Finding Liverpool FC and the English Premier League in Baku Azerbaijan
It was on Thursday evening that I touched down at Baku International Airport in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan for a week long business trip.
My main thoughts, on the way to the hotel, were if there would be coverage of the English Premier League matches and in particular Liverpool’s tough away fixture at Sunderland.
Upon entering into my room, I turned on the television to find that the only thing that resembled a sports channel was a local one that was currently showing a bout of what looked like wrestling between two extremely burly and particularly hair men.
This was definitely not Sky Sports!
I called down to the reception and got little joy from there. Further interrogation of these staff revealed that if I could identify what channel I wanted, they could programme their satellite dish to find it.
My spelling out of Sky Sports was greeted by pleasant smiles but blank faces.
With the time difference, it was Saturday evening in Baku when the 3pm (UK time) matches kicked off and I was left with little choice but to follow their progress on the Internet.
Taking my laptop down to the coffee shop, I studied the menu for dinner, irritated due to the fact that I was missing Liverpool’s vital clash with in-form Sunderland and also that with around 20 minutes to go, the Reds were still losing.
An LCD television attached to the wall of the coffee shop was adding to my annoyance by currently being tuned into a music channel with the level of volume being just that tad bit too loud.
The loss of Torres and Gerrard, the late arrival back from international duty of Mascherano and the tactically flawed decision from Benitez to throw Spearing into the centre of midfield to play alongside the continually disappointing Lucas, all contributed to the currently upsetting scoreline.
But having only read of the way in which Sunderland had taken the lead made it all the more frustrating.
Could Liverpool’s title hopes really be disappearing due to a shot flying past Reina after being defected by a beach ball?! And the irony of it all was that it was an LFC beach ball, punched onto the pitch by a young Liverpool supporter!!
The sudden ceasing of the annoying music made me look to the television screen just as I put a piece of steak into my mouth. The waiter had decided to change the channel. Thank goodness!
As different channels flew by, a football channel came and went. In that fleeting second, I saw a red and white stripped football jersey. Sunderland? Could it be?
Mouth full of steak, I started to wave my arms at the waiter, gesticulating wildly for him to halt his channel surfing. My crazy antics were spotted by his colleague and he turned towards me. I swallowed my barely chewed steak and asked him if he would go back a few channels to the football.
And there it was! The English Premier League and in particular Liverpool’s away clash with Sunderland.
With 75 minutes gone, I was left to urge the Reds for the final 15 minutes to salvage a draw and save what little there was left of their dying title challenge.
However, a double save from Gordon near the end kept the Reds out and at the final whistle a disconsolate Liverpool team left the pitch knowing that their title challenge was on life support.
I was brought my bill for dinner by the waiter that had done the channel surfing. Smiling, he told me that Azerbaijan was football mad and in particular crazy about the English Premier League.
I was informed that ART Sports, based in Saudi Arabia, provided full coverage of the Premier League in this region and in Azerbaijan there was live coverage of every Premier league clash. I later learnt that in this part of the world, there is a more extensive coverage of the English Premier League than there is in England itself!
So I asked my friendly waiter what team he supported. And from the way my day had gone, I should not have been surprised when he gleefully said, “Manchester United.”
My miserable day was complete, needless to say, I didn't leave a tip.
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