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Azerbaijanis Question State Spending On Soccer Team

Spain accepted nearly $1 million to play in Baku.
Spain accepted nearly $1 million to play in Baku.
Azerbaijani media and state oil workers have questioned the government's payment of nearly $1 million to bring the Spanish national soccer team to Baku for a friendly match.

Spain, the reigning world champions, defeated Azerbaijan 6-0 on June 9 in Baku at a game in which oil workers from the Bibiheybat oil field were told they must attend.

The game was sponsored by the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR), which paid the Spanish team 700,000 euros ($982,000) to play the match -- even though the company recently had to stop work on several projects due to the effects of the global financial crisis.

One oil worker told RFE/RL that there had also been layoffs recently at Bibiheybat due to financial woes. "They stopped our benefits, all due to the crisis. How come they spend money for soccer? That shows you how they waste state money."

The Azerbaijani Football Federations Association is headed by SOCAR President Rovnag Abdullayev.

Natik Aliyev, an editor at the "Het-trik" newspaper, said that there would be better things to spend the money on, including youth soccer programs.

Another investment questioned by many is the salary of the coach, former German national team star player and coach Berti Vogts.

Although the association refuses to say how much it pays Vogts, it is believed to be millions of dollars for a coach whose team has thus far failed to score a single goal in five World Cup qualifying games and is ranked 140th in the world rankings.

Azerbaijan's best result has been a 0-0 tie with soccer minnow Liechtenstein.

-- RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service correspondents Babek Bekir and Khadija Ismayilova in Baku, with Pete Baumgartner in Prague

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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