On 15th September, 2021, history was made as FC Sheriff Tiraspol became the first Moldovan club to play in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League. After trying to reach the UEFA Champions League group stage for 20 years (since 2000), Sheriff Tiraspol (or simply Sheriff) fulfilled their dreams when they hosted Ukrainian side, Shakhtar Donetsk for the Matchday 1 of 2021/22 UEFA Champions League season. So who are Sheriff and how did they get there?
The origin of FC Sheriff Tiraspol
FC Sheriff Tiraspol was founded in 1997 in the city of Tiraspol, in the unrecognised breakaway state of Transnistria. The club was originally named Tiras Tiraspol but was subsequently changed during the 1998 season to be just 'Sheriff.' The club is named after its main sponsor, Sheriff, a company which owns various businesses in the Transnistria region. The club's official colours are Yellow and Black while its most common nickname is 'Osy' meaning 'The Wasps.'
Sheriff plays in the Divizia Nationala, the first league in Moldova, where it made its debut during the 1998/99 season. Sheriff Tiraspol win its first trophy, the Moldovan Cup, during their debut 98/99 season. Since then, Sheriff has gone on to dominate Moldovan football, winning 19 Moldovan league championships titles, 10 Moldovan Cups, and 7 Moldovan Super Cups. They are the record winners of all these competitions and no doubt the most successful team from Moldova so far.
FC Sheriff Tiraspol in Europa League and the UEFA Champions League
Since 2000, Sheriff has been striving to reach the elite European competitions, failing between 2000 and 2009 to go past the second qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League everytime. In 2009/10, they caught a break and appeared in the group stage of the Europa League, finishing third in a group that also had Fenerbahçe, Twente and Steaua București. Three more Europa League appearances came in 2010/11, 2013/14, and 2017/18 seasons, finishing in 3rd place in all of the seasons.
In 2021/21, FC Sheriff Tiraspol finally broke their UEFA Champions League duck by qualifying for the elite club competition through eliminating Dinamo Zagreb by a 3-0 aggregate in the last round. Sheriff was drawn in Group D alongside record winners, Real Madrid; Italian champions, Inter Milan; and Ukrainian regulars, Shakhtar Donetsk. Sheriff have had a good run so far, winning their first two games, a 2-1 win against Shakhtar Donetsk at the Sheriff Stadium on Matchday 1 and a surprising 2-1 away win against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.