"I did not migrate to Sweden. The USSR State Sports Committee dispatched me upon the agreement with the Azerbaijan Sports Committee. The Committee and Neftchi FC receive huge amounts for this. As a Neftchi footballer, I was the champion of Sweden," Igor Ponomarev, a member of the Supervisory Board of the Sabah Football Club, told Report while commenting on the allegations that he left Azerbaijan as a migrant in 1989.
According to him, everyone wants Azerbaijani footballers to succeed in European championships.
"Trust me as an Olympic Champion, UEFA European Under-19 Football Championship winner, FIFA World Youth Championship runner-up, and an honored trainer of the USSR. I have always highly represented the Azerbaijani flag. No one has ever heard any unpleasant words from me about my native country and the city which I know every inch of. I am the only Olympic Champion from Azerbaijan with a number of other achievements. I have never forgotten and won't forget my country even after I end my career. I have created a football team. The Swedish Azerbaijanis Congress has awarded me with the Dede Gorgud order for my work in the diaspora. My son Anatoly has played in the Azerbaijani team and led the squad as head coach," said Ponomarev.
He expressed pride in all his achievements within the Neftchi club.
"I sustained a serious injury while playing in native Neftchi and, therefore, ended my career soon after it. I was the club's best goalscorer six times and listed among 100 best bombarders of the USSR. I am very proud that I made these achievements in Neftchi, and honored my native club and my country. President Ilham Aliyev hasn't been indifferent to it, and I am grateful to him," he said.
Igor Ponomarev won the Olympic Championship in Seoul, South Korea in 1988, and the Swedish Championship in IFK Norrköping in 1989. He was crowned the European Champion in 1978, became the FIFA World Youth Championship runner-up in 1979. Ponomarev scored goals for Neftchi in the USSR championships in 1979, 1980, 1981, 1983, and 1988 and was a record-holder of the USSR championship with 24 penalties in consecutive matches.