Azerbaijan has been hosting more and more top events in recent years. This year he will host the final of the Euro Cup in Baku. The General Secretary of the Federation, Mammadov Elkan, spoke for everyone and everyone with Manos Staramopoulos English Editor of Discoveryfootball.com
DF: May the Azerbaijan capital will host the final of the UEFA Champions League, one of the top UEFA competitions. How prepared is your football federation for this great event?
As you may have already known, UEFA holds two well-known club competitions and Baku is holding one of them: The final match of Europa League will be held in Baku Olympic Stadium on May 29th, 2019. Considering the support and trust between AFFA and UEFA, as well as our potential to hold the final match of the UEFA Champions League, I think we will make this big event happen. AFFA has already proved itself as a capable organizer by holding big sports tournaments such as FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, UEFA U-17 Europe Championship, and futsal «Fours Final».
DF: What does it mean for your country to assign such an important outcome?
Azerbaijan is already known as a host country holding big sports events all over the world. This process is one of the focus spheres of the government. Mr. President is personally involved in this procedure, including the necessary organizational matters and monitoring to host the events in compliance with the required standards. Hosting the final match of Europa League means Baku will once again have become the center of the international community, as well as the sports community.
DF: How difficult was your success in hosting the final of the Europa League, when you had an opponent in Istanbul … What did you do at the Olympic stadium, but also in the capital …
Certainly, securing the rights to host the final match of UEFA Europa League is not an easy win. Had big rivals and faced huge competition; however, the UEFA Executive Committee chose us. UEFA trust means a lot for us.
Baku Olympic Stadium is quite a new stadium: commissioned only in 2015. The stadium meets the requirements for the usage of modern sports facilities.
As for Baku itself, the city is the exquisite, gentle combination of modernity and antiquity. There are a lot of food and accommodation options available for the guests. Heydar Aliyev International Airport is among the most beautiful airports in the world. Transportation infrastructure meets the standards. All the above mentioned elements help us to guarantee that there will be no major problems hosting the event.
DF: Do you generally tell us how the football world sees football in Azerbaijan?
It would have not been right for us to answer this question by ourselves. To see oneself from outside is at least physically impossible. (*chuckles*) Overall what I think the world football community’s image of us is that Azerbaijan is stepping towards the development of football in a transparent and tolerant environment free from big issues of other places such as racism.
DF: Your championship by how many teams is it and how exactly is it?
There are 8 clubs competing in the highest league of Azerbaijan championship, called Premier League. The first impression of the number of clubs might be misleading, however, there are some objective and subjective reasons behind it. Interestingly enough, last season Qarabağ FK advanced to the group stage of the UEFA Champions League beating up its rivals in an only 8-club competition. Generally speaking, Qarabağ FK has been in group stages of European cups for 5 consecutive seasons.
Last season Qabala FK also advanced to the group stage of UEFA Europa League. To put in a nutshell, 8-club competition is the indicator of quality rather than quantity. Of course, we would like more clubs to be involved in the competitions. There are, however, a lot of factors that are needed to be followed and taken into serious consideration for that, such as the complete and transparent licensing procedures.
DF: How far is the capital from Baku but also from the stadium that will host the final?
Baku Olympic Stadium is not that far from the city center. It’s 25 to 35 minutes of ride on public transportation both from the city center and from the airport to the stadium.
DF: Many say that Azerbaijan is the new Dubai of Eurasia. How close or far from the truth is this?
Similarities are probably related to the rapid development of Baku. But I do not think it would be a good comparison to do. Although it is one of the fastest growing cities of the region along with its beauty, Baku is a city of the harmony of history, traditions, and modernity which makes it completely different than dynamic Dubai. One has to see Baku to witness what it is like.
DF: As far as I know, Azerbaijan is the country of natural gas and the expensive caviar coming from one of the world’s oldest fish, the sturgeon. Tell us a little about your beautiful country and if a visitor comes to see what you propose to visit?
Azerbaijan has a bigger tourism potential than current tourism figures it has. The resources are not geographically limited to Baku only. There is a lot of sightseeing all over the country. Azerbaijani cuisine is very rich. But I would recommend tourists to visit Baku first, familiarize themselves with the beauty of Absheron peninsula, afterward they will be directed to different regions of the country according to their individual tastes and interests.
DF: What is your view of the summer fact of the 21st World Cup held in Russia?
Overall, most World Cups held in Europe do happen to be carried out in summer. It is not the first time this is happening and considering the weather conditions in colder seasons, I think it is a rather rational choice to host the Cup in summer for spectators’, tourists’ and teams’ convenience.
DF: There is a strong reputation that UEFA is considering the possibility of a new event or the expansion of the Europa League. How do you see it?
I have also come across some stories suggesting similar possibilities. But since we have not gotten any official information regarding the possibility of a new competition, for now, the suggestions sound more like speculations.