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16 Apr, 2020 12:25

'We're the Tajik Barcelona!' Captain of Tajikistan champs, where football continues despite Covid-19, compares team to Messi & Co

'We're the Tajik Barcelona!' Captain of Tajikistan champs, where football continues despite Covid-19, compares team to Messi & Co

Midfielder Alisher Dzhalilov has audaciously claimed his FC Istiklol side, champions of the Tajik Higher League, one of only five leagues in the world still operating, can be compared to Barcelona for their “attractive football”.

READ MORE: 'Ingenious insanity': Fans pay to have heads stuck on eerie mannequins as football in Belarus defies coronavirus lockdown (VIDEO)

Tajikistan, along with Nicaragua, Belarus, Turkmenistan and Taiwan, are the only countries not to have postponed their respective leagues to combat the spread of the deadly coronavirus. Furthermore, the nation has yet to register a single case of covid-19 infection.

As a result, the country's Higher League has enjoyed a spike in interest from fans in lockdown all over the globe searching for their football fix and Istiklol, from the Tajik capital of Dushanbe, have become a cult hit.

Istiklol captain Dzhalilov went one step further and has claimed the Central Asian minnows can be compared favorably with the two La Liga giants, who have won a whopping 18 Champions League titles between them, on account of their beautiful brand of the beautiful game.


“I’ve been a fan of Real Madrid since I was a kid. I hope that Spain and the rest of the world can overcome coronavirus as soon as possible. The people of Tajikistan are praying for this,” Tajik international Dzhalilov said.

“I love Spanish football. I like former and current players: Cristiano Ronaldo, Benzema, Hazard and Kroos from Real, and Messi and Suarez from Barcelona.

“You can compare Istiklol with Real or Barcelona, who also dominate in their league with attractive, well-orchestrated football. You could call Istiklol the people’s team, and we’re proud of that,” the 26-year-old added. 

Tajikistan became one of only five countries in the world where football had not been suspended due to the coronavirus after Burundi became the final African nation to postpone their national league.

Dzhalilov’s comparison may not be too far off when taking into account the domestic merits of all three clubs. Istiklol have won eight Tajik Higher League titles and as many Tajik cups since their inception in their 12 year of existence, having been formed relatively recently in 2008.

So far this term, Istiklol have scored an impressive nine goals and conceded zero from their two victories this season as they look to defend their crown this year, sitting atop the league after two games. Next up for the reigning champions is a game against Khatol on Sunday. 

Dzhalilov himself was highly touted as a youngster having begun his career at Russian side Rubin Kazan and played for Russia at under-21 level, before becoming a full Tajik international, making his debut for ‘The Crowns’ last year.

READ MORE: Ronaldo & Messi to play in Belarus? Star says Europe's only operating football league may attract elite

It’s not the first time the names of Ronaldo and Messi have been mentioned in countries where football refuses to submit to the threat of covid-19 infection; Belarus football hero Aleksandr Hleb joked the near global postponement of football could attract the duo to his home country, where the Belarus Premier League remains the only active division in Europe.

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