Author: Sanan NADIROGHLU
2020 will be remembered for the great and historic Victory of the Azerbaijan Army in the Patriotic War, the unity of the people. We have lived with the dream of an integral Azerbaijan for the last 30 years. We walked 44 days to the Solidarity Day of World Azerbaijanis, December 31, 2020. And now every Azerbaijani, every fellow compatriot can proudly bear the title of being an Azerbaijani, belonging to a multi-ethnic country. And even those who had to leave the homeland do not interrupt their ties with Azerbaijan. Our guest today is a Azerbaijani footballer, former head coach of the national team of Azerbaijan, the only Azerbaijani Olympic champion in football, the laureate of the Glory Order of Azerbaijan, Igor PONOMAREV, who after completing his football career lives in Sweden.
"Igor Anatolyevich, how did you react to the victory of the Azerbaijani army in the Patriotic War?"
"This is undoubtedly a great event for Azerbaijan. I think anyone keeping strong bonds with Azerbaijan rejoices at this great event, the return of Azerbaijani lands. I congratulate everyone on the great victory in the Patriotic War! Glory to the victorious President, to all the heroes who gave their lives for their native lands!"
"How was the news about the liberation of the Karabakh lands spread in Sweden?"
"Through the media. Plus, our diaspora organization, the Congress of Azerbaijanis of Sweden led by Emil Mirzayev. By the way, I am the deputy chairman of the organization. We have been actively working to clarify the essence of the conflict. The Swedish society was informed that Armenia was the aggressor and that Azerbaijan was fighting on its territory, returning its lands, which were illegally occupied by Armenia for almost 30 years. And finally they are free."
"Were you asked questions about Azerbaijan and the military success of its army?"
"Yes. My Swedish friends, neighbours both in Spain and in Sweden asked many questions, not understanding the essence of the problem between Armenia and Azerbaijan. I explained to them that for 30 years Azerbaijan had been trying to return its lands by peaceful, diplomatic means. But the Armenian side in the negotiations gave only empty promises, deceived us. Therefore, Azerbaijan had to resort to retaliatory military actions."
"During the Patriotic War, national flags were hung on the balconies of houses and cars in Azerbaijan. Have you seen something like this in Sweden?"
"We saw not only flags of Azerbaijan but also rallies and even a car rally in support of Azerbaijan and our army. With the official permission of local authorities, the Congress of Azerbaijanis in Sweden organized actions in support of Azerbaijan. The events were held in accordance with the requirements without violating public rules."
"What is the opinion of the Swedish society about Azerbaijan?"
"Azerbaijan is known here as a developed oil country. Many Swedes are interested in our country and intend to visit and get acquainted with its natural beauty and sights."
"There is no doubt that the victory of the Azerbaijani army will bring the country to a new level of development. What do you think can change in the country?"
"I think that an enormous rejuvenation of these lands will begin with the construction of modern infrastructure and young people pulled up from different parts of Azerbaijan to Garabagh and the surrounding areas. I believe that these places will become very attractive and fully integrate into the life of modern Azerbaijan."
"How do you like the idea of holding sports events and creating football clubs in the liberated regions?"
"Great idea. I have no doubt that sports facilities and stadiums will be built in these areas, and young people will develop. There will definitely be football clubs that can participate in the Azerbaijan championship."
"What are your expectations regarding FC Garabagh?"
"This club has already taught us that for six years it has been representing the country in European competitions, winning the league. All the clubs in Azerbaijan are trying to be on par with FC Garabagh. The backbone of the country's football team consists of the players from this club. FC Garabagh is a brand today. If we want football to develop in the country, we need as many teams from the regions of Azerbaijan to play in the Premier League and to be based in their regions and cities. We all know that today Mr. President Ilham Aliyev and First Vice President Mehriban-khanim pay great attention to the infrastructure in the country and the development of sports. It is very important for the popularization of football in Azerbaijan that FC Garabagh play at the restored Aghdam stadium Imarat. Let's hope that it will be so in the near future."
"How can you generally assess 2020 for Azerbaijani sports and football?"
"The coronavirus pandemic has changed everything. Athletes also were affected. Everyone was either in lockdown or the complete games in the league were stopped. There are many sick people. My assessment is that it was an extraordinary and difficult year."
"The national team and the youth team of Azerbaijan could not please us with anything. Can the coaches of these teams – Gianni de Biasi and Milan Obradovic – change anything in the future?"
"Unfortunately, we have had such poor results not only this year, but for many years. We hope to break through this lane of failures someday. I am an optimist, and I wish De Biasi and Obradovic to find the key to our teams and achieve success."
"What are your expectations and wishes for 2021?"
"First of all, let’s get rid of the virus, so that the masks disappear from our faces and so that everyone is healthy. And so that everything returns to normal. Happy New Year to everyone! May it be a happy year for all of us!"