🇦🇿 Azerbaijan 🇦🇿
The Azerbaijan Championship was established in 1992. If the Azerbaijan championship is today crushed by FK Qarabağ, it was for a few years dominated by Neftchi Baku.
The eight best teams meet 4 times in the Azerbaijan championship. At the end of the 28 matches, the 1st is crowned champion and qualifies for the Champions League. The 2nd, 3rd and winner of the Azerbaijan Cup go to the Europa League. The last one is relegated to the second division.
Football was first played in Azerbaijan in 1911 by English workers who came to the country after the industrial revolution in the late 19th century. The sport developed in the capital, Baku, as well as in the cities of Tovuz and Shamkir, and inspired such passion that neutral referees from neighbouring Georgia often had to be called in for important matches.
In the 1920s, a regional championship was established in Baku, while Azeri clubs Neftçi PFK, FK Temp, FK Dinamo and FK Lokomotiv represented the country in several Soviet championships in the 1930s. Neftçi finished third in the Soviet championship in 1966, and a player from the Baku club, Anatoliy Banishevskiy, shone for the USSR at the FIFA World Cup in England.
Following the collapse of the USSR in the early 1990s, football, like all spheres of public activity in Azerbaijan, declined. However, independence allowed the creation of a national association and was a key moment in the formation and development of football in Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijan Football Association (AFFA) was established in 1992 and joined UEFA two years later.
The Shafa Stadium in Baku (now the Inter Arena) was built in 2001. Bakı FK and Olimpik-Şüvälan PFK are two clubs with new stadiums. Quality stadiums and sports complexes are being built in cities such as Lankaran, Imishli, Evlakh and Zagatala.
The Azerbaijani national team has also made its mark in UEFA European Championship and FIFA World Cup qualifying campaigns, starting with EURO 96.
Since a 3-0 defeat in Romania in September 1994, Azerbaijan has made great strides and recorded important victories. Successes against Switzerland (1998 World Cup), Slovakia (2002 World Cup), Serbia and Montenegro (UEFA EURO 2004), Finland (UEFA EURO 2008) preceded remarkable 1-1 draws with Russia (2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers) and Belgium (UEFA EURO 2012 qualifiers), in addition to the famous 1-0 UEFA EURO 2012 qualifier win at home against Turkey. These successes were achieved under the guidance of coach Berti Vogts.
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