Karachik: Emotions go off the scale when you score for your country

  • Lyudmila Karachik has scored prolifically for Bunyodkor and Uzbekistan

  • She talks about being inspired by Cristiano Ronaldo

  • Karachik is eager to fire Uzbekistan to the 2023 global finals

If an Ironwoman Footballer award existed in football, Lyudmila Karachik would certainly be a contender for it. The 25-year-old, indeed, hasn't missed a single match since joining Bunyodkor in 2018, managing 77 goals from 68 appearances in all competitions. Notably, Karachik finished as the leading markswoman in last season’s Uzbekistan league with a record 42 goals.

That wasn’t, however, achieved without sacrifice. Karachik got injured in last year's Uzbek Women's Super Cup against Sevinch and was on the point of asking to be substituted. Despite the pain caused by the injury, however, she kept playing and scored the match-winning goal.

Her perseverance has been demonstrated again this year. Despite the difficulties presented by COVID-19, Karachik has managed to maintain her fitness and form. She bagged a brace in this year's Uzbek Women's Super Cup on 31 May as Bunyodkor registered a comfortable 4-1 victory over Sevinch yet again.

"The virus has made life hard for every one of us," the in-form striker told FIFA.com. "But I have kept working hard. I was aware what preparation it required for us to defend the Super Cup title. And I was happy to see that my efforts paid off and we lifted the trophy.

"Needless to say, it was down to the collective efforts of the entire team. We all worked hard during lockdown and we readied ourselves for the competition. We put in our best performances against strong opposition and we won."

Karachik has loved football since an early age. So much so that, when her parents called her in off the streets, where she would kick the ball around with boys, she would ignore them.

"I was so fond of football and was very focused on playing,” she said. “And it was impossible to tear me away when I was kicking a ball.” (laughs)

Just as every youngster has an idol, Karachik's is none other than Cristiano Ronaldo.

"I have followed Ronaldo's play on TV since childhood," she said. "I am always amazed by what he is capable of on the pitch – his technique, speed and, above all, his attitude towards work.

“He is always working the hardest in training, so it is no surprise that he has accomplished so much in football. He has been an inspiring figure for me all these years."

Karachik's precocious talent was first noticed by Khushbegi, who recruited her as a 15-year-old. The next year she was spotted by the then Uzbekistan U-19 coach Elmira Gulamova, who called her up. By playing for her country, Karachik’s career turned over a new leaf.

"She has changed the course of my life," Karachik said of Gulamova, now her coach at Bunyodkor. "She saw my potential and offered me the chance of playing for the national [youth] team and then Bunyodkor.

“She helped me improve from an amateur player to a professional footballer. She has encouraged me to become a better player all these years. She is my mentor in not only football but life."

Karachik made fast progress with the Uzbekistan youth team and was promoted to the senior squad the following year. She has since hit 21 goals in 28 internationals.

Karachik scored three times during qualification for the AFC Women's Asian Cup 2018, before netting two goals in Asian qualifying for the next Women's Olympic Football Tournament. Uzbekistan failed to reach both of those competitions, but Karachik is hopeful for the future.

"We have gained good international experience,” she said. “We have improved by playing against stronger opponents. We have realised that we have to improve in both physical and technical terms if we are to compete against Asia's best teams.”

The decision to expand the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ to 32 nations for the 2023 edition in Australia and New Zealand heightened Karachik’s hopes of playing on the most prestigious platform of all.

“Scoring for my country is special – emotions always go off scale when you find the back of the net in an international game,” she said. “It gives you incredible pride.

“We all dream of going to the Women’s World Cup. We will strive to go through the qualification campaign so we can see our national flag in the Women’s World Cup. We have everything necessary to achieve it: desire and hard work. But perhaps we need that extra ounce of luck. For me, it would be the highlight of my career and I will do whatever I can to achieve it."