Author: Sanan SHAFIZADEH
On August 31, UEFA announced in Monaco the list of participating teams for the group stage of the Europa League for the 2018/19 season. On the same day, the federation presented the logo of the final match of the competition, which will be held on May 29, 2019 in Baku.
The playoff stage of the second prestigious club tournament in Europe will be one of the largest sporting events that the capital of Azerbaijan will host in 2019. It is planned to be held at the Baku Olympic Stadium. Preparations for the match are underway. Baku expects a large inflow of football fans from all over the world. The match will also be broadcasted to more than 50 countries.
Elkhan MAMMADOV, Secretary General of the Association of Football Federations of Azerbaijan (AFFA), told us about organizational works of his federation and the importance of this event for the country.
Baku is going to host one of the largest football competitions in its history and the second most important club tournament in Europe. What does this mean for Azerbaijan?
This is one of the two most prestigious club tournaments not only in Europe, but all over the world, and holding its final match in Baku will be a real holiday for the football community of the country. Fans can watch the game of two prestigious teams of the world football live. Most importantly, the name of Baku will be included in the list of cities where the final games of the Europa League were held.
As far as we know, the first preparations for the organization of the final game are already under way. How is Baku preparing?
Our goal is to organize the final game at the highest level. The preparatory work has already been started. The organizing committee began its activities. Not only we, but also partners from the European football organization are also very serious about this process. UEFA has inspected the infrastructure for the final meeting three times. In parallel, the relevant structures are working on the concept of the final game.
I would like to emphasize one important point. In our work, we constantly feel the support of President Ilham Aliyev. The presidential guarantee letter submitted to the tender played an important role in the adoption by the members of the Executive Committee of the decision to hold the final match of the Europa League in Baku. Personal support of the president guaranteed that the candidacy of our capital city was approved without hesitation. President Aliyev signed relevant orders regarding the organization of the final match at the highest level. On behalf of the football community of Azerbaijan, I would like to thank Mr. President for his support.
On the day of the draw in Monaco, UEFA presented the logo of the final match of the Europa League for the 2018/19 season with the slogan Together to Baku. The national elements on the logo were of particular interest...
Yes, the logo shows unique samples of our architecture, reflecting the local features of Baku. Elements of design were such monuments as the building of the State Philharmonic, the Flame Tower, the Maiden Tower, the Heydar Aliyev Center and the Government House. Overall, the new logo combines the ancient and modern features of Baku. Azerbaijan is known internationally as the Land of Fire; hence the letter "A" on the logo is shown as a flame. As for the buta ornament, it has found wide application in national clothes, carpets, weaving products. Based on this, we have prepared a special element of "Buta", which UEFA will apply for the League of Europe.
We must not forget about the 12th player. Are we ready to accept the big flow of football fans in Baku?
Our capital has enough experience in holding major international tournaments. The local organisation committee is trying to meet the needs of fans. In Baku, fans from different countries will witness the warmest hospitality. This will be possible in large part due to the involvement of volunteers.
What does await the fans in Baku?
First of all, as I said, they are expecting a real football festival, a high level of hospitality inherent in our people and, I hope, a very interesting final match. I am also sure that the combination of ancient monuments of Baku with modern infrastructure will leave an indelible impression on all guests.
Surely you also have your favorite team. What two teams would you like to watch at the Baku Olympic Stadium? It would be interesting to know from you as a fan the first forecast of the game…
Of course, I would particularly like to see the Azerbaijani team in the finals. But if this is unreal, then, naturally, I would like to see in Baku two European teams with the largest army of fans. Another important point in this matter is distance. In order to bring as many football fans as possible to the country, for us, as the host country, it would be desirable that both teams are from geographically close countries. Anyway, we want to watch a full-blown final match at the Baku Olympic Stadium.
Apparently, celebrities of world football will also visit Baku to watch the final match. And most importantly, when is it planned to start the sale of tickets for the final match?
Of course, we are waiting for the arrival of football celebrities. Negotiations are currently under way in this direction. As for the tickets, we will announce this in advance.
What is the significance of holding the finals of the Europa League for Azerbaijani football?
As I already mentioned, the UEFA Europa League final is a very prestigious event. The holding of a playoff match and the announcement of the winner in Baku will contribute to the growth of interest in football and the development of the football movement in Azerbaijan. For UEFA, this is an important moment in terms of expanding the geography of final matches of club tournaments.