Author: Sanan SHAFIZADE
Two of the four Azerbaijani football clubs qualified for European tournaments have already dropped out. After the defeats of Keshla and Sumgayit, fans hope for the success of Garabagh and Neftchi. Turkish Galatasaray will be Neftchi's next rival in the Europa League. Also known as Cim-Bom, Galatasaray has thousands of fans in Azerbaijan too.
Obviously, there is a huge interest in the upcoming match between Neftchi and Galatasaray. Everyone is looking forward to the competition between the historical clubs of the two countries. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, only one game will take place, and even that will be held without fans. In the last century, Neftchi met twice with Galatasaray, not losing in any game. The first game took place on July 11, 1960. At that time, the USSR Championship was held according to the ‘spring-autumn’ system. During a break in the championship season, Neftchi played three games in Baku this summer. In the first one, a goalless draw was recorded with the Motor team from the German Democratic Republic. In the second game, Neftchi’s opponent was Galatasaray. The team stayed in Baku for three days and on July 11 had a friendly game against Neftchi. The match took place at the Tofig Bahramov Stadium in Baku and was attended by 50,000 fans. The game ended with the victory of Neftchi (3:1). The goals were scored by forward Kamil Eynullayev (Neftchi) and midfielder Ahmet Berman (Galatasaray). The second game between the teams took place in January 1990 in Turkey. At that time Neftchi was playing in the 1st league of the USSR championship and visited Turkey for training camps. The game took place at the famous Ali Sami Yen Stadium. However, Neftchi's rival was not the main team of Galatasaray, but the team that played in the third league (now called ‘reserve players’). The game ended with the score 2:2.
Thirty years later Neftchi and Galatasaray are going to meet again. Our interviewee is the famous Turkish commentator Erdogan ARIKAN, who shared his viewson the upcoming match between the two fraternal countries.
“Welcome to Azerbaijan. After the Europa League draw, everyone in Azerbaijan is looking forward to the match between Neftchi and Galatasaray. What can we expect from the game?”
“We have the same situation in Turkey. The drawing made the fans happy. Two historical clubs of the two fraternal countries will meet again. Holding the match in the capital of brotherly Azerbaijan, Baku, will leave wonderful impressions. It is a pity that fans will not be able to watch the game at the stadium. I would like to wish good luck to both teams. I think we will have a very interesting and intense game.”
“Galatasaray is called a favorite of the duel. Do you agree with this?”
“We will see it on the field. It is difficult to say who will make it to the next stage. At the moment, Neftchi looks more prepared for the game. Why? First of all, the championship in Turkey will start later, while the Premier League has already begun in Azerbaijan. This means that Neftchi hada chance to improve after several games. Secondly, as far as I know, your team has already completed transfers, which is not true for Galatasaray yet. That’s why I can say that Neftchi's chances to win are high.
“On the other hand, we must admit that there is a significant difference in the financial capabilities of clubs. Today Galatasaray pays millions for transfers, as it has major sponsors. Fatih Terim's team is, of course, ahead of Neftchi in this regard. There is also a difference between our championships.”
“If Neftchi played in the Turkish Super League, what would it be its ranking position?”
“I have not followed Neftchi's games for quite a while. It is difficult to say anything. As far as I know, 7-8 years ago Neftchi was stronger. Then it qualified for the group stage of the Europa League. That’s all I know.”
“The teams of our countries always demonstrate an uncompromising competition on the field. We always see a tough game when the national teams of Azerbaijan and Turkey play against each other.”
“Naturally, during a match, the fraternity bonds remain outside the field. Players from both sides try to show their best. An open competition on the field for victory to determine the stronger side is quite normal.”
“Azerbaijani football fans follow the Turkish championship with great interest. How is Azerbaijani football seen in Turkey? Is there any interest in Turkey?”
“The interest was great when Turkish coaches Mustafa Denizli, Oguz Cetin, Bulent Korkmaz, Oktay Derelioglu worked in your country. There were regular articles in newspapers and numerous reports. Now our trainers do not work in Azerbaijan. In addition, you don't have footballers playing in Turkey. Therefore, the interest in the Azerbaijan championship is not much. One can find occasional statements in the Turkish media about the football in Azerbaijan. Most of them are about Garabagh, which is largely respected both in Azerbaijan and Turkey. There were small articles when Garabagh got qualified for the Champions League. As one of your colleagues, I would like to have closer cooperation between the sports media of our countries.”
“So, you followed Garabagh's matches in European competitions?”
“I watched a few games. We are proud of two draws (0:0, 1:1) in the matches with Atlético Madrid. In fact, Garabagh is a pride of the whole Turkic world. The team has achieved a high level. I would even say that it is above the level of your championship. If Garabagh played in the Turkish Super League, it could compete with the top five teams of the country.”
“Turkish Super League is not broadcast on Azerbaijani TV channels. Despite many occasions of negotiations, they say that broadcasting the Super League is very expensive...”
“In Turkey, the situation with broadcasting is different. The Super League price is set based on the level of the clubs. There are many expensive players in our championship. If I am not mistaken, the Turkish Super League ranks 5-6th in Europe in terms of broadcasting costs. Many countries want to broadcast our championship, but cannot come to an agreement yet. In the future, the broadcasting conditions will be revised and, if I am not mistaken, more acceptable conditions will be adopted. But the costs will drop slightly. We should bear in mind that our clubs are generating income from broadcasting and are happy with the high price tag. The broadcasting company pays the runner-up club a minimum of $10 million. That's quite a sum of money.”
“Some people predict the successful work of Turkish coaches in the national team of Azerbaijan. Do you think a Turkish coach can succeed in our national team?”
“It is difficult to comment on the work of coaches. In Europe, Turkish coaches have not been successful. Only Fatih Terim worked in Italy. He worked for a year at Milan and Fiorentina. Therefore, it is difficult to predict something about the Azerbaijani national team. I think our coaches are used to work in Turkey most of the time. It is difficult for them abroad.”
“Hatayspor recently offered a contract to the head coach of Garabagh Gurban Gurbanov. But Gurbanov preferred to stay in Garabagh. Do you think he will be able to work in a foreign country?”
“It is very difficult to work in Turkey. We have our own rules. You need to know how to build relationships with the media, football players, fans. The first years you have to withstand the pressure, then you can get used to it. We respect Gurban-bey very much. He has been working with Garabagh for over 10 years. This is a long time for football. This means that he has managed to create a system, knows his job well and is successful. Ten years are enough to know any coach. It is not so easy to work with Garabagh. I believe that Gurbanov will work successfully in Turkey. If one has been running a club in European competitions for more than ten years, it means he’s a master of the craft.”
“Let's go back to the Neftchi - Galatasaray match. Will Fatih Terim let thekey players of the team on the field?”
“The Super League begins soon. Galatasaray has to play important matches in Turkey. It is difficult to play three games in 8-9 days. I don't want to speculate about the lineup. But I'm looking forward to a tense struggle in this game. Perhaps penalties will determine the final score of the match. They can become inevitable.”
“What is your forecast for the match?”
“I think Galatasaray wins with a minimum score. 1:0, 2:1 or 3:2. I wish both clubs success.”
“Thanks for the interview.”
“My best regards to Azerbaijan! Thank you.”