Turkmenistan's FK Arkadag unstoppable. GETTY IMAGES

Founded in 2023, they haven't lost a single match. They have 36 domestic victories to their name. They won the league and cup double in their debut season. Later this year, they'll take the biggest step in their short history. They'll be competing in the AFC Champions League 2, the equivalent of the Europa League.

While everyone is familiar with the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester City, reigning Champions League holders Milan and many other European champions, the team with the best statistics could be a lesser-known club from the mysterious nation of Turkmenistan in Central Asia, FK Arkadag. 

Statistically, they're unbeatable. That's the data. Founded only last year and named in honour of former president Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, FK Arkadag have been unstoppable. They have won 36 domestic titles in a row. 

These triumphs have enabled them not to lose a single competitive match and to complete a league and cup double in their inaugural season, a feat almost unimaginable elsewhere. They've won it all, apart from two recent defeats to Shakhtar Donetsk and Ukraine's Dnipro-1 in friendlies in February. There's no trace of this on the Turkmenistan Football Federation website.

That's not surprising in a country where information is tightly controlled. Especially when it comes to a football club founded in honour of the undisputed father of the nation, according to an AFP report.

FK Arkadag continue their unstoppable winning streak. GETTY IMAGES
FK Arkadag continue their unstoppable winning streak. GETTY IMAGES

The energy-rich country is one of the most closed in the world, say human rights groups, with the Berdimuhamedows (father Gurbanguly and son, President Serdar Berdimuhamedow) exercising almost total control over all aspects of society. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow has built up an intense cult of personality during his 15-year presidency. He is now known by the title "Arkadag", or "Hero of Protection". The same name as the team and the pitch on which the matches are played.

Despite handing over the presidency to Serdar, Gurbanguly continues to rule in a de facto tandem with his son. He enjoys immense privileges as the official head of the Turkmen nation.

A picture from a match in Arkadag between the home team and Ahal. GETTY IMAGES
A picture from a match in Arkadag between the home team and Ahal. GETTY IMAGES

Arkadag, the football club named after him, plays its home games at the Arkadag Stadium in the new city of Arkadag, a mega-project built in his honour at an official cost of $5 billion.

In Turkmenistan, everything is huge and everything has a name. The city's main monument is 43 metres high. It is topped by a golden statue of Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov on horseback.

Berdimuhamedov personally chose the team's badge in the colours of the national flag. He also 'advised' other clubs to let go of their best players. According to the Spanish newspaper As, Didar Durdyyev, the league's top scorer in 2022, said they had made him "an offer he couldn't refuse".

Arkadag's supremacy hasn't gone down too well with their rivals, who have realised that in addition to taking away the best players and reducing the potential of other teams in the league, there is another way to referee the game. FK Arkadag's matches have been marred by controversial decisions.

FK Arkadag's entry into the league was also somewhat curious, as the league was an eight-team competition until their arrival, when it was changed to include FK Arkadag as a ninth team just days before the start of the championship.

The Kazakh club's winning streak is unstoppable. They have no domestic rivals, but they need to improve attendance at their matches. AFP attended two of their matches. One was against FK Arkadag and the other against Ahal and Altyn Asyr, which attracted around 200 fans. That's something that needs to be improved in a stadium with a capacity of 10,000.

Begench Mukhadov is a fan of the team. At one of their matches he waved the club's scarf, which bears their official logo, an icy blue and white shield with an Akhal-Teke horse, a Turkmen national symbol.

A group of fans at Arkadag Stadium. GETTY IMAGES
A group of fans at Arkadag Stadium. GETTY IMAGES

"Arkadag will surely win all the titles again this season. I'm happy that an invincible team has emerged. Football has become interesting," said Mukhadov, an 18-year-old construction worker. Official Shageldy Soyunov, 34, said: "I follow all Arkadag matches closely" and likes the team's "dynamic play".

Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow gave FK Arkadag players a photo of Serdar Berdimuhamedov signing a football with the club's logo as a reward for last year's double. The gift was "accepted with great pride and deep gratitude", according to Turkmen state media. Turkmenistan's media is tightly controlled by the regime.

"Didar Durdyev, the league's two-time top scorer, told AFP: "He met our team and encouraged us to win more. The league's top scorers are undoubtedly from the mighty FK Arkadag, with 83 goals in 24 league games last year. This season, FK Arkadag have added to its tally with 25 goals in five games.

"We feel the support of our respected hero Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow," says 30-year-old striker Durdyev. Later this year, the club will face their biggest test yet. They will compete in the AFC Champions League 2, the Asian Football Confederation's equivalent of the Europa League. It will also be an unprecedented step for Turkmenistan.

They haven't won a match since June 2022 and their national team is made up largely made of Arkadag players. Turkmenistan are currently ranked 143 out of 210 in the FIFA World Ranking. "It's good for the players to get to know each other. It's good for their team spirit to win," an official from the State Sports Committee told AFP on condition of anonymity.