Tajikistan football league: which team should I support?

News, Tajikistan Higher League

Wondering which Tajik team you should pledge allegiance to? Here’s the lowdown.

We have put together this handy guide to help you decide which Tajik team you are going to get behind this season.

The firm favourites and rank outsiders

Istiklol’s Manuchekhr Dzhalilov celebrates

Champions for the past six seasons, Istiklol could be the club for the glory hunters among us. Going by their successful start to the season, yet to lose, they are strong favourites to hoist the cup once more.

Comparing his team to Barcelona, club captain Alisher Dzhalilov describes Istiklol’s playing style as “attractive, well-orchestrated”.

Before Istiklol’s reign at the top, Regar-TadAZ held the title between 2001 and 2008 – with the exception of 2005, when they finished runners-up to Khatlon. Since the turn of the century, Khatlon also claimed the title in 2009, between the reigns of the league’s two major 21st-century forces. Starting the 2020/21 season strongly, they have been dubbed Tajikistan’s “own Leicester” by Spanish newspaper Diario AS.

Also considering themselves contenders are Khujand who, for three seasons on the trot, have finished runners-up. This season’s underdogs come in the shape of top tier debutants Fayzkand Vose and Dushanbe-83, who finished second and third, respectively, in the second division last year to earn promotion. 

Dushanbe-83

Who are your team’s Tajik counterparts?

The familiarity of a team’s kit, badge or nickname might play a part in your choice.

Dushanbe-83 don their take on the classic Argentina look, with a slightly bolder shade of blue, which may also appeal to Sheffield Wednesday and Brighton and Hove Albion enthusiasts. Khujand’s first strip of a blue shirt, blue shorts and white socks brings Chelsea to mind, and CSKA Pamir’s all-red garb evokes Premier league frontrunners Liverpool. Istaravshan’s yellow and black colour scheme might win over those who back Watford or the Bundesliga’s Borussia Dortmund.

Istaravshan’s badge

In the badge department, Istaravshan’s crest, reminiscent of Leeds United’s between 1984-1998, may sway a few decisions. Fayzkand’s ball-gripping eagle boasts similarities to south London’s Crystal Palace, and Kuktosh’s white horse could be an omen for followers of English League One’s Ipswich Town and Gillingham.

Supporters of La Liga’s Athletic Bilbao might find themselves drawn towards nickname-sharers Istiklol, who also go by ‘the Lions’. Likewise, fans of English Championship side Millwall will be eager to keep singing: 

Kuktosh’s badge

“As the Lions run on the pitch,
Everyone will sing, 
Let ’em come, Let ’em come, Let ’em come, 
Let ’em all come down to The Den, 
Let ’em come, Let ’em come, Let ’em come, 
We’ll only have to beat ’em again,
We’re the best team in London Tajikistan.”

Still undecided? Check out the teams’ profiles below.

CSKA Pamir Dushanbe

Based: Dushanbe (capital city)
Kit colour: red
Best performance: winners x2 (1992, 1995)
One to watch: Shodibek Gafforov
For fans of: Liverpool

CSKA Pamir Dushanbe

Dushanbe-83

Based: Dushanbe (capital city)
Kit colour: blue and white striped shirt, black shorts
Best performance: debutants 2020
Ones to watch: Elchibek Rashidbekov, Agbley Jones
For fans of: Brighton & Hove Albion, Sheffield Wednesday, Argentina

Did you know? Newly-promoted 83 have a strong Ghanaian influence. Among their ranks they boast five players hailing from the West African nation: Silvanus Evans (GK), Sadiq Musa (DF), Colins Adukhen (MF), Idris Aminu (FW), Agbley Jones (FW).

Dushanbe-83

Istaravshan

Based: Istaravshan (north)
Nickname: The Northern Tigers
Kit colour: yellow and black
Best performance: 2nd (1995)
One to watch Bakhtovar Zokirov
For fans of: Leeds United, Watford

Istaravshan

Istiklol

Based: Dushanbe (capital city)
Nickname: The Lions
Kit colour: red and black
Best performance: winners x8 (most recently 2019)
Ones to watch: Sheriddin Boboev (2019 top scorer), Manuchekhr Dzhalilov, Alisher Dzhalilov
For fans of: Manchester United, Barcelona

Did you know? The Lions won the domestic Tajikistan treble in 2019 – claiming the league title, the league cup and the Super Cup.

Alisher Dzhalilov, Istiklol captain: “You can compare Istiklol with Real Madrid or Barcelona, who also dominate in their league with attractive, well-orchestrated football.”

Istiklol

Fayzkand Vose

Based: Vose (south-west)
Kitcolour: red
Best performance: debutants 2020
Ones to watch: Mukhsin Maduloev, Navruz Rustamov, Dalerjon Tukhtasanov
For fans of: Crystal Palace

Fayzkand

Khatlon

Based: Qurghonteppa (south-west)
Kit colour: yellow
Best performance: winners x3 (1997, 2005, 2009)
One to watch: Karomatullo Saidov 
For fans of: Borussia Dortmund

Spanish newspaper Diario AS: “Tajikistan already has its own Leicester.”

Khatlon

Khujand

Based: Khujand (north)
Nickname: The Pitmen
Kit colour: blue and white
Best performance: runners-up (2019)
Ones to watch: Tursunali Rustamov, Fatkhullo Fatkhuloev, Sanjar Rikhsiboev
For fans of: Chelsea

Did you know? The Pitmen played and won their first football game 4-1 in 1925 “on a dry and empty field” against opposition from the northern area of Jabbor Rasulov.

Khujand

Kuktosh

Based: Kuktosh (west)
Kit colour: yellow and blue
Best performance: 3rd (2018)
One to watch: Muhiddin Odilov
For fans of: Ipswich Town, Gillingham, Oxford Town, Sweden

Kuktosh

Lokomotiv Pamir

Based: Dushanbe (capital city)
Nickname: The Railway Men
Kit colour: white and blue
Best performance: 10th (2000)
One to watch: Rustam Soirov
For fans of: Tottenham, Preston North End

Lokomotiv Pamir

Regar-TadAZ

Based: Tursunzoda (west)
Kit colour: red and white
Best performance: winners x7 (most recently 2008)
One to watch: Sherzod Makhamadiev
For fans of: Arsenal

Did you know? The club was established under the name Metallurg in 1975 by workers of the local aluminium industry. The western Tajikistan outfit have won the continental AFC President’s Cup three times: 2005, 2008 and 2009.

Regar-TadAZ