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Georgian PM booed addressing football team homecoming

3 July 2024
Irakli Kobakhidze on stage at the homecoming ceremony of the Georgian National Football team. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

Crowds gathered to meet Georgia’s national football team upon their return from Germany booed Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze twice as he stepped on stage to address them.

The government organised a welcome ceremony for the national football team after they returned from the UEFA Euro 2024 championship in Germany on Tuesday.

Despite being knocked out after losing 4–1 to Spain, the Georgian team received a hero’s welcome upon their return, winning plaudits for qualifying for the tournament and for proceeding to the knockout stage after defeating Portugal.

Hundreds of fans awaited the team’s arrival at Tbilisi International Airport on Tuesday, but the team was quickly whisked away. The welcome ceremony was announced several hours later.

The national team was greeted with cheers as they drove through the streets of Tbilisi in an open-top bus to the ceremony. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

Kobakhidze was met with boos and jeers from throughout the crowd after appearing on stage to congratulate the team, before quickly inviting President Salome Zourabichvili to award the players with the Order of Honour. The award is given to people who have significantly contributed to the development of Georgia.

President Zourabichvili was greeted with loud cheers from the crowd.

‘Today is a miracle. I want such a Georgia’, said Zourabichvili. ‘I am happy with the miracle of these boys, but miracles do not come just like that; it is hard work, dedication, talent, positive attitude, professionalism, teamwork, and love for the country, and all these things have been combined in such a way that they have achieved the unattainable’. 


After Zourabichvili awarded the team and coaches, Kobakhidze again attempted to address the crowd, only to be booed again.

Zourabichvili’s relationship with the ruling Georgian Dream party and its officials have been strained for years; in the years since being elected, Zourabichvili became increasingly outspoken in her criticism of Georgian Dream’s turn from the West and legislation deemed by civil society and government critics to be authoritarian and repressive.

Tensions between the president and Georgian Dream mounted in 2023, when the party attempted to and failed to impeach her over a series of official visits she had made that were not approved by the government.

Officials from the ruling party have since dispensed with Zourabichvili’s official title as president, opting instead to refer to her by her name or calling her a ‘so-called president’.

Relations between Zourabichvili and the ruling party became even more strained in April when Georgia was struck by massive demonstrations against the foreign agent law, which the parliament reintroduced and adopted amid massive protests and controversy.

Zourabichvili has since offered an alternative to Georgian Dream in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Riot police detaining a foreign agent law protester following 13 May’s overnight protest against the law. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

The day after the homecoming ceremony, Georgian Dream MP Irakli Kadagishvili criticised the crowd’s reaction to Kobakhidze’s address, calling it a ‘provocation’ carried out by a ‘group of sowers of hatred, haters, whose aim is to turn any public celebration or the country’s into something negative’.

‘These people, who started the agitation, stood in an organised, small group, but society did not follow it’, he said. ‘There is this section of society whose number one task is revenge. They do not have common national tasks. Any country’s success must somehow be translated into something negative, and they have an environment through which they manage to present this negativity’.

Mikheil Daushvili, a member of the opposition For Georgia party, argued on Wednesday that the crowd’s reaction was justified following the authorities’ crackdown on protesters against the foreign agent law and critics of the government.

‘When you physically and psychologically abuse your citizens, you should not be surprised by this reaction’, he said. ‘This is a concrete result of the aggression and violence that the Georgian Dream carried out against our citizens. Yesterday we saw the result of this’.

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