A feast of International Football in Baku

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June 9th 2009
Published: June 17th 2009
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Two International football matches in four days. It was too much to resist!

First up was the World Cup Qualifier where neither Azerbaijan nor Wales could qualify, so it was more of a friendly really! We had met some of the Welsh fans in Finnegans bar the night before the match. It turned into quite a late one and the half price Guinness was really good! We made some good friends, especially Lucy from the FAW who couldn't believe Russ was wearing his Bridgend Ravens shirt and wanted photos for her boyfriend to prove it!!

Getting to the game proved a bit of a nightmare for us. We jumped on the No 5 bus which takes us to the Icharisahar metro station, only to find that it has changed its route and no longer goes there! Instead we hopped off, got on a different bus and went to Sahil metro. It was chaotic when we arrived at the Tofik Bakhramov as the police didn't seem to have any idea how to organise things! We pushed and shoved our way through the crowds, many of whom appeared not to have tickets, and eventually squeezed our way through gate number 6 to find our seats. They were occupied! A policeman sat in one and a guy whose ticket was for the row behind us in the other. For some reason neither seemed particularly keen to move but we stood our ground and they gave way!

The Azerbaijani fans were a bit disappointed with the Welsh squad for this game. Giggs has retired and almost all of their Premier League players were injured. That meant your average fan over here knew nothing of any of the players as only Russ' students are aware of the world of the Coca Cola Leagues!!!! The Welsh anthem was respected until the band paused, fatally, just before the "Gwlad, Gwlad" bit, and the crowd thought it had finished. We didn't hear the rest of it! It was funny to see many of the Azerbaijanis then reading their own anthem off the back of cards.

The game was brutal and scrappy. The young Welsh side had difficulty breaking down the stubborn Azerbaijan defence. Berti Vogts has done a good job in that department. Wales would have been in trouble if the strikers hadn't been more intent on bringing down the International Space Station than scoring goals. A moment of panic in the Azerbaijan defence saw Wales scramble a goal to take the lead. At half time Azerbaijan's best player Subasic came on. What a difference he made to the cohesion of the home side's play. The Welsh hung on though to record a good win for their fledgling side.

27,000 fans then left the stadium to find the metro station was closed. The road was also closed and it took us about 45 minutes to get a taxi to take us back into town! Great organisation!!

On the following Tuesday night European Champions Spain came to town. The hype was much greater because they were bringing their full squad to warm up for the Confederations Cup in South Africa. It seemed strange seeing so many Azerbaijani fans wearing their Barcelona shirts (with Messi or Henry on the back - not very Spanish at all!) en route to the stadium. It was no less chaotic outside the ground though. The police had set up cordons and we had to show our tickets four times before we even got to the gate!

Azerbaijan could have been a couple of goals up before the Spanish celebrities found their stride. Luckily for them their goalkeeper Casillas was on form or it could have been an embarrassing start to the game. It took them 33 minutes to finally break down the defence. David Villa fired home and the Azerbaijan team went to pieces thereafter. By half time Villa had completed his hat-trick!

The second half was a walk in the plaza for the Spanish. They ended up 6-0 winners without really breaking sweat. They showed some neat football with a bit of showmanship here and there to please the crowd. When the fifth goal went in the fans seemed to change their allegiance and rather than boo the Spanish players, they began to cheer every move!

We left before Fernando Torres completed the scoring in the hope of finding the metro open. How wrong we were! Still, at least the roads hadn't yet been closed and we were able to find a taxi to take us home. The official crowd was just 20,000 but the stadium was definitely fuller than it was for the Wales game.

So, is that the last game we will see in Baku? Well that depends on the draw for
Mae Hen Wlad Fy NhadauMae Hen Wlad Fy NhadauMae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau

Not sure how many of the players knew the words, and the mascots certainly didn't - they were Azerbaijanis!!
the European Champions League and Europa League qualifiers next week! Come on, pitch one of the Baku sides against Motherwell!!!!

Additional photos below
Photos: 19, Displayed: 19


Don't Panic!Don't Panic!
Don't Panic!

Wales clung on to victory.

Strange choice of attire!
An early scare for SpainAn early scare for Spain
An early scare for Spain

But they soon took control

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