Xəzər Lənkəran Plays Internationally
I went to my first ever international soccer game on Thursday. So far, we’ve only been attending the Azerbaijan league games, but this game was an international showdown featuring Olympia from Beltsı, Moldova (No, the sign does not say Belts!) and our own Xəzər Lənkəran. This was a League of Europe game. There were a few things going on that I am not accustomed to seeing at these games:
- Men with shirts off. Apparently this has become something of a thing at these games. It probably doesn’t hurt that the weather is burning hot these days in Lənkəran. It’s something that I think would generally be viewed as inappropriate, but they’re stretching the cultural mores to include shirt removal and the display of bare torsos. It is probably also considered safe since 99.9% of the attendants are men.
- The jumbotron at the game is situated at the northeast end of the stadium, and is generally displaying such poor quality views that it’s not worth looking at. This time, however, they managed to display the clock on the screen. This is a big deal. The three previous games I’ve been to were sans clock, making it a little difficult to keep track of where you are in the game. It seems like a pretty stupid thing to leave out, so I don’t know why it took so long to figure out that they should display the game clock. Maybe because it was an international game, they had to put it up.
- Finally, this last part was a little weird. We were sitting at the northeast end of the stadium and watched as a group of families walked in, women included. They took up seats to the right of us. We could tell they weren’t Azeri, by their looks, dress, and the fact that there were women with them. But we weren’t sure if they were gypsy folks or Moldova fans. Either way, they were soon surrounded by police and military folks. We found this a little bizarre. These folks didn’t seem to be harassed, but instead were just walled off from the rest of the crowd by officers sitting around them. We could only imagine that if they were gypsies, then the officers were ‘protecting’ the crowd from them; if they were Moldova fans, then the officers were protecting these folks from the Azeri crowd. Nobody wants an international incident involving your guests at a soccer match.
Olympia scored the first goal at about the 15 minute mark, putting one past goalkeeper Kamran fairly easily. It was a pretty big disappointment. It was looking fairly dire until late in the second half, after scores of terrible shots by our Xəzər team, we finally booted one in from about 15 feet out of the box. The game ended 1-1. We weren’t sure who was favored, but judging by the team reactions, Olympia generally in good spirits and Xəzər sitting moping on the pitch, it seemed like a positive result for the Moldovans and a disappointment for our home team.