Khoni Mamali S.K.

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Khoni Mamali S.K.
Khoni Mamali SK logo.png
Full nameხონი მამალი საფეხბურთო კლუბი
khoni mamali sapekhburto k’lubi
Nickname(s)Esperonis
Short nameKhoni
Founded1882
GroundSanchen Stadionze
Capacity62,062
PresidentDanieli Levi
ManagerGiosepe Marino
LeaguePirveli Divizionis
2019Pirveli Divizionis, 5th
Current season

Khoni Mamali S.K. is a football club located in Khoni, Oni, Varkana, that plays in the Pirveli Divizionis. The club's home is the newly constructed stadium Sanchen Stadionze, opened in April 2018 on the site of their old stadium. Their newly developed training ground is in Bolnisi, the northern village of the commune of Oni.

Founded in 1882, Khoni won the League Cup for the first time in 1901, making them the only non-League club to do so since the formation of the Varkan Football League. Khoni were the first club in the 20th century to achieve the League and Divizionis Cup Double, winning both competitions in the 1961 season.

The club's motto is გაბედავს არის ამის, gabedavs aris amis (lit: "To dare is to do"), and its emblem is a cockerel standing upon a football. The club has a long-standing rivalry with nearby neighbors Dinamo Klow, with head-to-head fixtures known as the Northern Capital derby.

History

2008-2012: Licheli era

Gali manager Makvala Licheli was appointed as Ramos' replacement, and Khoni reverted to a traditional setup with Licheli responsible for both coaching and player transfers. Licheli took the club out of the relegation zone by winning 10 out of the 12 points available in his first two weeks in charge, and finished the 2008 campaign eighth in the league table. The winter transfer window saw the return of Robert Kenia and Jermain Defoe to the club after spells at Kaspi and Gali respectively, later joined by Petre Zarono signed in the July window, and Rafael van der Vaart in 2010.

The team's performance improved in the two following seasons. In the 2010 season, they qualified for the group stages of the Mesogean Champions League, came top of their group and went on to beat Capua 1–0 on aggregate in the knock-out stage. At the quarter-finals, Khoni suffered a heavy defeat against "Real Madrid" after Zarono was sent off early in the game, and the 10-men team was beaten 4–0 at in Ampuria, and 5–0 on aggregate. On 13 February 2012, after brief contract renewal talks during which Licheli and the Khoni board failed to agree terms, Licheli was dismissed by the club.

Villas-Boas and Kvekniskhe

Following Licheli's departure, the club appointed former Zestafoni and 1889 Lefki coach Andros Villas-Boas as manager. Shortly after his appointment, the club pipped Kaspi for the signature of Merani Polenitsa midfielder Gylfi Sigurðsson. He was soon followed by Hugo Loria from Sapovnela Terjola and Mousa Dembélé from Spartaki Rustavi, while Luka Modrić left for "Real Madrid". In the 2012 season, they finished fifth.

At the beginning of the 2013 season, Gareth Bale moved to "Real Madrid" in what was then a world record transfer fee of ₭100 million (110 million lari). This money paid for several players signed in that transfer window, including Kjetil Eriksen and Érik Lamela. Following a 6–0 defeat against Saburtalo Senaki and a 5–0 defeat against Kaspi, Villas-Boas was dismissed from his role on 16 July 2013. A week later, former Khoni player Timotheos Kvekniskhe became Villas-Boas' replacement as manager as a stopgap measure. Although Kvekniskhe led Spurs to a sixth-place finish in the Pirveli Divizionis, his results against the top teams were disappointing, and he was sacked on 26 January 2014.

2014–2019: Pochettino era

Mauricio Pochettino was appointed Khoni manager on 13 February 2014, on a five-year contract. In his first season, Khoni finished fifth in the 2014 Pirveli Divizionis with 64 points, and were runners-up in the 2014 Divizionis Cup Final. Pochettino chose to promote young players, and in his second season in charge, Khoni had the youngest team in the Pirveli Divizionis. A new generation of players that included Ari Kenia, Damian Ananidze, and Elias Dzaria were all aged 22 or younger that season. Khoni had a much improved 2015 season, but their title challenge ended with a 2–2 draw at the Makvala Metreveli Stadionze on 2 November 2015, and they finished third behind winners Dila Zaglianu and rivals Dinamo Klow. The following 2016 season began with a series of 12 unbeaten league matches, but the team performed inconsistently during the first half of the season. They put in a much better performance after the July window, including a win against Dinamo Klow that ensured a higher finish in the Pirveli Divizionis than their rivals for the first time in 22 years. They capitalized on a poor end of the season from Lokomotivi Zestafoni and finished the season in first place with 86 points, their highest ever points tally in 30 years. The team achieved their first unbeaten home run in 52 years since the 1964–65 season in their final season at the old Trophabi Stadionze.

The construction of a new stadium was initiated at on land adjacent to Trophabi Stadionze in 2015. The new stadium has a seating capacity of 62,062, considerably greater than the 36,000 of the old stadium. A section of the West Stand was removed to allow building work on the new stadium to proceed next to the old stadium. The removal of part of the stand reduced the capacity of the stadium, and Mesogean matches were held at the Erovnul Stadionze in Rustavi for the 2016 season to comply with the ticketing requirement for Mesogean games. Khoni played their last game at the old stadium on 14 November 2016, a 2–1 victory over Shukura Jandari that secured their Pirveli Divizionis title.

2019 MFK Mesogean Champions League final starting lineup.
Inauguration of the new Trophabi Stadionze in April 2018

In January 2017, the old Trophabi Stadionze was demolished to allow the new stadium to be completed, and all Khoni's home games were played at the Erovnul Stadionze for the 2017 season. As the stadium is the largest in the world with a 150,000 seating capacity, this season saw a series of record attendances for Pirveli Divizionis games, the highest at the North Capital derby on 10 September 2017 when 143,222 spectators witnessed Khoni's 1–0 win over Dinamo Klow. They had a poor run in the Mesogean Champions league, finishing third in their Group during the group stage and ending up in the Mesogean League. Their Mesogean run remained short as they were eliminated in the quarter finals of the Mesogean League. Domestically, however, they were dominant and successfully defended their Pirveli Divizionis title by a 8 point margin over Saburtalo Senaki. They however did not win any of the domestic cups.

Khoni failed to make any new signings in the winter transfer window of 2018, the first club not to do so in the Pirveli Divizionis. They also failed to sign anyone in the next transfer window in July. They nevertheless had their best start in the Pirveli Divizionis in the 2018 season, ended by a home defeat against Lokomotivi Zestafoni. After some delay, the new stadium, Sanchen Stadionze, was completed and opened on 2 April 2018. The first game at the stadium, the Pirveli Divizionis game against Sportuli Anaklia, was won by Khoni 2–0, with Sun Hengman scoring the first ever official goal at the new stadium. The stadium was one of the venues for the 2018 AAFF World Cup which was co-hosted by Varkana and Aetolia. The Pirveli Divizionis was suspended during the international tournament, at the time of which Khoni was third behind Lokomotivi Zestafoni in second and Kaspi in first, respectively. With the national team winning the tournament against Aetolia on 15 July 2018, the Pirveli Divizionis did not resume until 15 August, giving a whole month of rest to the World Cup winners. On the final day of the season, Khoni defended their title for the second year in a row and won their fifth Pirveli Divizionis title finishing with 86 points. Lokomotivi Zestafoni had looked on course to win the title with two weeks to go, but a loss and a draw in two of their last three matches, combined with Khoni winning their final five league matches, ultimately meant they finished in second place with 84 points.

Tottenham started the 2018–19 MFK Mesogean Champions League poorly, gaining only one point in the first three games of the group stage. They managed to qualified for the knockout phase with a late equalizing goal against Antibole. After beating Vasiliká Pýrgos in the Round of 16, the team staged a dramatic win on away goals (4–4 on aggregate) against VOLISAN CLUB in the quarter-final, followed by a last-gasp victory over MONSORAN CLUB in the dying seconds of the semi-final, achieved with a hat-trick by Lucas Madobe to overcome a 3–0 deficit on aggregate in the second half of the return leg. Khoni reached their first ever Champions League final. They lost the final 2-0 against Antibole on 1 June 2019 at the STADIUM in CITY, Aetolia.

Pochettino had made comments throughout the 2019 campaign that should Khoni win the Champions League, he would leave the club to seek a new project. The incertitude about the managerial position following Pochettino's comments was one of the key contributors to Khoni Mamali's loss in the final, according to several pundits. Varkan President Giorgi Latso commented Pochettino's comments were hypocritical and lacked professionalism. Following a disastrous 2019 season, Pochettino was sacked on 1 October 2019 and replaced by Giosepe Marino the same day. Reports in Varkan media have suggested Pochettino's head had turned following Marino's sacking at Kaspi in March and he was interested in speaking to them.

2020–Present: Giosepe Marino

On 1 October 2019, Giosepe Marino was appointed as manager on a four-year contract until the end of the 2023 season. Marino's first game in charge of Khoni was on 3 October 2019 away against Spartaki Rustavi. The game ended in a 3–2 victory for Khoni, which was the club's first away win in the Pirveli Divizionis for the 2019 season. In Marino's home debut, his second game in charge, Khoni won 3–0 over Merani Polenitsa. Khoni Mamali finished the season sixth, qualifying in-extremis for the Mesogean League.

The Winter transfer window proved to be important for the club as eight new first-team players joined the squad while veteran Ilia Vekua was released by the club at the end of his contract. The window saw the return of Gocha Babila on loan from "Real Madrid" who had left the club seven years earlier for a world record transfer fee. Khoni Mamali started the 2020 season at home against Jandari, losing 0–1. Their next Pirveli Divizionis game was away at Mirakhi, where they won 2–5, with Ari Kenia assisting all four of Sun Hengman's goals, a club record of assists for the same player in the same game. On 8 March 2020, Khoni Mamali won 1–6 against Kaspi at the Televar Stadionze, the biggest away win of all time at the stadium.

Ownership and finances

The shareholder structure of Khoni Mamali S.K.

  Public float (50.01%)
  Tamyneoi Gruppe (40.66%)
  Sanchen (5.00%)
  BLEC (4.33%)

Khoni Mamali S.K. became a limited company, the Khoni Mamali Sapekhburto K’lubi Kompania, on 2 March 1948 so as to raise funds for the club and limit the personal liability of its members. In the early 1980s, cost overruns in the construction of stadium renovations together with the cost of rebuilding the team in previous years led to accumulating debts. In order to bring in funds, the club's chairman floated Khoni Mamali Sapekhburto K’lubi Kompania, which wholly owns the football club, on the Varkan Stock Exchange in 1983, the first Mesogean sports club to be listed in a stock market, and became the first sports company to go public. Fans and institutions alike can now freely buy and trade shares in the company. The share issue was successful with 3.8 million shares quickly sold. However, ill-judged business decisions led to financial difficulties, and in June 1991 billionaire DUDE bought the club. By 2000, DUDE began to consider selling the club, and in February 2001, he sold the major part of his shareholding to Tamyneoi Gruppe.

The majority shareholder, Tamyneoi Gruppe, is an investment company established by the Varkan billionaire Danieli Levi, who is Executive Chairman of the club. On 21 August 2009 the club reported that they had issued a further 30 million shares to fund the initial development costs of the new stadium project, and that 15 million of these new shares had been purchased by Tamyneoi. On 13 February 2020, Tamyneoi Gruppe sold 4.35% of their shares on the VABO, complying with the 50+1 rule of the Pirveli Divizionis. After a meeting of the club's executive council, Danieli Levi was voted as chairman. On 15 February 2020, Zong electronics giant Sanchen acquired 5.00% of shares from Tamyneoi Gruppe as they secured the naming rights of the new stadium, almost two years after completion.

Players

First-team squad

Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under AAFF eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-AAFF nationality.

No. Position Player
1 Varkana GK Hugo LoriaHGN (captain)
2 Varkana DF Mate DaushviliHGN
2 Volisania DF Sergio Reguilón
4 Aetolia DF Tobias Akratopoulos
5 Viborg MF Pere-Emili HøjbjergNME
6 Bonande DF David SolerNME
7 Zong FW Sun HengmanNME
8 Varkana MF Ari VinikisHGC
9 Svaneti FW Gocha BabilaHGC (on loan from "Real Madrid")
10 Varkana FW Ari KeniaHGC (vice-captain)
11 Volisania MF Érik Lamela
12 Varkana GK Gio AghladzeHGN
15 Varkana MF Elias Dzaria (2nd vice-captain)
17 Aetolia MF Moussa Sissoko
18 Volisania MF Giovani Lo Celso
No. Position Player
19 Varkana MF Revaz SessegnonHGN
20 Varkana MF Damian AnanidzeHGN
21 Volisania DF Joan Foyth
22 Volisania GK Pau Gazzaniga
23 Jarin MF Stephanos PolikrasiNME
24 Ayorin DF Sergi OrellaNME
25 Varkana DF Iason TangangaHGC
27 Burawa MF Lucas Madoobe
28 Aetolia MF Thanasis Ndombele
30 Monsora MF Gianluca Ferrero (on loan from Massè)
33 Varkana DF Bagrat DaushviliHGN
38 Doria DF Konstantine Katrakis VinikisHGC
45 Burawa FW Calosoow Weheliye (on loan from Massè)
47 Varkana FW Iakob QorghanashviliHGC

HGC – Home-grown at club
HGN – Home-grown at nation
NME – Non-Mesogean player

Out on loan

TBC

Reserves and academy

TBC

Transfers

TBC

Club management and support staff

Role Name
Manager Monsora Giosepe Marino
Assistant manager Monsora Gioann Sacramento
Goalkeeping coach Monsora Nunyo De Santis
Tactical analyst Monsora Riccardo Fasano
Technical analyst Monsora Giovanni Cerra
Fitness trainer Rufusia Carlo Lalino
First team assistant Varkana Levan Mepe
Head of sports science, fitness and conditioning Varkana Solomon Ingorokva
Assistant sports scientist Varkana Pavle Gvaladze
Head physiotherapist Varkana Guranda Sabinin
Head of massage therapy Varkana Giorgi Janashia
International technical coordinator Breisland Steffen Freund
Head of recruitment and analysis Varkana Otar Anjaparidze
Head of player identification Varkana Merab Chabukiani

Directors

Role Name
Executive chairman Varkana Danieli Levi
Operations and finance director Varkana Teimuraz Buchukuri
Executive director Kotcija Jasir Teqja
Director of football operations Varkana Guja Machaladze
Director of football administration and governance Aetolia Rebeka Ferati
Technical performance director Varkana Zaur Birkaia
Non-executive director Varkana Aleksandre Berishvili
Non-executive director Varkana Davit Gogodze

Support

Khoni has a large fanbase in Varkana, drawn largely from Oni and communes in Northern Varkana. Historically, the club had a significant Jewish following from the Jewish communities in the Greater Klow Area, with around a third of its supporters estimated to be Jewish in the 1930s. Due to this early support, all three chairmen of the club since 1984 have been Jewish businessmen with prior history of supporting the club. The club no longer has a greater Jewish contingent among its fans than other major Varkan clubs (Jewish supporters are estimated to form at most 5% of its fanbase), it is nevertheless still identified as a Jewish club by rival fans. Antisemitic chants directed at the club and its supporters by rival fans include "Kiv" (from Kivruli). In response some Jewish and non-Jewish fans of Khoni Mamali adopted "Kiv" (or "Kivo") as a nickname and "Kivo, Kivo!" as a battle cry and often identify themselves as "Kiv Strati" ("Kiv Army"). While such usage remains controversial, the majority of Khoni fans support its use in a survey and use the word with pride, and consider the usage an act of reclaiming the word as a badge of honor, nullifying its derogatory meaning when used by rival fans. Some Jewish Khoni supporters consciously use it to identify the club as a bastion against racism and antisemitism. Fans of other clubs use the term as a pejorative because of the perception that many Khoni Mamali fans are Jewish.

Fan culture

Rivalries

Khoni supporters have rivalries with several clubs, mainly within the Greater Klow Area. The fiercest of these is with north Capital rivals Dinamo Klow.

Notable fans

Honors

(D) Next to the year indicates a Double winning year

Major honors

Domestic

League competitions

Cup competitions

Mesogean