Welcome back to the Aswijan Assignment, a Football Manager 2020 save in the fictional country of Aswijan – using a database created by @Chilled_Moose.
The first two months of life in Aswijan saw us get acquainted with Zagora Athletik and, eventually, settle into a formation and style that suited our players. And the relentless schedule of playing every Wednesday and Saturday was set to continue for a considerable time to come, which would eventually take its toll.
We had a bit more money land in the coffers as we sold club captain Tesauro Masayuki, who coudn’t get in our team, to Liga Principale (that’s the league above us) side Tarac Unidi for a cool £450k. While backup striker Kun Litim moved to Al Khnidés (in our league) for £86k.
On a sidenote, one of my favourite things about this save thus far is the amazing names that the database includes. I love saying some of the names when players score (yes, I know you do it too!), and hopefully you also feel a little endearment to some of these guys from reading about them.
September didn’t start particularly well with two draws, 2-2 away at Miher then 1-1 at home to Awjizirbu FC with super-sub Fokionas Caito rescuing the point, followed by a 2-0 loss at Anorora Kuduqni, in which they scored twice in the last 7 minutes.
But we got back to winning ways in a cup game that I didn’t realise was a cup game, and in which we annoyingly put in out best performance of the season. Tiberius Olivero scored twice with right winger Tullus Kalkan and midfielder Michalis Saivaldsson both getting their first goals for the club.
The cup success sparked us back into life in the league with a 1-0 win at Zaratiy Oskat then a 3-1 success at home to Al Khnidés, in which 20-year-old midfielder and new club captain Vladimiro Mashashi scored an absolute screamer of a first-time volley from all of 30 yards. Then another home game saw us edge a 1-0 win over Rayara, in which the gloriously named Belerofonte Kartal scored a direct free-kick and the visitors missed a penalty in the last minute!
This little upturn in form, albeit it still very early in the season, saw us enter a very crowded promotion race. Four points now cover 1st place all the way down to 10th!
First ever Mitsetse Derby!
The good form continued with a draw at Akmene, in which we scored a penalty then they equalised with a 93rd minute penalty. Penalties are, seemingly, very common in Liga Dukh. Then we picked up three wins on the bounce, of which the third was the first ever Mitsetse Derby as we travelled to face local rivals Rabaqa Kuduqni.
The local bragging rights saw the boys step up big-time and one man in particular picked his moment to show his true class. Striker Olivero had scored 7 goals in 19 matches prior to this game, which wasn’t bad but he was touted as second favourite to be the top scorer in the league.
But he swiftly improved that goalscoring record by blitzing our club record (previously 2) and Liga Dukh record (previously 3) for most league goals in a match by smashing four goals past Rabaqa. Olivero was sensational in this match, while special mention also has to go to 17-year-old left winger Martin Goronda for his pair of assists.
Just as impressive was the rise up the table that this solid form of 7 games unbeaten resulted in. Coming to the end of October – and three consecutive cup matches – saw us sitting pretty joint top of Liga Dukh on 41 points from 22 matches, only behind Kasra on goal difference. That said, there are still only 4 points between top and 8th.
Looking to build something special
Half way through the season, Zagora manager Trebor Mahtal is already a favoured personnel of the vast majority of players in the squad. And the Board are throuhgly thrilled with the job I’m doing, including winning the Trenor di la Mes in October. So it’s safe to say that Aswijan Assignment has gotten off to a good start. The pressure was now on to maintain the good form and build something special.
We did OK in a few cup games, including qualifying for the quarter finals of the Copa Dukh, in which our Board only wanted us to try not to finish bottom of the three-team group.
Then in Copa Azore, the main Aswijan cup tournament, we got potentially the toughest ask we could possibly get. We were drawn against Aswijan Siti, a top tier team with no fewer than 20 players valued at £35 million or more and their most expensive is £70 million attacking midfielder Shawqi Haddad. This is the ultimate David v Goliath battle in Aswijan – and I suspect we could take a severe beating. But, that’s three months off in January.
The Liga Dukh season seems heftily weighted towards the opening few months. At the end of November we’d already played 22 league games, meaning we had 19 remaining in the next 5 months – with only 4 scheduled in March, 3 in April and 1 in May, compared to 8 in August and 7 in September.
The high of thrashing our local rivals was swiftly forgotten as we fell to a 2-0 home defeat against PC Manouza, but Olivero was back on it again as his brace earned a 2-0 win at Azzibira Sport then scored the second in another 2-0 win over Miher.
We were still sitting in second place and faced a huge top of the table clash away to 3rd placed Awjizirbu FC and we earned a solid 0-0 draw. That was followed up by sneaking a 1-0 win over bottom of the table Sporting Uswana courtesy of a Mashashi penalty. Interestingly, this left us just three points short of the club’s all-time record of 54 points in a season.
We equalled that record with another 1-0 win at PC Ajqab. As a result of our good form, the Board offered me a new contract at the end of November that ensured we would stay with Zagora until the end of the 2021 season.
We also got our first insight into this year’s youth intake, which looks OK but not great. But, on that topic, the Board have allowed me to increase youth recruitment to Basic and will be investing in our youth facilities at the end of the season.
Three huge matches close out 2019
Three big games were next up as we hosted second placed Neim then went away to leaders Kasra, before the second Metsitse Derby of the campaign.
And we broke the club’s record points haul with a huge 2-1 win over Neim. We’d been trailing 1-0 at half-time so I laid into the team, made two changes then Goronda got us level before sub striker Metello Ardito stepped up – you guessed it, from the penalty spot, which was our league-topping ninth spot kick of the campaign – to win it and move us onto 57 points.
That sent us into a top vs. second clash as we made the journey to Kasra, against whom the bookies had us as 4/1 outsiders. But we got off to a great start as winger Valdeko Gharapure raced down the right wing, whipped a cross in and Olivero leapt highest to send a header back into the near top corner.
Kasra were dominating the play but we somehow managed to repel everything they threw at us and sealed the win as midfielder Belerofone Kartal picked up a loose ball and smashed it home from 20 yards. A huge win put us 3 points behind Kasra and, crucially, 8 points clear of 7th place.
However, the elation of this win was sucker-punched by 17-year-old goalkeeper Caelan Mukulu suffering a broken upper leg in training, which ruled him out for around 8 months. Worryingly, we don’t have a third goalkeeper! Young winger Kalkan had also damaged his achilles tendon, which ruled him out for 6 months. It seemed the frantic fixture schedule was taking its toll.
We put this strong form on the line as we hosted local rivals Rabaqa, whose manager Ioannis Cousteau was talking all sorts of smack about me pre-game. But Olivero ensured we did our talking on the pitch by putting us ahead after 6 minutes with a hilarious opener. Their goalkeeper took an age to clear a standard backpass only to gift the ball to the striker for an open goal. We doubled that lead through Frances Cafiero’s poke home from a corner 11 minutes later and won 2-0 at a canter.
Cousteau wasn’t happy and lashed out at me again post-game, branding me a “bad winner.” Better than being a bad loser, Ioannis.
That derby win took Zagora Athletik into 2020 sitting pretty in the second automatic promotion position in Liga Dukh. We’re 3 points off the top, 4 clear of third, and 9 points clear of 7th (6th seals the final playoff place). Join us next time, when we’ll power through to the end of Season 1, which will include a cup away day at Aswijan’s version of Manchester City.
I’m really enjoying getting into the unknown of this brand new fictitious country and I hope you are too! If you have any questions about it or want more info on specific players in the squad, just let me know in the comments or get in touch on Twitter.