Aug 20, 2008, 07:45AM

More Than A Game

Georgia is scheduled to play an international soccer friendly in Wales today. Some of their players had to escape their war-torn country to be there, and five player based in Russia were prevented from attending at all. Still, soccer represents a chance to draw a different kind of attention to the spirit of Georgian nationalism, and the players are well aware of what they'll be representing when they step on the field.

Fulfilling a football fixture ought to be the last thing on the minds of the people in Georgia at the moment, but try telling the players who will take on Wales in Swansea tonight that an international friendly is meaningless. Not all the Georgia national team managed to make the trip but those who escaped their war-torn country and "risked their lives" negotiating a 20-hour coach journey to Azerbaijan to collect visas firmly believe that a message has been sent to Russia.

"This is a special game for the country," said Petar Segrt, Georgia's technical director. "No one from Russia believed it was possible to bring 18 players out with us from a war-torn country. The president asked me to come out with these players. He told me that the result wasn't important. This game is simply to show Russia that you can bomb us and you can send tanks into our country, but you will never stop our people. This is a symbol that they will not defeat us."

"There was a war going on in some of the places they travelled from," he said. "These players deserve big respect. They've risked their lives to get here. We spent 20 hours on a coach from Tbilisi, travelling to Azerbaijan to catch a flight. The risk was high for everyone. The biggest problem was on the border because Azerbaijan would not let us in. I cannot talk about the reasons for that. But compliments to the Azerbaijan Football Federation. They helped us."


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