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Tuesday, Aug 20, 2013


Football: Oil boom fuels rise of football in Azerbaijan

Tuesday, Aug 20, 2013

This file photo taken on October 14, 2009 shows Wales' coach John Toshack attending a World Cup 2010 qualifying football game against Liechtenstein in Vaduz.

"My agent told me that there are some good teams in Azerbaijan and I said of course it is possible to play there and I came without problem," the South American player said.

"Baku is a beautiful city, the people here are normal but I spend most of my time at home with my family."

'There were no proper stadiums'

While the level of some of the foreign imports may not yet be high enough, for local players football in Azerbaijan is unrecognisable from where it was a few years ago.

"In Azerbaijan a few years ago there weren't even proper stadiums," says national team striker Vagif Javadov, who also plays for Inter Baku. "Now pretty much every team has its own stadium."

Experts say that while the change is evident fans may soon be demanding more return for the money the clubs are pouring into the game.

"It could be argued that with the amount of money being invested we would want to have greater development," says Ikhtiyar Asgarov, who runs football website Apasport.

"However much we might wish it, in the next few years it's impossible to imagine our teams reaching the latter stages of the Champions League."

As for Welshman Toshack, Lankaran may be a far cry from the famous arenas like Santiago Bernabeu or Anfield that he has worked in before but when the football starts it will be business as usual.

"Despite the fact that Lankaran is very different from places I've been before, I don't see myself having a problem settling in," he says.

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