Kazakh president's grandson joins Astana football team

Kazakh president's grandson joins Astana football team

The Sandhurst-educated grandson of the President of Kazakhstan has won a position as a striker at Lokomotiv Astana, the lavishly-funded football club in the capital of the oil-rich former Soviet republic, The Telegraph reported.

Aysultan Nazarbayev, the son of Nursultan Nazarbayev's daughter Dariga and her estranged husband Rakhat Aliyev, joined the club's reserve squad on February 28, just in time for the start of this year's season on March 2.

Mr Nazarbayev is following in the footsteps of Rustami Imomali, the 23-year-old son of the President of nearby Tajikistan, who founded Istiqlol Dushanbe, a club for the capital, and then went on to win the Tajik league last year as the team's striker.

There is every chance that Mr Nazarbayev, who played for Kazakhstan's Under-17 side as a young man, will play a match in the first team before the season is over.

"Every reserve player can play for the first team, if he receives an invitation from the head coach, Holger Fach," said Dzamalliel Tangiev, Lokomotiv's spokesman. Mr Fach, who played midfield for Germany, joined Lokomotiv as coach last year.

Lokomotiv Astana was formed in 2009 by merging two clubs from Almaty, the country's former capital. The move was designed to provide Astana, which is still asserting itself as the new capital of the country, with a successful football side. The club is based in the $185m Astana Arena, which was designed by Populous, the firm which designed Wembley Arena.

Unlike many of the club's players, Mr Nazarbayev will not be playing primarily for money, Mr Tangiev added. "For Aysultan, the salary is not the determining factor: what's important for him is to play football."

Mr Nazarbayev played for Kazakhstan's under-17 side in the 2006 UEFA cup. Football is gaining ground as a sport in Kazakhstan, but its national and club sides are still no match for most European teams. Kazakhstan lost 4-0 to England in a World Cup qualifier in June 2009.

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