Speech of the President of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev at the meeting with the players of "Azerrail" volleyball team - March 14, 2002

Distinguished sportsmen, volleyball players!

Dear friends!

I congratulate you, wish you health and lots of victories. I hope that by winning the European cup you laid the foundation of new victories. We shall look forward to them and support you. Your triumph makes all the citizens of Azerbaijan happy and proud. I watched your semi-final and final games on TV. I saw how you struggled for victory. At the same time, I saw a lot of fans expecting your victory. Seeing your victory and the support of fans, I became sure in the development of our sport in the recent years. The sport in our country is developing and becoming popular. Regular tournaments are being held in schools, universities and sports complexes in Azerbaijan.

The number of our youth going for in sports has increased. They train and practice for victories. It is the first sign of the popularization of sport. The second is the popular interest in sport. However, 7-8 years ago sports in Azerbaijan were almost forgotten.

In the past the level of sports in Azerbaijan was high. Now its level is higher than ever. In order to reach this height our sportsmen went through a hard period.

If you remember, the biggest sport field in Azerbaijan was in disorder in 1992-1993. We did our best to restore that stadium. Now it meets the high standards.

Then a foreign football team came to Azerbaijan, but didn`t like the state of the stadium. Therefore, it was necessary to play the match in Sumgayit. I was surprised when I heard this. But it was reality. Do you remember the state of your volleyball field constructed in 1970? Till the recent times it was used as a furniture store. It was because of some people, who were in the government in 1992-1993.

Since the restoration of the sport complex international tournaments in many sports have been organized there. All the people of Azerbaijan watched your games and felt very happy when you won.

The National Olympic Committee built a new sports complex. Now international tournaments take place there. The National Olympic Committee constructs sport complexes also in other places. I participated at the inauguration ceremony of the sport complex built in Mashtaga.

As Ilham Aliyev told me, the European championship on wrestling will take place in Azerbaijan in May. Therefore, we reconstruct our sport palace. Ilham Aliyev and the mayor of Baku are engaged in it.

That sport palace is a big complex. I remember that we began its building in 1973. Later I visited it, while it was being constructed. After the construction finished, the palace didn`t serve its primary goal like others for some time. Now the National Olympic Committee and the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Tourism are restoring it. I hope that we shall watch the European championship on wrestling there in May. The number and the level of our sportsmen are increasing. They achieve big triumphs in international tournaments. Sport is becoming popular in Azerbaijan now, while a lot of people go in for sports and the public pays great attention to it.

I am sure that your final game was watched in every Azerbaijani home. There were a lot of fans in the sport complex, as well. This demonstrates the rapid development of our sport. The achievements in sport, along with the achievements in other fields, are of great importance. Because sport is very useful for the health of people. Sport is a culture, too. This may show the level of culture of any nation. While developing, our sport increases our culture, too.

When our sportsmen participate and win in international tournaments in other countries, they represent our country and raise our flag. Sport is the best means to demonstrate the national symbols of Azerbaijan everywhere. You, sportsmen, do this. This lays great responsibility on you and brings respect to you.

We are happy that the National Olympic Committee has achieved so much in sport within a short time. Much work has been done for the expansion of sport. The National Olympic Committee and the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Tourism develop our sport together. These are the achievements of Azerbaijan.

Dear sportsmen, you have reached these achievements. We thank you for them. We should also mention the efforts of the National Olympic Committee and its chairman Ilham Aliyev, as well as the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Tourism and Minister Abulfaz Garayev.

I hope that our sportsmen in all the fields of sport will achieve many victories, bring new cups and golden medals to Azerbaijan. I hope that the National Olympic Committee and the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Tourism will continue to develop sport in Azerbaijan. Popularization of sports is our primary goal.

Dear friends, I congratulate you once again. I wish health and new successes to all of you.

I have to mention the efforts of Faig Garayev, your coach. I always watch him on TV. He is very strict and calm. He never shows his anxiety or concern. He always points out the players with patience what they have to do.

I congratulate Faig Garayev. I am very happy that we have such good sportsmen and coaches. I congratulate and thank you. I congratulate all you. I wish you the best. Thank you.