Azerbaijani Football Stadiums

Azerbaijan
By Post of Azerbaijan/Azermarka [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Football originally began to become popular in Azerbaijan in the early part of the 20th century, when the country was still part of the Russian Empire. The first teams were formed in Baku, the county’s capital, in 1905. There was something of an unofficial city championship organised by the captains of each team on a spontaneous basis whenever all of the players were free.

In this section of the site we’ll tell you a little bit more about the history of football in the country as well as have a quick look at the league system and the national side. Firstly, though, we’ll give you some information about the sort of stadiums you’d come across if you went to watch a few matches out in Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijani Stadiums

Azerbaijan’s national stadium, imaginatively called Baku National Stadium, is the largest in the country by some distance. It can welcome just shy of 70,000 people through its doors. However that is very much the exception rather than the rule. The next largest stadium has a capacity of 30,000, with the majority actually having room for less than a third of that number. In short, apart from the few biggest grounds, the majority of stadiums throughout Azerbaijan are small and unimpressive.

Despite the fact that the population of Azerbaijan is over nine million and that football is the most popular sport in the country, the stadiums that you’d find yourself in if you went to watch a game or two are really quite small. Most grounds house less than 5,000 supporters. Even the country’s most successful club, Neftçi PFK, play in a ground with a capacity of about 15,000.

Azerbaijan Premier League

The Azərbaycan Premyer Liqası, or Azerbaijan Premier League, is the top-tier of football in Azerbaijan. It has enjoyed numerous sponsorship deals over the years, with Topaz Premyer Liqası being the leagues current name because of one such deal. Here we’ll tell you a little bit more about the league as well as give you some information on its history and the sort of stadiums you’ll find being used the teams that play in the division.

About The League

The number of teams taking part in the league has changed dramatically over the years, going from 26 when the Premier League first started to eight nowadays. Those eight teams play each other in a double round-robin format, meaning that they play four games against each other in total. Two of the games are at home and the other two are away, with three points awarded for a win, none for a loss and one point each if the game ends in a draw.

The champions go into the play-offs of the Champions League, whilst the second & third placed team as well as the winners of the Azerbaijan Cup go into the same stage of the Europa League. The bottom two teams are relegated and replaced by the two teams that finish first and second in the country’s second-tier, known as the Azerbaijan First Division.

League History

From 1992 until 2007 the top league of the country was called Yüksək Liqa, which when translated becomes the somewhat unimaginative Top Division. The biggest challenge to the top-flight’s very existence came in 2002 when UEFA imposed a ban of two years because of a conflict that had been taking place for some time between the Association of Football Federations of Azerbaijan and some of the top-flight clubs.

In 2007 it was relaunched as the Azerbaijan Premier League. That saw some of its teams strengthen somewhat, with Neftchi Baku becoming the first Azerbaijani team to enter a European competition proper when it entered the Europa League in 2012. Two years later and Qarabağ followed suit, having won its first league title for 21 years the season before. Since the formation of a top-tier league in Azerbaijan back in 1992 the competition has been won by eight clubs in total. The aforementioned Neftchi Baku is the most successful Azerbaijani team of all time, having won eight league titles, 6 Azerbaijan Cup and 2 Azerbaijan Supercups.

 

Azerbaijan National Team

Controlled by the Association of Football Federations of Azerbaijan, the country’s national side played its first game back in 1912 when it was still a member of the Russian Empire. Of course it wasn’t really until the country gained independence from Russia in 1991 that the team began to operate as its own entity, entering competitions from the European Championships in 1996 onwards. To date they have yet to qualify to take part in the knockout stages of either the Euros or the World Cup, however.

Key Stats

Azerbaijan National Team Statistics
Year Formed 1992
Home Stadium Baku Olympic Stadium
Stadium Capacity 69,870
Major Honours None
Current Manager Robert Prosinečki
Top Scorer Gurban Gurbanov
Most Caps Rashad Sadygov
Best Performance at World Cup None
Best Performance at European Championships None
Kit Colours Red and Blue (Home), Blue and Red (Away)

History Of Football In Azerbaijan

The first ever football championship in the country took place in 1911 in the capital city of Baku. It was won by ‘the British Club’ and came a year before Azerbaijan played their first international match, though that was unofficial. Reports of teams in Soviet era Azerbaijan go back as far as 1926 when a Trans-Caucasian Championship took place in Tbilisi. In the same year a team from Tehran crossed the border to play a match against a team from Baku, meaning that Iran’s first national way match was against a team from Azerbaijan.