Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 3rd 2014 Contents A65
Saturday, May 3, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Atletico Madrid's Koke, left, and teammate Atletico's Diego Godin celebrate in front of their fans after
defeating Chelsea in the Champions League semifinal second leg football match at Stamford Bridge stadium
in London, Wednesday. AP PHOTO
GENEVA---Atletico Madrid s stunning
run to the Champions League final
also announced another new player
on European football s biggest stages.
Atletico s players will walk out face
Real Madrid, and a global television
audience of 175 million, with "Azerbaijan
Land of Fire" on their shirts in Lisbon
on May 24.
It s a jackpot payoff for a wide-rang-
ing effort by the oil- and gas-rich for-
mer Soviet Union republic to become
more visible to global football audiences.
Expect to see a lot more of it at future
From September 7, the name SOCAR
(State Oil Company of Azerbaijan
Republic) will feature on pitch-side
advertising at most 2016 European
Championship and 2018 World Cup
qualifiers in Europe.
Its brand will appear at all 51 Euro
2016 matches in France after signing
up as a top-tier sponsor with UEFA.
And Azerbaijan s top aim could be
achieved on Sept. 19 if UEFA chooses
Baku among 13 host cities for Euro
"We think that will be the biggest
target we can achieve for now," Elkhan
Mammadov, general secretary of the
Association of Football Federations of
Azerbaijan (AFFA) said in a telephone
Like Qatar before it, greater exposure
for Azerbaijan from spending sovereign
wealth to project a softer image through
football will also bring more scrutiny.
The country nestling next to the Caspi-
an Sea, bordering Russia and Iran, has
long been criticised by human rights
and anti-censorship groups.
The long-term football project in
Azerbaijan was requested by President
Ilham Aliyev, who succeeded his
father in 2003 and later abolished
"Football is important in the country
and is supported by the government
and by the president himself," Mam-
madov said. "The president signed a
decree order for the development of
Azerbaijan football between 2005 and
2015 which covers development of the
infrastructure, and youth and women s
The strategy delivered a first Fifa
tournament, the Under-17 Women s
World Cup, in 2012. Jennifer Lopez and
Shakira were brought to Baku to per-
form at the opening and closing cer-
Azerbaijan will also host the European
Under-17 Championship for UEFA in
2016. The main sponsor is SOCAR,
whose president Rovnag Abdullayev
also leads the football body and is a
lawmaker in Aliyev s government.
Announcing the wide-ranging
SOCAR deal one year ago, UEFA mar-
keting director Guy-Laurent Epstein
pointed to the company s "aim to
become a global energy company."
SOCAR s retail operations include
dozens of petrol stations in Switzerland,
including one in Nyon near UEFA s
Though hosting low-key youth tour-
naments are partly investments in
goodwill with Fifa and UEFA, the Atleti-
co shirt deal signed midway through
last season has paid off spectacularly.
An initial 18-month deal, worth a
reported 12 million euros ($16.6 million),
was renewed for a further season.
That means league-leading Atletico
could soon be parading Azerbaijan s
historic slogan as Spanish and European
champion in the Champions League,
UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World
Cup, played in Morocco in December.
MUNICH---Former Bayern Munich
president Uli Hoeness parted with
bitter words for the media yesterday
as Karl Hopfner was elected his suc-
Hoeness, who resigned on March 14
after being convicted of evading millions
of euros (dollars) in tax through an
undeclared Swiss bank account,
acknowledged that he had "made a
mistake" but slammed journalists for
their handling of the case.
"I experienced something in the last
weeks that I never experienced before:
hate," Hoeness said. "What was written
about me and my family is unbelievable.
Most of the journalists who wrote
things about me did so without ever
meeting me. It s not about reporting,
it s about making money."
Hoeness told the club s extraordinary
general meeting he had also received
"thousands" of letters of support "in
contrast to the reports written
Hoeness, who is expected to soon
begin his three-year prison term, said
he was proud of what he had achieved
at Bayern, where he spent the majority
of his playing career in the 1970s. He
joined the club s management structure
"Many say, Uli Hoeness destroyed
his life s work with his mistake. I don t
see it that way," the 63-year-old said.
"When I m back, I won t sit quietly.
That wasn t it yet."
Hopfner received all but six votes,
including one abstention, from 1,593
Bayern members in the election for
Hoeness successor. The 61-year-old
former club vice-president had been
the only candidate.
"Many thanks for this vote in con-
fidence. We will do all we can ensure
you won t be disappointed," said
Hopfner, who also thanked Hoeness
for his contribution to the club. (AP)
Hoeness slams media as
Bayern elects successor
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