Unravelling the enigma of football in the post-Soviet republics
Yep, FK Qäbälä really is the next stage in former Arsenal and England defender Tony Adams’ managerial career.Tony has been charged with leading Azeri football into a new era.
Quite where he’s going to be leading the latest “super club” from the FSU is another matter, mind.
It’s an interesting story, and one that warrants an extra dosage of Never Mind the Bolsheviks this week.
Owned by a wealthy oligarch, located in a footballing backwater, a new stadium in the offing and financed by revenue from the country’s natural resources; the similarities with Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Bunyodkor in Uzbekistan are unavoidable.
Sadly for the Gunners great, that’s where the comparisons end, and his purported £1m wage package doesn’t quite match up with Phil’s, which is rumoured to be anything up to £12m, depending on your choice of literature.
Although when your managerial track record reads 12 wins in 53 games and relegation to League Two with Wycombe Wanderers, coupled with some youth work in Holland and a brief tenure at Portsmouth, you can't quite command the same fee as a World Cup winner just yet.
Right, so who are Qäbälä (or Gabala, as you may see written)?
Well, like Bunyodkor, they're a relatively new outfit, having originally been founded in they western city of Goygol in 1995, before finding their reincarnation in Qäbälä (a town in the north with a population of about 100,000) five years ago.
The club finished fifth in the 12-team Premyer Liqası this season before its split into its championship and relegation pools. Since then Qäbälä have slipped to sixth - seven points adrift of Khazar Lankaran in first place heading into the final round of matches - meaning European football remains a pipedream for now.
Oil money also lured Berti Vogts to Azerbaijan as the manager of the national team, although after the hash he made of the Scotland and Nigeria jobs, the offers probably weren’t pouring in for the German.
Spain were also brought in for a glamour friendly last year, where Vogts demonstrated to the Tartan Army exactly what they were missing by limiting the visitors to scoring just six times in Baku.
NEWS: Adams off to Azerbaijan
Getting a ticket hasn’t been too much of a problem for Qäbälä’s fans this season at their 2000-capacity home, but work is underway on a 15,000 all-seater stadium, due for completion next year when presumably the gloryhunters will arrive in their droves.
It’s rumoured to be costing around £50m, which will also include a revamped training ground.
The ball for the ambitious project got rolling last year, when another Englishman, Alastair Saverimutto, was appointed as Qäbälä’s chief operations officer.
His arrival will doubtless bring experience behind the scenes (he’s held similar positions at Everton and Bournemouth), and Saverimutto will also assuage the expectations of the club’s owner Tale Heydarov. There's a propensity in the FSU when money is poured into a project that success should be instantaneous.
Arno Pijpers, the former boss of Kazakhstan got the boot because he informed his chimerical superiors that World Cup qualification from a group containing England, Ukraine, Croatia, and Belarus (and Andorra) was unfeasible.
Qäbälä have demonstrated the project is looking towards the long term (if such a thing exists in football anymore), and prior to Mr Arsenal joining them the club brought in Yavasha Ali, the head youth coach of Galatasaray and his team, who will oversee the development of the next generation of Azeri footballers.
In the now, the phrase “unlimited funds” uttered by Saverimutto probably doesn’t mean a squad of Galacticos will be assembled, and what Tony’s actual budget will be we simply don’t know as it’s all very hush-hush at the moment.
He’s been running the rule over the multinational crop of players currently at Qäbälä, but already the Azeri media is reporting that two players – one each from England and Scotland – will be joining Tony’s revolution. No names yet, mind.
You do wonder about his appointment though (record aside).
NMTB has never met Tony (nor his assistant Gary Stevens), but assumes he can't speak Azeri, so a close relationship with an interpreter will need to be forged.
And by his own admission, Tony is not a “people’s person”.
“I don’t actually like people. I’m a loner and if I had my way I’d just walk my dogs every day, never talk to anyone and then die,” he said following his dismissal at Portsmouth.
Tony is going to need time to get to grips with Azeri football. At least coming in now he’s got time to assess the squad and get accustomed to what the hell he has left himself in for before the new season starts, but you can't help but feel he’s a risky choice.
A safer bet would’ve been Qarabağ Agdam’s manager Gurban Gurbanov, Azerbaijan’s most venerated footballer, who knows his way around the Eastern European game.
Never Mind the Bolsheviks home
----------------------------------------------FourFourTwo.com: More to read...Blogs * News * Interviews * Forums * HomeFollow us: Twitter * Facebook * Twitter (NMTB)
Latest European Football News
PSG turns down Ancelotti request to leave
Anzhi beat Lokomotiv after deadly blasts
Makhachkala match goes ahead despite blasts
Ibrahimovic named Ligue 1 player of season
Undefeated Porto claim title with Pacos win
He's here, he's there, he's...
The cost of Premier League away travel
FourFourTwo is brought to you by Haymarket Consumer Media & FourFourTwo is part of Haymarket Sport
| International Licensing | © Haymarket Media Group 2010