Georgia's Euro 2024 squad promised more than $10 million by billionaire ex-prime minister

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — Georgia’s soccer team is in line for an unexpected payday at Euro 2024 after a billionaire former prime minister promised to pay out more than $10 million following its surprise win over Portugal.

The Georgian team can double its money with another win over Spain on Sunday in the round of 16.

Bidzina Ivanishvili, who founded the ruling Georgian Dream party and is now its honorary chairman, initially offered the payment of 30 million Georgian lari ($10.7 million) before the tournament on the condition that Georgia reached the knockout stages. It did so after goals from Khvichka Kvaratkhelia and Georges Mikautadze gave Georgia a 2-0 win over a Portugal team led by Cristiano Ronaldo on Wednesday for one of the biggest shocks at any European Championship.

Ivanishvili confirmed the bonus in a statement carried by Imedi TV on Thursday and said that an equally large sum would be paid out to the team if Georgia beats Spain.

The statement said Ivanishvili “congratulates the Georgian football team on their greatest victory.”

Georgia is in a major soccer tournament for the first time and was not widely expected to progress past the group stage in Germany.

Georgia’s success at the tournament has come against the background of political division at home over a law passed by the Georgian Dream-controlled parliament which opponents say would restrict the media in the South Caucasus country of 3.7 million and jeopardize its bid to join the European Union.

Following weeks-long protests, the measure was signed into law June 3 when the parliament overrode a presidential veto.

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AP Euro 2024: https://apnews.com/hub/euro-2024

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