Following the Europa League final between British teams Arsenal and Chelsea, Baku is already lined up as a venue for Euro 2020 matches.“Each of these events strengthens Azerbaijan’s place on the world map and creates the conditions for boosting tourism,” Azerbaijan’s Minister of Sport Azad Rahimov told AFP, boasting of the “83 million viewers that watched the Formula 1 Grand Prix held in Baku in 2018.”But rights groups say hosting such glitzy competitions helps the ex-Soviet country of some 10 million people to conceal systematic political repression and widespread corruption under the Aliyev dynasty that has ruled since 1993.“We must ensure that Azerbaijan isn’t allowed to ‘sportswash’ its appalling human rights record as a result of the football fanfare,” said Amnesty International’s UK director, Kate Allen.Human Rights Watch said in a report last year “at least 43 human rights defenders, journalists, political and religious activists remained wrongfully imprisoned” in Azerbaijan.It said other persistent abuses included “systemic torture, undue interference in the work of lawyers and restrictions on media freedoms”.The anti-corruption NGO Transparency International this year ranked Azerbaijan 152 out of 180 countries in its index of perceptions of corruption.– ‘A whim of authoritarian leaders’ –“The leaders of authoritarian countries like to organize grandiose events. That’s their whim,” said prominent Azerbaijani opposition journalist Khadija Ismayilova, who has spent years in prison for her investigations.The Olympic Stadium in Baku will host this year’s Europa League final © AFP/File / KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV“The projects also enable corruption,” she said. “The company that organises the Formula 1 motor race in Baku is owned by the son of the sports minister. This is undisguised corruption.”The sports minister in question, for his part, defended Azerbaijan’s “sports diplomacy” as “a legacy left to the people.”“We can say proudly that the sports infrastructure serves the people,” he said referring to Baku’s National Gymnastics Arena, its Aquatic Palace for swimming events and the Olympic Stadium.These were all built for the inaugural European Games in 2015, a multi-discipline event contested by athletes from European nations.The Azerbaijani government is estimated to have spent a billion dollars on hosting the Games, which attracted only limited international interest.The Europa League final will be played at 1900 GMT on Wednesday in the 70,000-seat Olympic stadium that will also host first-round matches and a quarter-final at the next European Championships in June and July 2020.Azerbaijan’s investment in sport is not limited to organising events.The state-run oil company SOCAR has been a major sponsor of UEFA, European football’s governing body, since 2013 and the country’s “Land of Fire” slogan used to feature on Spanish side Atletico Madrid’s jerseys.These investments however have not prevented the scandals surrounding Wednesday’s game.Chelsea and Arsenal fans have been angered by the high costs of travel to Baku and the overpriced seats.UEFA only reserved 12,000 tickets for fans in the final — far below the demand from supporters of the two clubs.Adding to the controversy, Arsenal announced last week their Armenian midfielder, Henrikh Mkhitaryan — and his country’s captain — would miss the game over safety fears.Azerbaijan and Armenia are locked in a decades-long conflict over the disputed Nagorny Karabakh region and Baku does not generally allow Armenians or those of Armenian origin to visit.Despite a 1994 ceasefire, frequent exchanges of fire along Karabakh’s volatile frontline have at times risked escalating into an all-out war.0Shares0000(Visited 2 times, 1 visits today) 0Shares0000Fireworks erupt during the opening ceremony of the 2015 European Games in Baku © AFP/File / TOFIK BABAYEVBAKU, Azerbaijan, May 27 – The Europa League final on Wednesday in Baku is just the latest major sporting event Azerbaijan has hosted in an attempt to smooth over its atrocious human rights record.Hosting events such as the 2015 European Games and an annual Formula 1 Grand Prix, the oil-rich Caspian nation has spent its petrodollars to assert itself on the world’s sporting map.
QPR boss Chris Ramsey has handed full-back Darnell Furlong his senior debut for the game at Hull.Furlong, son of former QPR striker Paul Furlong, plays because Nedum Onuoha and Mauricio Isla are both injured.Rangers are also without the likes of Richard Dunne and Leroy Fer, but Charlie Austin has been passed fit to return following a foot problem.Hull, meanwhile, are still without Mohamed Diame, who has suffered a recurrence of a knee problem. QPR: Green, Furlong, Ferdinand, Caulker, Yun, Phillips, Barton, Henry, Kranjcar, Zamora, Austin Subs: McCarthy, Hill, Traore, Wright-Phillips, Vargas, Zarate, Doughty. Hull: McGregor, Dawson, Bruce, McShane, Elmohamady, Livermore, Huddlestone, Meyler, Brady, Jelavic, N’Doye. Subs: Davies, Hernández, Harper, Aluko, Ramírez, Robertson, Quinn. Follow West London Sport on TwitterFind us on Facebook read more
An expert team comprising members of the National Tiger Conservation Authority and the Wildlife Institute of India on Friday began a probe into a three-year-old tiger’s death at Satkosia reserve in Odisha’s Angul district, a Forest Department official said. The NTCA and the WII will carry out a “thorough investigation” to ascertain the cause behind the death of Royal Bengal Tiger ‘Mahavir’ at Satkosia, he said. “Both the organisations have taken Mahavir’s death very seriously. They will find out if the animal died of natural causes or there were other reasons,” the official said.Mahavir, translocated from Kanha National Park in M.P., was found dead in the core area of the Satkosia Tiger Reserve on Wednesday. Two of the six tigers — ‘Mahavir’ and ‘Sundari’ — were translocated to the sanctuary earlier this year. Earlier this month, ‘Sundari’ was tranquillised and shifted to an enclosure, after people alleged that it had mauled two persons to death. read more
In this file photo, Newcastle United’s Cheick Tiote plays the ball forward during their English Premier League soccer match against Chelsea at St James’ Park, Newcastle, England. Cheick Tiote, a former Newcastle and Ivory Coast midfielder, has died after collapsing in training with a Chinese team it was announced on Monday, June 5, 2017. He was 30. APLONDON — Cheick Tiote, a combative midfielder who played in the English Premier League for Newcastle and at the World Cup with Ivory Coast, has died after collapsing in training with his new Chinese team. He was 30.Tiote was four months into a new career at Bejiing Enterprises when his death was announced on Monday (Tuesday Manila time) by agent Emanuele Palladino.ADVERTISEMENT Hazard to miss start of Chelsea title defense after surgery Cayetano dares Lacson, Drilon to take lie-detector test: Wala akong kinita sa SEA Games LATEST STORIES Tiote started playing soccer on the streets of Abidjan in Ivory Coast at the age of 10.“I played barefoot,” he said in 2010. “With bare feet I actually had better contact with the ball, and it helped me develop.”Tiote’s talent was spotted by Anderlecht officials, who signed him in 2005 on a three-year contract.“You come over to Europe and you have everything – you are given everything,” Tiote said in a 2011 interview with Newcastle’s Evening Chronicle newspaper. “The ball, the kits . . . you have everything. In Africa you have to be strong, so strong mentally, to make it.“You need to believe in yourself to go forward. Playing in that environment you need to believe in yourself.”ADVERTISEMENT Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. Pagasa: Storm intensifies as it nears PAR “We cannot say any more at the moment and we request that his family’s privacy be respected at this difficult time,” Palladino said. “We ask for all your prayers.”Tiote moved to Newcastle from FC Twente in 2010 and made 161 appearances, scoring once — a memorable equalizer in 2011 when his team recovered from 4-0 down to draw 4-4 with Arsenal.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSSEA Games: Biñan football stadium stands out in preparedness, completionSPORTSPrivate companies step in to help SEA Games hostingSPORTSMalditas save PH from shutoutRafa Benitez, Tiote’s former manager at Newcastle, paid tribute to his character.“In all the time that I have known him, he was a true professional, dedicated and, above all, a great man,” Benitez said. “Our hearts go out to his family and friends at such a sad time.”? BSP survey: PH banks see bright horizon amid dark global recession clouds BREAKING: Cop killed, 11 hurt in Misamis Oriental grenade blast Lacson: SEA Games fund put in foundation like ‘Napoles case’ BREAKING: Cop killed, 11 hurt in Misamis Oriental grenade blast View comments Every 18 seconds someone is diagnosed with HIV Tiote’s remarkable trajectory took him into a Champions League campaign with Anderlecht, but injuries hampered his progress at the Dutch club.Tiote moved in 2008 across the Netherlands to FC Twente, linking up with former Middlesbrough and England coach Steve McClaren.Tiote’s successful stint at Twente coincided with the club winning their first Dutch title in 2010. Tiote also made his international breakthrough and featured in all the Ivory Coast’s World Cup games in South Africa in 2010.His reputation as a combative, ball-playing midfielder attracted the attention of Newcastle and he moved to the northeast English club in 2010 for 3.5 million pounds.Despite several disciplinary issues, including a sending-off in the 2012 northeast derby against Sunderland for a late challenge on Steven Fletcher, Tiote impressed.He stepped in to captain Newcastle for the first time in 2013, but he became increasingly hindered by knee and hamstring injuries.Having found himself increasingly on the margins of the first team, Tiote left Newcastle in February to sign for Beijing Enterprises.“Cheick Tiote was one of the nicest and toughest teammates I have ever had,” tweeted Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany, who played with Tiote at Anderlecht. Palace: Duterte to hear out security execs on alleged China control of NGCP Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss PLAY LIST 02:49Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justice01:19Fire erupts in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City01:07Trump talks impeachment while meeting NCAA athletes02:49World-class track facilities installed at NCC for SEA Games MOST READ read more