The Association of Football Federations of Azerbaijan (AFFA) is attempting to recruit two Russian players in an effort to strengthen the national team.
'A will to play'
Vagyf Sadygov, the assistant coach of Azerbaijan, has offered FK Anzhi Makhachkala duo Budun Budunov and Arsen Akaev citizenship and a chance to play international football. Sadygov said of Budunov, a promising forward, and midfield player Akaev: "I have spoken to both of them and both have shown a will to play for Azerbaijan. I am very confident that the negotiations will be successful."
Kazbek Tuayev, the coach of both Azerbaijan and FC Neftchi, made little secret of his desire to add players from outside the country to the fold when he took charge of the national team for a second time in January. "We will keep inviting players who are capable of strengthening our squad to it," he said. "My chief criteria is that they have a will to play for Azerbaijan and a decent attitude towards the job."
Sirkhaev to return?
Azerbaijan's next game is against Malta on 17 April and Tuayev hopes to be able to call on Budunov and Akaev for it. The coach is also confident that Narvik Sirkhaev, the FC Lokomotiv Moscow midfield player, will come out of self-imposed retirement for the fixture, saying: "I have not ruled out a return for Sirkhaev."
World Cup woe
Sirkhaev, of Avari origin and raised in Russia, has been a key player for Azerbaijan ever since Sadygov, then coach of the national side, sought him out in 1997. Sirkhaev, who quit in 1999 after 17 caps, however, has lamented his decision not to hold out for a place in the Russia team. "Who could have known that my club would do so well and I would be the centre of attention?" Sirkhaev said. "Unfortunately, I will never play in a World Cup."
Players from across the former Soviet Republic have long worn the Azeri shirt and two in particular contributed to the country's greatest performance. In 1996, Chechen duo Deni Gaisumov and Ruslan Idigov became national heroes after superb displays in Azerbaijan's 1-0 defeat of Switzerland.
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