The teams San Lorenzo in Argentina, and Penarol in Uruguay rejected Azerbaijan’s offer, stating, “Money is not everything”. The common characteristic of the two teams is the broad support they enjoy among the Armenian population in the two countries.
Founded in 1908 in Buenos Aires, San Lorenzo has a broad Argentinean Armenian fan base and also Armenian board members. Recently it has gained international renown as the team Pope Francis supports.
FATİH GÖKHAN DİLER
Azerbaijan, bolstered by energy wealth, is trying to improve its country image that has suffered especially because of its human rights violations by signing sponsorship agreements with football teams in various countries. Having already made agreements with Atletico Madrid in Spain and Sheffield Wednesday in England, Azerbaijan failed to get what it wanted in South America. The teams San Lorenzo in Argentina, and Penarol in Uruguay rejected Azerbaijan’s offer, stating, “Money is not everything”. The common characteristic of the two teams is the broad support they enjoy among the Armenian population in the two countries.
‘Land of Fire’ is a slogan we now frequently come across on TV screens, especially during football broadcasts. The reason for this is the sustained success of Atletico Madrid, a team in the Spanish Football League “La Liga”. Azerbaijan’s investments are not restricted to football. The aforementioned sponsorship agreements are part of a much wider “publicity project” that aims to raise the country’s profile which also includes the Eurovision Song Contest, candidacy for the Olympics, and Formula 1.
However, just like other countries that have become rich through energy that aim to raise their profile through sports sponsorship, Azerbaijan, too, has a long record of human rights violations. Although these violations are documented and announced by respected international organizations, they cannot compete with the volume of money spent for the “publicity” of the country.
“We don’t want Armenian administrators”
On the other hand, there are teams that do not adopt Atletico Madrid’s approach. In Argentina and Uruguay, Azerbaijan has faced disappointment in its attempt to bring its sponsorship agreements to South America. The first team involved is San Lorenzo from Argentina. Founded 106 years ago, in 1908, in the Flores area of the capital Buenos Aires, the team has a broad Argentinean Armenian fan base, and also Armenian board members. San Lorenzo has recently acquired additional international renown as the team supported by Pope Francis. The second team is Penarol from Uruguay. This team, too, has two Armenian board members, and is a club affiliated with the Uruguay Armenian community.
San Lorenzo Club Chairman Matias Lammens explains that Azerbaijani officials he met with in Madrid and Argentina told him “There should be no board members of Armenian origin at the club”. Upon Matias Lammens’ rejection of the sponsorship offer from Azerbaijan, leading figures of the Armenian community in Argentina organized a thank you event in his name.
Lammens said the following in his speech: “I am exceedingly happy that San Lorenzo has rejected a sponsorship offer of this nature by stating ‘Not everything is for sale’ and that the club has set an example on the matter. Money should not occupy such an important place in our societies, and should not take precedence over history and identity.”