Emil Aliyev: "Azerbaijan will bring the heat to Minifootball European Championship"
Starting from next Tuesday, Ljubljana will host the Minifootball European Championship, which will last 12 days. Last year Russian national team reached the top of UEFA ratings in this sport after the finals of the World Cup. President of the Russian Minifootball Association Emil Aliyev discussed the current state and prospects of development of minifootball in Russia and Azerbaijan in an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza.
- You lead the Russian Minifootball Association for seven years. How did it change over the past years, what achievements of Russia in minifootball are you satisfied with the most?
- When I inherited this association it already achieved a lot, and for all these years I tried to develop and maintain high level, to maintain what my predecessors achieved. The greatest achievement of recent years is the fact that our national team won silver medals at the last World Championships. In Colombia, when we defeated all rivals and reached the finals, where we couldn't beat Argentina, we still managed to reach the top of the UEFA rating. In other words, right now Russian national team is the best in Europe.
- How popular is minifootball today in the North Caucasus? How many representatives of the North Caucasian republics play for Russian national teams of different ages today?
- A couple of days ago we returned from a working trip, from the Stavropol Territory, and I met with colleagues from Chechnya, Dagestan, Kalmykiya, Karachay-Cherkessia, Stavropol Territory and representatives of the Southern Federal District. They develop minifootball in schools and universities, and we hope that a lot of representatives of this region will soon join professional teams. In Dagestan, there was a very interesting minifootball team named "Caspiy". Today Chechnya has FC "Berkut", which played in the big leagues, but then situation got a little worse for financial reasons. This is a very rich region, capable of producing talented youth, there are a lot of interesting football players in the region, there is a hope that Stavropol Territory will become a center for further development. When I spoke with Deputy Prime Minister of Stavropol Irina Kovaldina, we reached an agreement on the establishment of a professional team in the very near future.
- What is done today to popularize minifootball in the country?
- Any kind of sport can develop if there will be people. We have huge projects - "minifootball in schools" and "mini-football in universities", which involves a huge number of children from 10 to 17 years and students, who love to play minifootball. The total number of those involved in this project almost reaches 1.5 million people. Today these projects work not only in minifootball, but also in big football, both men's and women's. Our talented young players, boys and girls, turn into professional football players. We constantly try to find young talents for the past 13 years, these projects are supported by President Vladimir Putin. Each region, each governor, sports minister and education minister receives reports on how his region carried out work in this direction. These reports are then reviewed so that we could see which region is better and which region is the worst.
- How can a young man from small town or village without minifootball section get into professional sports?
- You can do it, because the main thing is that every village and every town has general school, and there is at least one physical education teacher there. You can play minifootball even in small school with 150-200 pupils. You just need 10-20 players. We have greate examples when teams from different parts of the same region achieve great success and reach the finals, which are taking place in Moscow. These children are then taken to serious clubs. A girl from North Ossetia made a career through minifootball and managed to get into professional club. Most recently, a girl from Khakassia did the same thing and already signed a contract with the CSKA professional football club. There are much more examples, when people from remote areas managed to make their first steps in minifootball field. In the end, they were noticed.
- How does your association cooperate with minifootball organizations from other countries?
- President of the Russian Football Union Alexander Alayev heads the minifootball committee of the UEFA, so European countries want to communicate with Russia, one of the leaders in this sport in Europe. We hold a large number of events together with our international partners. We invite various teams from other countries, men's national teams play a huge number of friendly matches. Things like that are taking place in Russia pretty often.
- What can you say about the level of development of minifootball in Azerbaijan?
- Azerbaijan's minifootball team constantly participates in the European Championships, which demonstrates how developed Azerbaijani clubs are. Most importantly, there is a charismatic leader - Zaur Akhundov - who does everything to ensure that the national team is at its best. Azerbaijan, following Russia's example, attracted a number of interesting football players from Portugal and Brazil, gave them citizenship, and I believe that this was done correctly, since the public saw it and a large number of children went to clubs.
- Do Russian and Azerbaijani federations cooperate?
- Yes, we cooperate. Azerbaijan is our active partner. We conducted a number of events in the framework of our agreement on cooperation. The last event was participation in the tournament of four nations: teams of Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan participated in this tournament, preparing for the European Championship. This competition was held in Iran, and we agreed that the next tournament will be held in Kazakhstan, then in Azerbaijan, then in Russia.
- What do you think about Azerbaijan's chances at the upcoming championship?
- I'm sure that the team we saw at the tournament in Iran will bring the heat, and Azerbaijan will be a serious rival to many teams at the European Championship. I think that Azerbaijan is capable of winning medals.
- What about Russia's chances?
- We have great chances. We have a serious task - to win the first place. Previously, we always set two task - minimum task and maximum task. Sometimes we said that reaching the finals is enough. Today there is only one task - to take the first place. Anything else will be considered a failure.