@Football365

F365 exclusive: Tony Adams writes about Azerbaijan

1 weeks ago, 11:15

By: Sarah Winterburn

Imagine turning up for your first day as manager of a football club in a country’s top division, what would you expect to see? A lush green pitch? Training cones? Bibs? Surely footballs at least? And when your first game comes around you’d expect to see fans right? At one time or another in my first few months as manager of Azerbaijan’s FC Gabala I lacked these fundamental things. However, thanks to a long-term vision, a patient and responsive owner and a lot of hard work, it is now a club transformed.

To readers in Europe, who are used to the glitz, glamour and riches of the Premier League or La Liga, Azerbaijani football will be unrecognisable. There is an occasional glimpse, with Azerbaijani teams occasionally competing in Europe’s premier competitions, but these are few and far between. I knew as much as you about Azerbaijani football when I first arrived in Qabala in 2010, but what I experienced taught me far more than merely how to coach players.

Qabala is a remote little city in the Caucuses. When I arrived in 2010, FC Gabala had been going for 15 years and its owner, Tale Heydarov, had ambitions to take it to the next level. It was immediately apparent that this couldn’t happen without a complete overhaul of the club’s infrastructure and day-to-day operations. The training facilities were virtually non-existent, the players were basically amateurs and none of the coaches were pro-licensed. To put it simply, the staples of a football club weren’t there.

What is the situation eight years later? A modern, fully equipped 3,500-seater stadium, seven training pitches, a professional first team squad, dozens of UEFA pro-licensed coaches and Azerbaijan’s first fully developed youth academy. Of all my post-playing career achievements, FC Gabala youth graduates accounting for more than 70% of the national team is perhaps the biggest source of pride. This was only made possible by an owner willing to put building a club before building a team.

Sir Alex Ferguson once said, ‘don’t pick your club, pick your owner’. Football owners are often much maligned and have a wide range of motives. Some want the instant glory, some want to make a fast buck and some simply enjoy the prestige. FC Gabala’s Tale Heydarov wanted, more than anything else, to develop a sustainable, successful club of which this town could be proud. He understood that this wouldn’t happen overnight and rather than demanding instant results on the pitch, as is often owners’ wont, he was willing to listen to what I and others told him needed to be done off it.

Building a football team requires a lot of patience. Building a football club requires boatloads. Were it not for an owner willing to deliver that, it would never have happened. With Tale’s approval I began organising the improvement of facilities, installing floodlights, upgrading the pitches, restructuring the first youth teams. I had to bring in talent from across Europe, such as Feyenoord Academy Director Stanley Brard. It wasn’t glamorous, ...
Read More


Category: sports football

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F365 exclusive: Tony Adams writes about Azerbaijan

1 weeks ago, 11:15

By: Sarah Winterburn

Imagine turning up for your first day as manager of a football club in a country’s top division, what would you expect to see? A lush green pitch? Training cones? Bibs? Surely footballs at least? And when your first game comes around you’d expect to see fans right? At one time or another in my first few months as manager of Azerbaijan’s FC Gabala I lacked these fundamental things. However, thanks to a long-term vision, a patient and responsive owner and a lot of hard work, it is now a club transformed.

To readers in Europe, who are used to the glitz, glamour and riches of the Premier League or La Liga, Azerbaijani football will be unrecognisable. There is an occasional glimpse, with Azerbaijani teams occasionally competing in Europe’s premier competitions, but these are few and far between. I knew as much as you about Azerbaijani football when I first arrived in Qabala in 2010, but what I experienced taught me far more than merely how to coach players.

Qabala is a remote little city in the Caucuses. When I arrived in 2010, FC Gabala had been going for 15 years and its owner, Tale Heydarov, had ambitions to take it to the next level. It was immediately apparent that this couldn’t happen without a complete overhaul of the club’s infrastructure and day-to-day operations. The training facilities were virtually non-existent, the players were basically amateurs and none of the coaches were pro-licensed. To put it simply, the staples of a football club weren’t there.

What is the situation eight years later? A modern, fully equipped 3,500-seater stadium, seven training pitches, a professional first team squad, dozens of UEFA pro-licensed coaches and Azerbaijan’s first fully developed youth academy. Of all my post-playing career achievements, FC Gabala youth graduates accounting for more than 70% of the national team is perhaps the biggest source of pride. This was only made possible by an owner willing to put building a club before building a team.

Sir Alex Ferguson once said, ‘don’t pick your club, pick your owner’. Football owners are often much maligned and have a wide range of motives. Some want the instant glory, some want to make a fast buck and some simply enjoy the prestige. FC Gabala’s Tale Heydarov wanted, more than anything else, to develop a sustainable, successful club of which this town could be proud. He understood that this wouldn’t happen overnight and rather than demanding instant results on the pitch, as is often owners’ wont, he was willing to listen to what I and others told him needed to be done off it.

Building a football team requires a lot of patience. Building a football club requires boatloads. Were it not for an owner willing to deliver that, it would never have happened. With Tale’s approval I began organising the improvement of facilities, installing floodlights, upgrading the pitches, restructuring the first youth teams. I had to bring in talent from across Europe, such as Feyenoord Academy Director Stanley Brard. It wasn’t glamorous, ...
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