Yashar Bashirov: "Karate becomes Olympic sport thanks to European Games in Baku"

Interviews

The President of National Karate Federation Yashar Bashirov told Vestnik Kavkaza about the development of karate in Azerbaijan, noting that the Federation will make every effort to achieve successful performance at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

- What position does Azerbaijan's karate occupy in the international arena?

- We are one of the global frontrunners. Our National Karate Federation has represented Azerbaijan in the World Karate Federation (WKF) for 20 years, which is the largest karate organization in the world. The World Karate Federation in Madrid, uniting dozens of countries, is the only one representing Olympic karate, sports karate. It is headed by Antonio Espinós. The fact that karate has become an Olympic sport means that the approach to it has has become even more serious in all countries of the world and, of course, here. Today they even speak about "Azerbaijani karate", because our guys has a style noticed by the entire world. For 20 years, our guys and girls have become champions of Europe in the team championship. Our bhe best sportsman is the five-time world champion, the 12-time European champion Rafael Aghayev. Nobody's ever been able to become a five-time world champion in this sport. Rafael is 32 years old. I think he will please us at the Olympic Games and will become even more impregnable.

2020 Olympic Summer Games will be held in Tokyo. We need to obtain licenses to go there. Nine of our sportsmen will take part in the qualifying competitions, which will start in next January. Our foreign team member Irina Zaretskaya is a world and European champion, champion of European Games, champion of Islamic Solidarity Games - she represents Azerbaijan since she was 17. She is one of the real contenders for the medal at the Olympic Games in the Japanese capital. Ayhan Mamaev - the silver medalist of the last World Championship, the champion of Europe, who has been repeatedly won world competitions - is also able to win a medal at the Olympic Games.

Asiman Gurbanli, Firdousi Farzaliyev, Shahin Atamov, Niyazi Aliyev also have chances to win. They are favorites. But there are young sportsmen, who can also pull themselves up and become successful, like Rafael Aghayev, who has not lost a single fight since he was 19.

We have International qualified referees. Jahangir Babayev was authorized to be referee at European karate championships already in 2009. We have very qualified coaches. Our federation is one of the best national karate federations among 200 countries of the world. I think we will definitely get to the Olympics. I hope that our hymn will be performed in Tokyo, and our karateka will raise the flag of Azerbaijan higher than other flags.

- Azerbaijan is the only republic in the Caucasus with a really strong karate school. In your estimation, why did Azerbaijan become the center of karate in the Caucasus?

- We have developed this sports develops for a long time. We had strong fighters - Ulvi Guliyev, Fizuli Musaev: a good school, which has been created for 40 years. We were one of the first to start. I have been practicing karate since 1978, I was a champion of Europe, I was in the Russian team for three years. At first we focused on the Shotokan style, but then we realized that we need to retrain - in 1997 the President of the Azerbaijani Olympic Committee Ilham Aliyev gave the go-ahead for the national karate federation of Azerbaijan to represent our country in the WKF. Since then we have begun to study the experience, invited the best masters here, studied, worked, tried hard. We have justified the trust of the state, and we will continue to justify it. Now the whole world is talking about our results. On the initiative of the president, karate was included in the program of the first European Games in Baku. When the president of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach visited us, he saw how spectacular it was, how beautiful it was, he said that karate should necessarily be included in the Olympic Games. I think that the European Games really influenced the fact that karate was finally included in the Olympic Games. So, it was due to our country, the head of our Olympic Committee. Thanks to the support of our government and our cohesive team, our school, today we have what we have.

- How does the Azerbaijani karate differ from others in the way of fighting?

- First we learned from the legendary Hirokazu Kanazawa, who is now 86 years old. (This is one of the most famous karate masters in the world, the greatest active karate master). He came to us six times. We also learned from Iran, which has a very strong school, from the Japanese, from the Turks. We took the best, from all of them and enriched it by our own. I think, the fighting qualities, which were inherited from our ancestors, also helped. As a result, the Azerbaijani school was formed. Rafael Aghayev teaches kids all over the world, including in Japan, how to properly use karate techniques to be a winner.

- How popular is karate in the republic, is the number of young athletes growing after victories of Azerbaijani  karatekas in international tournaments?

- Karate has always been very popular, then many varieties, styles directions were created. We had 18 of them. Now karate has become an Olympic sport, and more and more people understand that it is a beautiful, spectacular sport, which gives good coordination, flexibility, speed and so on. My son is a karateka, a world and European champion, and I cannot name another sports which could be better for him. This sport is very necessary for the younger generation. The films we watch also contribute to the popularization of karate, and more and more children decide to take karate.

- What is the modern strategy of karate development in Azerbaijan?

- Only real fans devote themselves utterly to the big sport. If we talk about elite sport, then it is traumatic. But not everyone grows into an Olympic champion. It should be widespread in order to grow a normal, healthy generation, without traumas, comprehensively developed, having good coordination, speed, speed of thought. This is necessary for the army, and simply for life. The more people are involved, the easier it is to take people out of this mass, to find those talented at children's and youth championships.

We work in the regions, so that not only Baku, Sumgait or Ganja have karate sections. Now we have champions from the Gazakh region, from the Nakhichevan region. As our president says, we need to bring any sports to the masses, so that as many people as possible do sports, and young people dedicate their free time to sports. We must grow a healthy generation.