TBILISI, Georgia (AP) Eleven soccer players in Georgia have been arrested on suspicion of match-fixing and face lengthy prison sentences.
The State Security Service says eight current players and three former players have been arrested in relation to matches in the country’s two top divisions.
Five were members of the WIT Georgia squad which lost to league leader Dinamo Batumi 2-0 on Sunday in one of the games under investigation. Players from two lower-league clubs are also among the suspects.
The security service says the players were approached by an “organized group” which made 93,500 lari ($34,000) off the match-fixing.
The players face between four and six years in prison under Georgian legislation.
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The first winner of FIFA’s #EqualGame award is currently plying his trade in Major League Soccer.
Georgian captain Guram Kashia is now with San Jose Earthquakes, but was the focus of anti-LGBT ire last season while leading Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem.
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Kashia wore a rainbow-colored captain’s arm band for Vitesse in support of the LGBT community, and was met with a violent response.
According to the BBC:
Anti-LGBT protestors in his homeland reacted with riots, smoke bombs and flares. A rainbow flag was burned outside the headquarters of the Georgian Football Federation, while the defender faced threats and abuse, with calls made for him to be dropped from the national team.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin celebrated Kashia for preaching “tolerance and acceptance, and help(ing to) change perceptions of this minority group in his native country of Georgia.”
Kashia will be honored by the Quakes before their Aug. 29 game against FC Dallas.
Led by Valeri “Vako” Qazaishvili, San Jose’s attack has been halfway decent this MLS season.
The Quakes are hoping his Vako’s national team captain can help fix what ails the other end of the pitch.
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San Jose has used Targeted Allocation Money to sign Georgia national team and Vitesse captain Guram Kashia, who turns 31 on July 4.
Kashia was the second-best ranked center back in the attack-heavy Eredivisie this season according to WhoScored, combining with American CB Matt Miazga to steady the fifth-stingiest back line in the Netherlands.
The Georgian captain has been capped 65 times with two goals, playing every minute of the nation’s unsuccessful World Cup qualifying bid.
Kashia said goodbye on the Vitesse site:
“I have had very special years at the club. For me, Vitesse and Arnhem really feel like home. I love the club, the environment and the people. … It has been a difficult decision to say goodbye. Together with my family I have discussed that now perhaps the last chance is to go on an adventure. Vitesse is and stays in my heart.”
Valeri ‘Vako’ Qazaishvili is the latest MLS Designated Player, as the Georgian will hit the pitch for San Jose this season provided his visa and ITC go through.
Qazaishvili comes from Legia Warsaw after five seasons with Vitesse in the Eredivisie. The 24-year-old attacking midfielder has been capped 24 times, and scored in Georgia’s 2-2 draw with Moldova earlier this month in World Cup qualifying.
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Equally adept at right or left wing, Qazaishvili posted a goal and two assists for Legia following his transfer from Vitesse. He scored 28 goals and added 13 assists in 121 matches for the Dutch side.
“We were looking for a player, a younger, offensive player, that really excites the fans and has the possibility to stay with us for a long period of time. That’s what we found with Vako,” said Earthquakes general manager Jesse Fioranelli. “We wanted a player that knows how to take on a defender one-on-one, that sees the goal and that also wants to bring a spark to our game.”
San Jose sits seventh in the Western Conference table, and only two teams — Colorado and DC — have scored fewer goals in MLS. Jahmir Hyka and Cordell Cato have been fine, but San Jose needed a better chance creator.
Qazaishvili, in theory, fits the bill. If he has half the impact of fellow Legia export Nemanja Nikolic, San Jose is cooking with gas.
Gareth Bale struck just 10 minutes in, but Wales couldn’t find another way through and Tornike Okriashvili punched in a header just before the hour mark as Georgia stunned Wales in Cardiff 1-1 in World Cup qualification on Sunday.
Possession was just about 50-50, and Georgia actually out-shot Wales 16-13, although the two combined for just eight shots on target.
The visitors deserved their point, looking dangers for much of a spell early in the second-half before scoring. Just minutes after Georgia equalized, Wales boss Chris Coleman brought on lightning rod Hal Robson-Kanu looking to go back in front, but he was unable to provide a spark.
Bale came the closest to giving his side all three points, just finding the side-netting in the 86th minute in what surely would have been the game-winner. Robson-Kanu also came close just minutes before full-time but Georgia goalkeeper Giorgi Loria had a great performance and was there to smother the chance.
The point is the first of the campaign for Georgia, sitting at 137th in the FIFA rankings, while it leaves Wales vulnerable at the top of the table, just a point ahead of both Serbia and Austria who square off with a 2:45 ET kick on Sunday in Belgrade.