Uzbek Football Slow to Raise its Game

Uzbek Football Slow to Raise its Game

Tuesday, 5 May, 2009
Although the Uzbek government has extended tax breaks and customs exemptions for football teams, NBCentral Asia observers say more needs to be done to keep the game competitive.

According to a decision issued in April, professional football teams will enjoy customs exemptions for imported sports equipment and for materials needed to revamp stadiums and other sports facilities until 2012.

Although tax breaks have been in place since 2006, many clubs are struggling. For instance, financial constraints meant the Traktor and Tupalang teams had to be relegated from the national premier league last year.

The national football federation requires premier league teams to have a budget of at least 2.5 million US dollars.

There are currently 36 professional teams, but many cannot afford to attend all the matches they should be playing.

NBCentralAsia observers say more needs to be done to encourage sponsorship and investment, which would allow clubs to buy some big-name players.

The Tashkent team Bunyodkor has already done this – it signed up Brazilian forward Rivaldo and brought in several Barcelona players to do coaching.

“Having a foreign forward increased interest in Uzbek football all over the world,” said Davlat Turdialiev, a TV sports commentator in Tashkent. “Foreign newspapers are writing many articles about Uzbekistan and [its] other football clubs.”

Raising the status of Uzbek football could help the government in its attempts to draw international attention away from its poor human rights record, at a time when it is trying to re-engage with the West following a period of frosty relations which followed the Andijan violence of 2005.

(NBCentralAsia is an IWPR-funded project to create a multilingual news analysis and comment service for Central Asia, drawing on the expertise of a broad range of political observers across the region. The project ran from August 2006 to September 2007, covering all five regional states. With new funding, the service has resumed, covering Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.)

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