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Category: Azerbaijan

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Why did Uefa hand Azerbaijan hosting rights for the Europa League final?

The ruling body’s principle of rotating finals is a good one but the golden ticket has to be awarded for the right reasonsYou had to admire Uefa’s steadfastness in the face of unfortunate timing. The decision to award the hosting rights for this year’s…

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Chelsea’s Gary Cahill: ‘We feel like we’re back where we belong’ – video

Chelsea will make their return to Champions League football on Tuesday when they host Azerbaijani side FK Qarabag. Manager Antonio Conte confirmed that he will rotate his squad to help cope with the demands of their punishing schedule. The side did not compete in any European competition last season and captain Gary Cahill says they are looking forward to ‘testing themselves’

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‘We are treated like sporting slaves’: Ethiopian lifts lid on trade in athletes

Lily Abdullayeva, who says she had prize money stolen and was tricked into taking drugs after moving to Azerbaijan, reveals the dark side of athletics where African runners are bought by richer nations and exploited

The smell of fish stew pervades Lily Abdullayeva’s house, a 40-minute drive from central Addis Ababa, past a throng of roadside villages of colourful ramshackle huts where legs of beef hang from corrugated iron roofs and children in Manchester United shirts play barefoot.

A modest but smart brick building, it is shielded by rusty gates, beyond which several cows graze on a thirsty patch of grass. In the back room her mother-in-law lays on a mattress on the floor with Beheyaw, Lily’s 13-month-old son, snoozing beside her.

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Stuart Dallas’s last-gasp strike gives Northern Ireland vital win in Azerbaijan

Stuart Dallas’s stoppage-time strike earned Northern Ireland a smash-and-grab 1-0 win over Azerbaijan that kept his team firmly on the road to Russia.

Missing eight players from the squad that went to France and without Gareth McAuley after a first-half injury, Michael O’Neill’s side struggled in the Baku heat and were thankful to the profligacy of Afran Ismayilov. The visitors secured an unlikely victory when Dallas rifled in a late winner, his first goal in a competitive international, having been teed up in the penalty area by the cool-headed Jonny Evans.

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Germany beat Azerbaijan to extend winning run while Poland extend lead

• André Schürrle scores twice on return to Germany team
• Poland beat Montenegro to move six points clear in Group E

André Schürrle scored twice as Germany extended their perfect start in World Cup qualifying Group C to five games with a 4-1 win over Azerbaijan in Baku.

Preferred by the coach, Joachim Löw, to Mesut Özil in the starting line-up, Schürrle hit his side’s first and last goals in the 19th and 81st minutes after Dima Nazarov had briefly brought the hosts back level.

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Matthijs De Ligt suffers nightmare debut as Holland are stunned by Bulgaria

• Mistakes by the 17-year-old Ajax defender prove costly as Bulgaria win 2-0
• France, Sweden, Portugal and Switzerland win; Belgium draw with Greece

Matthijs de Ligt’s dream debut for Holland quickly turned into a nightmare as he handed Bulgaria an early goal in a 2-0 defeat for the Dutch in World Cup qualifying. Bulgaria kept alive their hopes of reaching the finals for the first time since 1998 after Spas Delev struck twice with his first international goals. The 2-0 win at the Vasil Levski stadium sent Petar Hubchev’s team to third in the Group A standings with nine points from five games, one point behind Sweden and four behind leaders France. Holland are fourth on seven.

Related: Belgium 1-1 Greece: World Cup 2018 qualifier – as it happened

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Kyle Lafferty leads the way as Northern Ireland ease past Azerbaijan

Any doubts about Northern Ireland’s capacity to hurt World Cup qualification rivals were summarily brushed aside by a clinical victory over Azerbaijan.

A settled team, playing with verve and, occasionally, carefree confidence, took advantage of the momentum currently surging through their ranks with three goals against a team which had enjoyed an eye-opening start to Group C.

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As F1 roars into Baku, activists tell drivers: help our fight for human rights

Motor racing chief Bernie Ecclestone shrugs off criticism over staging prestige event under a repressive regime

The asphalt has been laid over Baku’s ancient cobbled streets, many residential buildings have been covered with false fronts for the cameras, and bling-built new ones are on proud display. Well away from the limelight of this weekend’s 3.7-mile grand prix circuit through the city are Azerbaijan’s prisons – their populations swollen by activists, journalists, bloggers and opposition figures.

Human rights campaigners working to draw attention to the restrictive regime in the country have appealed to high-profile Formula One fans, celebrities and drivers at today’s inaugural Azerbaijan Grand Prix to criticise or draw attention to the regime’s human rights record. Formula One’s chief executive Bernie Ecclestone, British driver Lewis Hamilton and the three music stars scheduled to appear – Pharrell Williams, Chris Brown and Enrique Iglesias – have all come under fire for not doing so, and the call has largely been ignored as drivers prepare for what will be one of the fastest street circuits in the world.

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Amnesty urges Formula One to ‘influence’ Azerbaijan over human rights

In the run-up to inaugural Grand Prix in Baku pressure put on Bernie Ecclestone to raise concerns at human rights crackdown by President Aliyev

Amnesty International has called on Formula One to put pressure on Azeri authorities to improve their human rights record.

Sunday’s inaugural Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku is the latest example of that country’s increasing willingness to become involved in top-level sport.

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F1 urged to speak out on human rights situation in Azerbaijan

• Sport For Rights ask Bernie Ecclestone to take a stand
• ‘This is an opportunity to improve F1’s image and to help people in Azerbaijan’

Formula One has been urged to “improve its image” by speaking out on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan, which will stage its inaugural grand prix on 19 June.

Sport For Rights – an organisation established to draw attention to Azerbaijan’s human rights record – has urged Bernie Ecclestone to take a stand. “We have called on Formula One [chief executive] Bernie Ecclestone to publicly speak out on human rights issues in Azerbaijan and to call for the release of political prisoners,” Sports for Rights campaign co-ordinator, Rebecca Vincent said. “We wrote him an open letter and there has not been a public response yet.

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Parents of man killed in Baku crash call on F1 to improve road safety in city

• Micah Maxwell-Milne killed in accident during European Games last year
• ‘More must be done to protect those travelling to Azerbaijan this summer’

The parents of a British-Australian man killed in a road accident in the run up to last year’s controversial European Games in Baku have called Bernie Ecclestone and the sport’s governing body to do more to improve road safety in the city before its first grand prix in June.

The race will take place almost a year after 23-year-old Micah Maxwell-Milne, who was working for the company staging the opening and closing ceremonies at the European Games, was killed after the Mercedes in which he was travelling collided with a Ford Transit in central Baku.

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World Cup for rebel republics to be played in Abkhazia

From Darfur United to the Sámi national team, an alternative tournament of stateless, unrecognised or self-declared nations will be held in breakaway Georgian region. EurasiaNet reports

Football teams from rebel republics and separatist regions will gather in Abkhazia next year for an alternative world cup between sides not recognised by the sport’s governing body, Fifa.

Related: Abkhazia, inside the rebel republic – in pictures

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Silence over European Games in Azerbaijan is a grim indication of future | Owen Gibson

Poor records in human rights and freedom of the press mean little when wealthy non-democracies are looking to use events as billboards

If you have flicked to BT Sport at any point in the past fortnight, you may have witnessed hours of live coverage of a sporting event beamed in from the very fringes of Europe that appears to have been very professionally staged.

The branding, the sparkling venues, the breathless commentary, even the occasional famous face such as Britain’s Nicola Adams winning gold in the boxing. Inbetween the action, adverts have proclaimed: “From the ancient land of Azerbaijan rises the first European Games”.

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Baku reminds us our top athletes are overgrown infants | Nick Cohen

The sports stars heading to the European Games in Azerbaijan have no comments on the dire politics of the host country

The pretence that sportsmen and women are “role models” is impossible to maintain. It’s not just that no parent tells their teenage children to model their sex lives on premier league footballers or holds up Lewis Hamilton’s flight to a tax haven as a model of good citizenship. To be a member of the sporting “elite” is to live in a state of perpetual childhood without enjoying or even wanting the rights and responsibilities of a grown-up.

A few weeks ago Paul Scholes wrote how he was astonished that Manchester United fans expected players to behave as free adults in a free country and give their opinion about the Glazer family’s takeover of their club. The debt-laden American raiders reduced my team from a side that might have been one of the best in the world to a side that wasn’t even the best in Manchester. Nevertheless, said Scholes: “As an elite sportsman you cannot allow yourself to be sidetracked. It was not up to me who owned the club, and it would never have been appropriate for a player to have got involved in that debate.”

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Azeri government behind foreign media ban, say European Games officials

• Organisers in Azerbaijan say government made decisions on entry
• Several media, including the Guardian, were barred from attending

A decision to ban some foreign media from attending the inaugural European Games in Azerbaijan this month rested with the government and was not taken by the event’s organisers, officials said on Saturday.

Journalists, including the Guardian’s chief sports correspondent Owen Gibson, have been refused entry visas but organisers of the event in Baku said it was the government who was clearing individuals to enter the country based on their own set of criteria.

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Baku 2015 organisers to investigate alcohol claims after athletes hit by bus

• ‘Nothing to suggest at this moment that alcohol played part in tragic incident’
• Reports in Azerbaijan allege alcohol may have been a factor in bus collision
• Organisers to ‘investigate immediately’ reports of staff drunkenness

European Games organisers say they will investigate allegations that staff have been drunk on duty following an incident in which a bus collided with three Austrian athletes.

One of the athletes, the 15-year-old swimmer Vanessa Sahinovic, sustained severe spinal injuries after being hit on Thursday by the bus, which veered on to the pavement in the athletes’ village.

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Euro 2016 qualifying round-up: Iceland come back to beat Czechs

• Victory sees Iceland leapfrog Czech Republic at top of Group A
• Israel’s chances damaged by 3-1 defeat in Bosnia & Herzegovina
• Bale accepts gift to give Wales momentous win over Belgium
• All the Euro 2016 qualifying tables

Kolbeinn Sigthorsson scored a sublime winner as Iceland completed a superb comeback to beat the Czech Republic 2-1 in their Euro 2016 qualifier in Reykjavik and go top of Group A.

The home side dominated the game with their physical play, but Borek Dockal gave the Czech Republic the lead 10 minutes into the second half, thumping a rising right-foot shot into the top left corner after he was teed up by Tomas Necid.

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Learn from human rights fallout at European Games, Uefa and F1 told

Campaigners say plans for future motor racing and football tournaments need to be examined in light of controversies at inaugural European Games in BakuHuman rights campaigners have called on Uefa and Formula One to learn from the issues raised by the…

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Jailed journalist criticises Azerbaijan corruption as European Games begin

• Khadija Ismayilova says there is a ‘human rights crisis’ in country
• ‘Things have never been worse,’ she says in letter smuggled out of prison

A journalist jailed in Azerbaijan has criticised the country for corruption and human rights violations on the day the first European Games get underway in the capital, Baku.

Khadija Ismayilova was imprisoned last year after investigating corruption allegedly involving President Ilham Aliyev. Activists say the jailing was part of a wider crackdown on opposition in the leadup to the event, the continent’s version of the Olympics.

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Jailed journalist criticises Azerbaijan corruption as European Games begin

• Khadija Ismayilova says there is a ‘human rights crisis’ in country
• ‘Things have never been worse,’ she says in letter smuggled out of prison

A journalist jailed in Azerbaijan has criticised the country for corruption and human rights violations on the day the first European Games get underway in the capital, Baku.

Khadija Ismayilova was imprisoned last year after investigating corruption allegedly involving President Ilham Aliyev. Activists say the jailing was part of a wider crackdown on opposition in the leadup to the event, the continent’s version of the Olympics.

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