Aktobe going the distance for glory
July 13. UEFA News
by Mikhail Kozachkov
Kazakhstan titleholders FK Aktobe visit Iceland’s FH Hafnarfjordur in the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round on Wednesday, meaning they face a 4,650km trip as they seek to progress in the competition for the first time.
Aktobe will make their third appearance in the premier UEFA club competition after suffering failures in 2006 and 2008 against Latvian side FHK Liepajas Metalurgs and Moldovan outfit FC Sheriff respectively. Now Vladimir Mukhanov’s men are hoping to make it third time lucky. The trips that each side will make to Kazakhstan and Iceland over the next two Wednesdays represent the longest distances travelled in the competition this season and arrangements for flying are as important as the game itself, according to 55-year-old Mukhanov. “One bad flight can wreck all the preparation,” he said. “That is why we gave up the idea of going to Reykjavik by several planes because that way we would spend a whole day in the air.”
Aktobe examined several ways of getting to the Icelandic capital, however all of them were through Copenhagen, either via Moscow, Amsterdam or Frankfurt. “We had no option but to go via Denmark but it would take us about 22 to 24 hours to get there,” said Mukhanov. “How can you play football after such a trip? So we decided to go for an expensive but more comfortable charter flight. We will go the direct way.” Aktobe will therefore leave on Tuesday, play the next day and go back home straight after the final whistle.
Another problem is that the Aktobe coaching staff have not seen a single Hafnarfjordur match. “We had a gentlemen agreement to exchange the DVDs with our games,” said Mukhanov. “We sent them ours but have not got theirs yet. They say it takes five days for the mail to get here. I wonder if we are going to get the videos before we leave?” However, Aktobe have some data on the Icelandic team, according to veteran Konstantin Golovskoy. “They are told to play British football – physical, with quick wingers and a lot of crosses into the area,” said the 34-year-old. “We know too well that nobody plays like that in Kazakhstan and that makes our task more difficult. But we need to finally do well in the UEFA Champions League. We have already won everything we could on a domestic level. Now it is time to succeed in Europe.”
Golovskoy might prove to be the main attacking force at Hafnarfjordur, having scored three times in a recent 4-2 league win against FC Kazakhmys. “I have been playing football for 15 years but never scored a hat-trick before, neither in Russia, Bulgaria or Kazakhstan” the attacking midfielder told uefa.com. “It was a very pleasant feeling. We had some really good games this season and that is nice too. I hope that we can make our fans proud in the Champions League too.”