5 moons away (depending on your own set of lunar circumstances) and the first ever World Cup held in the Arab world promises to be a real doozy. World Cup history is a tale resplendent with stories of triumph against the odds, childhood dreams coming true and unsung heroes becoming legends. As well as dumb idiot losers, wanker fuck ups and teams that are just total bullshit.
But how shall ye learn about these legends, losers and teams that are just total bullshit? Well look no further my wayward friend as I profile all 211 FIFA nations eligible for World Cup qualification. Today, I take a look at Tajikistan, which is yet to qualify for a World Cup.
Finally had their banned prayers answered
Nickname: Dastai Muntakhabi (the National Team)
FIFA Ranking: 108 (June 2022)
FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualification result: Failed to advance from second round (AFC) group stage, finishing below Japan
After all these years of praying under strict 15-minute limits, in hiding, or in the rubble of bulldozed mosques, Tajikistan’s clandestine prayers have finally been answered, with the team qualifying for their first ever international tournament. Despite not knowing when to pray because loudspeakers broadcasting the call to prayer are prohibited, and even if they do get there the mosque has most likely been demolished, Tajikistan’s National Team recently qualified for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup and will take its place in Wherever*, among 23 other nations who don’t need to worship on the clock or amid piles of rubble.
A majority “Muslim” country, it’s truly a miracle that any of Tajikistan’s prayers have been answered, considering many of its mosques have been levelled, Imams need their sermons pre-approved by the government and anyone under 35 is prohibited from performing Hajj. Over the course of its 30 year independence, the Tajikistani national team has defeated several of its formidable rivals, but with their government’s gallimaufric approach to Sunni secularism, it’s no wonder that it’s taken this long for their prayers to be answered.
But lo and behold, answered they have been, somehow, even though, seriously, I mean, I don’t know how. With kids under 18 banned from attending Friday prayer, girls forbidden to wearing the hijab, smaller ‘five-fold’ mosques being deregistered and prohibited from performing sermons, and any worship having to be performed with a stopwatch in hand and hardhat on head, for Dastai Muntakhabi to finally be blessed with sufficient fortune to advance to a major international tournament, never have its national team players said the word ‘Alhumdillilah’ with more (hushed) gratitude.
One to watch: Highlights of any games from the 2020 Tajikistan Higher League season, one of four world leagues who said ‘fuck it’, carrying on at the height of first wave of COVID-19 pandemic (spoiler: there’s only one available on Youtube)
In March 2020, when the world started dropping like flies from coronavirus and almost, almost every single league, in basketball, soccer, hockey, rugby, Aussie rules football, tennis, golf and every other sport was suspended, there were four countries who thought Fuck that Noise and toughed it out, plowing forward and playing on. Refusing to succumb to international pressure to drop tools, the Belarus, Nicaragua and Burundi soccer leagues, pushed on, citing their unwavering commitment to the cornerstone public health principles of ‘Global Pandemic? Who gives a flying fuck?’, and ‘What is a coronavirus?’. Joining the disease-defiant trio a few weeks later was the Tajikistan Higher League, and boy howdy, were we grateful they did! Here you go, if you love retrospective season previews of Central Asian soccer leagues played behind closed doors, check this out:
Hope you enjoyed that. For all the joy they brought us, kudos must go to the Tajikistani and three other national soccer federations behind the continued operation of these aforementioned leagues throughout an international health disaster. Kudos to you, you troopers, you gave us some sports (no matter how shitty) to get into when we couldn’t leave the house there was absolutely fucking nothin else to do.
The Highpoint: Being the last Stan to Qualify for the Asian Cup (Afghanistan are #1 at Buzqashi so they’re excused from caring about soccer)
It’s taken 30 years, but the Persian Lions finally beaome the last of the Asian Stans to qualify for the continent’s premier event, the AFC Asian Cup (Afghanistan don’t count, because they have Buzqashi, so who gives a fuck about soccer). Often topping their neighbours Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan (not sure about Afghanistan, but you know: Buzqashi), winning the AFC Challenge Cup back in 2006 against its central Asian rivals and other southern and south eastern Asian opponents (even Afghanistan, but pffft…you seen Buzqashi? that shits all over Soccer), and coming off its most impressive World Cup qualifying campaign (where it fell just short of the final place that would have taken it through to the final round of AFC qualifying), Tajikistan has always fallen just short of booking a ticket for Asia’s greatest stage.
Until this year. The side just booked their place at their first ever major international tournament, so Tajikistan… Congratulations, and SEE YOU IN (wherever)!!!!*
*The current host of the AFC Asian Cup 2023 is officially ‘Wherever’ after original hosts China were deemed unable by the AFC to hold the tournament because, you know, COVID.
Learn the lingo & speak like a local!
AFC Asian Cup 2023