November 2037 - Georgian Football Federation Headquarters, Tbilisi. Interior.
A crowd of reporters mingles amiably, chatting amongst themselves while enjoying the meager snacks that have been laid out. The press conference called by the Federation was due to start 10 minutes ago. Justin Bieber’s latest single, Dance Like You Mean It, blares from an 80’s-era boombox sitting in the corner.
Rumors have spread throughout the city. After the resignation of the national team manager, Davit Shubitidze, at the conclusion of yet another unsuccessful World Cup qualifying campaign, many expect that his replacement will be announced today. But nothing is certain with the Federation. Yesterday, they called a press conference to discuss planets.
Accordingly, the reporters aren’t sure what to expect. Worst case scenario, they figure, it’s an afternoon of free salty snacks and double-entendres about Uranus.
The Federation’s press secretary gathers everyone’s attention when she stops the Bieber, mid-chorus, putting on a new tape. As the first notes to the unmistakable introduction to Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger begin, the assembled reporters perk up at the newfound professionalism on display. This feels different, somehow. Perhaps the afternoon will not be wasted, after all.
As the first chorus hits, Zurab Dzagania, the President of the Federation, emerges from behind a curtain, gyrating and thrusting his hips. A one-man Conga line of what he perceives to be pure sensuality. He gamely attempts to mimic Survivor on air guitar, but his technique is lacking. The mark of an amateur.
Sensing the awkwardness in the room (not to mention the waves of emotional trauma that witnessing Dzagania’s dancing is bound to induce), the press secretary cuts off the boombox, ignoring Dzagania’s murderous glare.
As Dzagania steps to the microphone, Zlatan Ibrahimovic steps from behind the curtain. Audible gasps are heard throughout the room.
The football correspondent for Georgia Today scribbles furiously on a notepad, leaning in towards towards another member of the assembled press, for once forgetting to sneer at the hipster “blogger” from Kvareli seating next to him. “Why…why is Zlatan here? Of all people?!”
The blogger chuckles warmly. He doesn’t have a clue. “I dunno, Giorgi. Zlatan… He’s just awesome like that.”
The correspondent’s mind won’t stop turning, as he considers the possibilities. “Best. Press. Conference. Ever.”
The blogger chuckles again. The press conference hasn’t even begun. But he knows why everyone has gathered here today, thanks to a well-placed source at the club he supports. The club from his hometown. The club which has turned the footballing world on its head.
“Buckle up, Giorgi. It’s about to get… Tasty.”
Giorgi looks over at the blogger, realizing that this isn’t going to be just another diatribe about whatever fancy has caught the Dzagania’s attention. He begins to suspect that there’s something he’s missing. Something is afoot. Something that is, somehow, connected to Ibrahimovic. Could he be…?! No. Ibrahimovic managesthe Lyon U19s.
The correspondent stops taking notes. This isn’t a story about Ibrahimovic. No. Something more is happening.
The words pour from Dzagania’s mouth. An endless stream of platitudes, punctuated by impromptu karate to emphasize certain points, seemingly at random. All overseen by the serious look on Ibrahimovic’s face.
An echo begins to ring in the correspondent’s ears, as Dzagania’s voice rises, an urgency taking hold, the sweat cascading down his face as his karate kicks reach ever higher, much to the approval of Ibrahimovic.
At a glance from Dzagania, the press secretary puts another tape in the boombox, pressing play.
The music is unmistakable. The correspondent cannot help but rise from his seat, swaying in time with the beat as John Parr’s sultry voice begins to croon the opening lyrics to St. Elmo’s Fire.
The curtain parts as the chorus hits, to reveal none other than Giorgi Amirani, the man who in 16 years has taken Duruji Kvareli from the backwaters of Georgian football to the heights of Europe.
The man now tasked with leading the Georgian national team towards a new horizon, underneath the blazing sky. Where the eagle’s flying, higher and higher.
For nearly 16 years in-game, the focus in this save has been exclusively on Duruji Kvareli. Taking the club to the Erovnuli Liga. Achieving domestic dominance. And working towards establishing Duruji Kvareli as a force in Europe.
But there has always been a second element to this save. Arguably, a much more challenging element.
Taking over the Georgian national team, and bringing the Crusaders to glory.
The first time the position opened up, in 2029, the Georgian Football Federation determined that Amirani was not the man for the job. This time, they did not hesitate.
Shubitidze resigned on November 16, 2037. Six days later, the Federation approached Amirani.
After finishing 3rd in our World Cup qualifying group, Georgia are ranked 77th in the world, alongside the likes of Kenya, Jamaica and Israel.
Truth be told, Shubitidze did well. Georgia had a rough end to the qualifying campaign, but managed to reach the 2036 Euros. They have also done well in the Nations League, finishing 2nd in their Group during the 2036/37 Nations League B.
Our mission is to take the next step. To take Georgia as far as we possibly can.
This means that our focus will necessarily need to split in two. Conquering Europe with Duruji Kvareli, while also building up the national team. There are a number of familiar faces in the squad, including current Duruji Kvareli players Vasil Kantaria and Irakli Kurashvili.
Amirani will also be reunited with Levan "Goose" Akhobadze, a Duruji Kvareli legend. Other former Duruji Kvareli players include Manuchar Kurashvili, Luis Lorente, Erekle Jibuti, Giorgi Rotiashvili, Murman Akhalaia, Besik Chichinadze, Davit Abulashvili and Davit Gogitidze.
To take this squad to the next level, we will need reinforcements. To date, my recruitment efforts at Duruji Kvareli have been focused on securing the brightest possible talent, with little concern for a player's nationality. Now, we need to make sure that we sign and nurture the best young talent in Georgia.
Retraining players will be necessary, since we will be playing my Nagelsmann-inspired PM Haaienmes, PM Haaienhamer and PM Haaientand, which are collectively detailed in Those Who Do Not Move, Do Not Notice Their Chains and The Dirty Half-Dozen.
One final note, before we push on. Although I'm not writing a narrative in this save, I couldn't resist. The Zlatan has not been willing to join the revolution at Duruji Kvareli, but he has agreed to take over as my Assistant Manager with the Georgian national team.
It has been a long time coming. 16 years, in-game. But I couldn't be more excited to enter this new phase of the save.