BAKU (AFP) - Former Arsenal defender and Portsmouth manager Tony Adams signed a three-year deal Wednesday to coach an obscure football club in the ex-Soviet republic of Azerbaijan.
At a press conference in the Azerbaijani capital Baku, Adams said he was hoping to bring Gabala FC, a provincial club currently ranked sixth in Azerbaijan's 12-team national league, up to international standards.
"I am extremely delighted to join this fantastic project and am looking forward to starting work on it. It is my honour to use this opportunity and to bring this club to the highest international standards," Adams said. "We are definitely creating history."
Club president Tale Heydarov said Adams was being brought in as part of a major development strategy for the club, which was founded just five years ago and plays in a stadium that seats only 2,000.
"In order to realise the development strategy of Gabala FC we have engaged Tony Adams as head coach," Heydarov said.
Financial details of the contract were not revealed, but Adams said the amount was "less" than media rumours of one million British pounds (1.5 million dollars/1.2 million euros) per year.
About 200 kilometres (125 miles) north of Baku, Gabala is a small town mainly known as the home of a Russian radar station that was part of the Soviet Union's anti-missile early warning system.
Gabala FC is owned by Gilan Holdings, an Azerbaijani conglomerate with interests in construction, manufacturing, hotels and restaurants. It is unclear who owns Gilan, but Azerbaijani media have linked the company with government officials.
Gabala FC's president is the son of Azerbaijan's influential emergencies minister, Kamaladdin Heydarov.
Adams, 43, played 22 years at Arsenal and is considered one of the club's greatest players of all time. He moved into football management after retiring in 2002, first with the Wycombe Wanderers and later with Portsmouth until February last year.
His arrival has been greeted enthusiastically in Azerbaijan, with football officials saying they hope Adams can help raise the country's international profile.
"This is a big event for Azerbaijani football," said Tuygun Nadirov, the vice-president of Khazar Lankaran FK, the Azerbaijani league's current first-ranked team.
"Such people can play an important role in increasing the level of Azerbaijani football, in strengthening competition in the championship and helping Azerbaijani football to have success in Europe," he said.
Azerbaijan, an oil-rich, mainly Muslim republic on the Caspian Sea, has struggled in international competition, with Azerbaijan's Premier League ranked 38th in Europe by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA).
For English football fans, Azerbaijan is mainly known as the home of Tofik Bakhramov, the Soviet-era linesman who awarded Geoff Hurst's second goal for England in the 1966 World Cup final against West Germany, in one of the most controversial decisions in World Cup history.
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