President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has today received the squad of Qarabag football club.
Welcoming the footballers, President Ilham Aliyev said:
- A new page in the history of football of our country was opened yesterday. Football club Qarabag has qualified for the group stage of the UEFA Champions League. I cordially congratulate all of you on this historic victory. You have presented the Azerbaijani people with a joy of victory. In a tense fight, you have once again shown that an Azerbaijani athlete, a citizen of Azerbaijan is attached to his people and state, is strong and professional, and worthily represents our country on the international arena.
This historic victory is also important because it has been won by our native and beloved team of Qarabag. Team Qarabag bears the name of Karabakh. Team Qarabag represents the city of Agdam, which is under occupation. Therefore, your victory is of tremendous importance and meaning. It is not just a sporting victory, it is a victory of our state, the Azerbaijani youth and patriotic people. We achieve victories both on the battlefield and on sports grounds. Similarly, in April of last year, the heroic Azerbaijani soldiers showed great courage and freed some of our lands from occupiers. Life now boils on these lands. Our people have returned to the lands liberated from occupation. Now they live and create there. The flag of Azerbaijan now flies over these lands.
You also raised the flag of Azerbaijan in football yesterday. I am sure that every patriotic citizen of Azerbaijan and millions of Azerbaijanis living abroad wholeheartedly rejoiced at your victory, were proud of the fact that an Azerbaijani team, especially a team named Qarabag, is one of the strongest teams in the world and Europe today.
This victory also epitomizes the development of football in Azerbaijan. I am very glad that football, the most popular sport in the world, is developing in Azerbaijan. We have been waiting for this development for a long time. We looked forward to the victories of our players. I believe that we are witnessing this today. Both our clubs and the national team are showing good results and good game, demonstrating perseverance, determination will and patriotism. Therefore, I believe that Azerbaijani football will develop even faster in the future, and our clubs and the national team will represent our country with dignity.
Of course, this victory is the result of the work carried out in the field of sports in our country in recent years. Sport is part of our state policy in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is known in the world as a sporting nation today. Our athletes are showing good results at European and world championships and at the Olympic Games. The first European games and the fourth Games of Islamic Solidarity held in Baku once again showed the strength of Azerbaijani athletes. In the team event, we finished second in the European games and in first place at the Games of Islamic Solidarity. This is a historic victory. At the same time, at the Summer Olympic Games in Rio last year, Azerbaijani athletes won 18 medals and finished in 14th place for the number of medals on a global scale.
This is a historic achievement for a newly independent state. I am very happy and would like to note once again that the most popular sport, football, is developing in Azerbaijan. New stadiums are built, our historical stadium named after Tofig Bahramov was renovated several years ago. One of the most beautiful stadiums in the world, the Baku Olympic Stadium, has been built. It can accommodate almost 70,000 spectators. Other stadiums are being built. Stadiums and sports facilities are built in the regions as well. The development of sports, of course, takes place thanks to the presence of the sports infrastructure. The most sophisticated sports infrastructure has been created both in the regions and in Baku.
I am sure that the influx of children into football clubs will further increase after this victory. The number of those who want to become football players and be like you will increase. Of course, this puts additional responsibility on you because there is hardly anyone in Azerbaijan who does not know you. Attention to you will grow, and as you have behaved adequately both in sport and in everyday life, I am sure you will continue to be an example for young people and young athletes in the future too.
I would also like to note that yesterday's victory was not accidental. You were moving towards this victory for several years. You have become national champions several times and participated in the group stage of the Europa League several years. I remember the previous meeting with you. Then you were deprived of a victory because of an injustice on the part of a referee. I also remember that even then, despite the injustice, you behaved very dignifiedly and with restraint, and justice triumphed. In a very tense, open and fair fight, you have proved that Azerbaijani football develops and can win great victories. Therefore, your victory is natural and just.
First of all, I would like to congratulate the leadership of the club, especially its head Tahir Gezal, on this occasion. I know that Tahir treats this issue with great love and soul. Tahir is probably the happiest person today. Congratulations, Tahir! I congratulate all your assistants and specialists. I congratulate the head coach of the team, Gurban Gurbanov. Gurban Gurbanov has asserted himself in football as a professional football player, as a knowledgeable coach and as a patriot.
At the same time, the audience will probably agree, Gurban Gurbanov behaves with great dignity during the matches. I am sure that his behavior, confidence and consistency give extra strength to the players. Of course, I want to congratulate the footballers because this victory was won by football players. Being a football player and an athlete requires a lot of work and dedication. Unfortunately, football players face injuries from a young age and are operated on. It is hard work and a difficult profession. Football players have shown that they can win great victories.
Today, Football Club Qarabag competes and will compete with leading clubs of Europe. Foreign media are already broadcasting numerous reports about Qarabag club from Azerbaijan. Of course, this is a very important event in the propaganda of our country. The whole world sees again that Karabakh is Azerbaijani land. The world sees again that although the city of Agdam is under occupation, its representatives are conquering Europe. This once again shows that the Azerbaijani people will never reconcile themselves with this occupation. It shows that we live on our own land and live with a dream of liberating our lands from occupation. Every victory and success in any sphere brings this day closer.
Last April's fighting showed that Azerbaijan can restore its territorial integrity at any time. Our present military potential allows us to control the entire situation in the combat zone and dictate our will. The same is true in sports, and our sportsmen give us the joy of victory.
I value your victory very highly. This is a historic victory. This victory is inscribed in history, and it is very true that it was Qarabag that has won this victory. I congratulate you once again and wish you continued success. I want to express my confidence that you will represent our country worthily at the group stage. Thank you!