Iconic Mingazow seeks to build Turkmenistan women's football

18 Jun 2021
  • Mingazow is head coach of Turkmenistan's fledging women's team

  • Former midfielder has achieved greatly at both club and international levels

  • He shed light on his prospects of the women's game in his country

The women's game may still be in its fledging phase in Turkmenistan. However, the national team coach Kamil Mingazow believe that significant progress will be made as long as they carry forward their belief in growing the game.

"I was born with this spirit," the 52-year-old former Turkmenistan international told FIFA.com. "That is why I am always aiming to improve and achieve better results, either as a player or as a coach."

Only those following his game closely are aware what he refers to. It is a spirit which Mingazow has demonstrated throughout his career, none more so than in the nation’s international debut in the 1994 Asian Games at Hiroshima. 27 years back, Mingazow, then a promising midfielder, played as a makeshift goalkeeper in their opener against China PR in what was the country's first major international football campaign.

"We had just eleven players who arrived at Hiroshima for the first game, but without a goalkeeper and also others who were on a delayed flight," he recalled. "I was not fit to play due to a hip problem so I agreed to play as the custodian. To be honest, I had never been a goalkeeper before."

His lack in goalkeeping experience was not helped by the fact that he had to play without gloves. Despite conceding a goal in each half, however, Mingazow performed admirably, notably denying the opponents on several occasions. Amazingly, they played out a 2-2 draw with the eventual finalists.

With the remainder of the team arriving and Mingazow returning to his normal position, Turkmenistan managed draws against Iran and Bahrain plus routing Yemen 4-0, results which saw them reach the last eight. That quarter-final finish remains their best international result.

"As you see, fighting spirit was in every one of us," Mingazow went on, defining the nation’s trademark resilience. "We always have the determination to play until victory. Plus, our slogan was 'one for all and all for one’. So it was the team spirit that carried us through."

With such spirit, Mingazow is regarded as one of country's most accomplished players. With 40 international appearances, he is Turkmenistan's third most-capped player. At club level, he has won the domestic league seven times and has been a six-time Turkmenistan Cup winner.

Turkmenistan national women's team pose for a team photo.

Biggest hurdle

Now he has new frontiers to conquer. Mingazow was handed arguably the toughest challenge of his career when appointed as the head coach of the country's women's team in 2016.

"To be frank, our women's game is still under-developed," he said. "But we are trying hard and stepping up our efforts to raise our level. Of course, the key is to attract as many girls as possible to play. Thanks to the help of FIFA and AFC, we have organised festivals and tournaments where the girls can play.

"We are aware that we should provide our players with opportunities to play at international level, where they can gain necessary international exposure and experiences. They will improve quickly by playing against foreign teams."

Notable progress

Turkmenistan international debut came two years ago when they participated in the 2019 Turkish Women's Cup. Despite receiving the wooden spoon with three defeats - Romania (13-0), Uzbekistan (11-1) and Jordan (3-0) - the players improved in their baptism of fire.

Not surprisingly, Mingazow's team showed notable progress made last year in the 2020 CAFA U-19 Women's Tournament, finishing third place in the four-nation campaign which also featured Iran, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

"This was indeed a positive indicator to our women's game. Although [some] people still think that football is not a sport suitable for girls, through our efforts and the work by Football Federation of Turkmenistan, the game has begun taking root across the country."

"Next, we will organise more women's tournaments and in the meanwhile, launch our first women's league. Professional football will speed up the women's football's development. Then we can build a competitive national team to qualify for the AFC Women's Asian Cup.”