UEFA President Michel Platini has visited Azerbaijan where he met the country's President Ilham Aliyev and the president of the Association of Football Federations of Azerbaijan (AFFA) Rovnag Abdullayev for talks which centred, among other things, on football development in Azerbaijan.
The importance of the development of various sports in Azerbaijan was highlighted at the meeting between Mr Platini and Mr Aliyev, with positive views expressed on work to create modern sporting infrastructures in the Caucasus country. The two Presidents also welcomed the successful relationship between UEFA and the AFFA at the meeting, which was also attended by Mr Abdullayev, AFFA vice-president Elshad Nasirov and general secretary Elkhan Mammadov.
"Mr Aliyev likes sport, and football in particular, very much," said Mr Platini afterwards. The UEFA President urged Azerbaijan to focus on youth programmes in the search for international football success. "Work should be started with the youngest age groups, and success will come with time," he reflected.
On Friday, it was announced that Azerbaijan was among the list of member national associations that have declared an interest in hosting matches at the 2020 UEFA European Championship, and Mr Platini congratulated the AFFA on putting forward its interest. The final list of 13 cities that will stage UEFA EURO 2020 games will be approved in September 2014.
During the visit, the foundation-laying ceremony for a new training base for Azerbaijan's national teams took place in the village of Mardakan. Construction will be carried out with UEFA making a financial contribution through its HatTrick assistance programme on behalf of its 54 member associations. Mr Platini and Mr Abdullayev were joined at the ceremony by representatives of the Azerbaijan sporting community, including the national team's head coach Berti Vogts. The guests also watched a girls' training session.
"I'm proud to be here. UEFA is always keen to help its associations," said Mr Platini. Mr Abdullayev expressed his gratitude to the UEFA President in emphasising the good partnership between the AFFA and UEFA. "I want to thank UEFA for its support, and its President for visiting our country. Of course, we are extremely happy that UEFA pays great attention to the progress of our football. We are really thankful for its trust."
A visit was also made to the Olympic Stadium which is currently being built in Beyuk-Shor. The 65,000-seater venue is set to be ready by 2015, when Baku will host the inaugural European Games, a multisport event. Mr Platini ended his stay by attending the Azerbaijani Premier League match between Neftçi PFK and Sumqayıt FK.
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