Asian goalscoring extraordinaire
He might not be a household name on the world stage or even in Asia, but striker Berdy Shamuradov is fast-tracking his way to legend status in Turkmenistan. The 27-year-old has been scoring goals at a phenomenal rate, and in recent years has invariably averaged better than a goal per game.
At the mid-way point of the domestic season, Shamuradov has bagged 13 goals from eight outings for ITTU Ashgabat and is well on the way to earning his fifth top-scorer crown. Such a feat would catapult Shamuradov past the equally prodigious Rejepmurad Agabayev, who achieved the feat four times for Nisa Ashgabat.
Shamradov's goalscoring exploits coincide with the rise of the humble ITTU club whose recent successes have seen them become one of the giants of the Turkmenistan league. Since Shamuradov joined the University club in 2004, a side which was founded only a year earlier, ITTU have enjoyed remarkable success.
The club has won the league twice, the Turkmenistan President's Cup on three occasions and the domestic cup once. They have also appeared at continental level twice in the AFC President's Cup, and though having yet to move beyond the group stage, ITTU are looking good for another domestic title and an additional tilt at Asian glory next season. They will be looking to match the achievements of cross-town rivals from the capital, FC Ashgabat, who have reached the semi-finals of this year's AFC President's Cup.
Now in his sixth season at ITTU, the prolific Shamuradov has hit the back of the net on 109 occasions, with a remarkable goalscoring ratio. This outstanding achievement can perhaps be partly explained by his single-mindedness as suggested in his response when asked his aims each time he takes the field. "To score in each game, and for this I have to be always fast and keep my sense for goal at the highest possible level."
However when asked the secret to his goalscoring record, Shamuradov humbly shares the kudos. "My team-mates know how to provide quality passes and how to use my attributes. We are all playing for the betterment of the team."
Commenting on his future goals, Shamuradov revealed a commitment to securing success for his side. "My target for this season is to win the local league cup and become top scorer again for the fifth time and set a new national record after Rejepmurad Agabayev who was best scorer four times," says Shamuradov, whose brief stint with Azerbaijan's Karvan Yevlax five years ago has been his only club experience abroad to date.
National team ambitions
Currently ranked 145 in the world, Turkmenistan have high hopes of qualifying for their first ever AFC Asian Cup. Shamuradov played a role in helping his nation qualify for the AFC Challenge Cup, with the winner of next February's tournament to progress to the Asian showpiece the following year.
Turkmenistan swept past Maldives, Philippines and Bhutan with Shamuradov grabbing three goals in two qualifying appearances. A potentially lethal partnership with Vladimir Bayramov, who now plies his trade with Kazakhstan's FC Tobol after many seasons in the Russian top-flight, is a prospect that leaves Turkmenistan national team fans salivating, and optimistic for future success.