Sheriff Tiraspol - A quick guide

Culture: November 24, 2021

They stand on the cusp of making Champions League history with a couple more wins, but who are the nominally Moldovan side known as Sheriff Tiraspol.

A side who have seemingly organically come out of nowhere to shake up the European scene in a way not seen since the arrival of Shakhtar Donetsk almost two decades ago.

But what’s behind the club who have so far been the story of the group stages? As ever, it’s not quite the fairytale it appears to be. 

They claim to represent a country not internationally recognised - Transnistria is a breakaway state of Moldova that claims allegiance to Russia and is in many ways a Soviet time capsule, complete with grand statues of Lenin… 

 

 

… Which is odd for a team whose name suggests it has more in common with John Wayne than Lenin. The Sheriff name and accompanying old-timey western badge are derived from the fact that the club is the sporting arm of Transnistria’s shadiest and most powerful corporation, Sheriff, but that’s by the by. 

 

Chairman – Viktor Gushan

 

So why are they suddenly so good? Well, two years ago the Moldova Football Association removed limits on the number of foreign players a team can field - today Sheriff have just five Moldovans in their squad compared to 23 in the 2015/16 season.

Through a genuinely innovative and extensive scouting set up, they have lured many talented players from Africa and South America to a league never previously thought of as a gateway to the big time. 

 

 

To be fair though, they’ve been pretty good for a while. Even before the foreign influx of talent, Sheriff’s relatively vast budget has seen them be the Moldovan league’s most dominant side this century.

Having won 19 of the 21 Moldovan league titles this century they have claimed victory in a staggering total of 685 games in domestic competition and lost just 58 times in their entire history. The side has featured in the Europa League four times since 2009, though while putting up a good fight they never progressed out of the group stage. 

 

Taking on Tottenham in Europa League

 

Real Madrid will this evening be looking to avenge their historic loss at the smallest stadium in the Champions League. The Sheriff stadium seats just 12,000 people. Don’t be fooled though, if there was any point in going bigger, they could.

 

 

The stadium is part of a vast £123 million pound complex on the outskirts of Tiraspol. So why not build bigger? Well, the attendance for the entire 2019 Moldovan league totalled 49,990 spectators, or 30,000 less than pack into the Bernabeu on a weekly basis, so yeah, there really wouldn’t be any point. 

 

Words by Andy Gallagher

 

 

 

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