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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 October 2005, 08:26 GMT 09:26 UK
Wales fans hit target for orphans
The four children from Azerbaijan
The four children will be the Azerbaijan team mascots
Four orphans from Azerbaijan were mascots for their football team's World Cup qualifier in Cardiff on Wednesday night - thanks to the work of a charity run by Wales fans.

The trip was funded by Apl Gl, set up by supporters who had travelled to Baku to see the Wales team play in 2002.

As well as taking in the match at the Millennium Stadium, the youngsters will also visit attractions in London.

They also met pupils at a school in the Gwent Valley.

Organisers said the trip was part of work to help underprivileged children.

Eshgin Muzadov, 13, Abil Ganiyev, 13, Sevinj Bazisheva, 13 and 11-year-old Sabina Seyfullayeva arrived in Wales last Saturday.

They have such sad eyes when they are in the orphanage but here their faces are full of happiness
Dziz Akhundoff

Dziz Akhundoff, a journalist from Azerbaijan who is travelling with the children said that the trip was "a once in a lifetime experience" for the children.

"They have such sad eyes when they are in the orphanage but here their faces are full of happiness."

On Wednesday, the youngsters visited Abersychan Comprehensive School in Torfaen after the school raised 200 for Apl Gl.

Welsh football fans playing football with orphans in Azerbaijan
Welsh football fans visit orphanages as part of the charity's work

Teacher Ian Haywood said that it was a way of repaying the charity, which had arranged for 11 pupils to act as mascots when Wales faced England at Old Trafford last October.

"Everyone got involved - one of our pupils even handed over all of her pennies that she had been saving to the charity".

"We have been able to give the four children a bag full of things they might like and enough to take back to Azerbaijan for the other children," he said.

Since 2002, Apl Gl, have made several trips to orphanages in Baku with gifts of footballs, kits, toys and cash donations, as well as others in Serbia, Russia and Austria.

Rob Santwris and Duncan Jardine from Apl Gl have co-ordinated the visit.

Wales' Ryan Giggs and Azerbaijan"s Mohir Shukurov tussle for the ball during the World Cup qualifying match
The youngsters led out the Azerbaijan team, before watching the 2-0 defeat to Wales

Mr Jardine said: "The orphanages provide all the basics - food, a roof over their head, schooling, but they simply don't have the money for the nice things in life - the treats."

He said that support from Welsh football fans to the charity's work was "amazing".

"Often you see lads who look like the stereotypical football fans, wanting to go drinking and whatever, and then when they hear about our work and they come along to the orphanages and play football with the kids and you realise that everyone wants to help these kids," said Mr Jardine.

"This trip has made a huge difference to these children and it will probably stay with them for a long time," he added.

Mr Santwris added: "I suppose the only way to describe it is to take a group of children from the 1940s to Florida in 2005 - it is like time travel because things are so different where they live to here."




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