Baku’s state of the art Olympic Stadium will play host to the final match of the 2019 Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Europa League, which announced its selection of the venue on Wednesday. The 2019 UEFA Europa League final football (soccer) game will be played on May 29 of that year.
“The stadium is fully ready for hosting the game. Our stadium has been built for staging these kind of events, and meets all the necessary standards defined by the UEFA,” Jamila Mehdiyeva, a spokesperson at Baku’s Olympic Stadium, told Caspian News.
Confirmation of Baku’s host city status came seven months after the city first threw its name into the ring to host the game. In February, officials in Baku announced the city would compete alongside six other cities: Glasgow, Seville, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Istanbul and Tbilisi.
The announcement of Baku as the winner is significant for several reasons. First, no European final has been staged as far east as Azerbaijan, a country on the western edge of the Caspian Sea bordering Russia to north and Iran to the south. Second, the game brings one of the most prestigious games, namely the UEFA European League, back to the Caspian region after a 20-year break. The last time a Caspian state hosted the event was in Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium in 1999.
Officials of the Olympic stadium say there is no any obstacle both technically and administratively that can hinder the organization of the final game in line with UEFA standards.
“No change will be made to stadium’s configuration. If necessary, we can increase the number of seats to 71,000. But now, there is no such demand from UEFA.”
The 68,700-seat Olympic Stadium in Baku boasts the largest sports complex in Azerbaijan and the third-largest in the Caspian region after Luzhniki stadium, which seats 81,000, and Azadi stadium in Tehran, which seats 75,000. The stadium was built in line with all UEFA and FIFA standards for the 2015 European Games, the first pan-European universal sports tournament.
The venue has played host to the 2016 UEFA European Under-17 Championship and the fifth Islamic Solidarity Games, held in May of this year. The arena has also secured to stage four EURO 2020 games - three group stage and one quarterfinal matches.
Baku was also on the short list to host the final game of the 2019 UEFA Champions League (CL), the biggest club-level tournament in Europe. However Madrid won that bid, and will host the games of what is the 64th season of the Champions League at its new Wanda Metropolitano stadium on June 1, 2019.
“For a football fan like me, this is great news. I’m looking forward to seeing famous European clubs and players fighting for a cup on the pitch in Baku. This is going to be thrilling,” Ruslan, 29-year-old Baku resident told Caspian News.