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Neftchi's season in the sun

Published: Monday 2 February 2004, 11.28CET
For football fans in Azerbaijan, 1966 remains a golden year thanks to the exploits of FK Neftchi.
Published: Monday 2 February 2004, 11.28CET

Neftchi's season in the sun

For football fans in Azerbaijan, 1966 remains a golden year thanks to the exploits of FK Neftchi.
By Erkin Ibragimov

The year 1966 was a great one for Azerbaijani soccer. The small southern republic, which had never lacked footballing ability, was able to celebrate a remarkable triumph as its leading club, FK Neftchi from Baku, finished third in the Soviet Supreme League.

Banishevskiy boon
It was also the year the Soviet Union's national team achieved third place at the FIFA World Cup in England. The connection between the two successes was Anatoliy Banishevskiy, a 20-year-old striker who spearheaded both sides.

Inauspicious opening
Ironically, international call-ups for Banishevskiy and other players had caused a dent in Neftchi's title ambitions that year. The capital club opened the 1966 campaign with two goalless draws, heralding a poor run of results that lasted the first half of the season and forced a change of coach.

Aleskerov appointment
Ahmed Aleskerov, who had recently retired from playing, was duly appointed and took charge of a team occupying eleventh position in the table, three games into the championship's second phase.

Change of fortunes
Aleskerov worked an instant alchemy. Neftchi went ten matches unbeaten, claiming a 2-1 win against the mighty FC Dynamo Kyiv along the way. Going into the last game of the season, the Baku club were up to third place, vying for the bronze medal with FC Spartak Moskva, the side they were due to meet on the final day.

Double strike
The venue for the match was Baku's Republican stadium, and Neftchi did not disappoint an expectant home crowd. Banishevskiy was the hero with two goals in a 3-0 victory. The strikes took the youngster's seasonal tally to 12 goals in 14 appearances.

Holy trinity
This was no one-man band, however. Neftchi owed their success to an attacking trident that also included top scorer Kazbek Tuayev and Eduard Markarov. The forwards were a handful for any defence and had the advantage of being free from defensive duties. In all that season they registered 38 goals between them.

All-round strength
Coach Aleskerov could also count on a reliable goalkeeper in Sergey Kramarenko - father of Azerbaijan's current No1 Dmitri - and a midfield of Anatoliy Trofimov, Aleksandr Gryazev and Valeriy Gajiev, who were as strong going forward as they were defensively.

Team spirit
Despite being based in Azerbaijan, Neftchi were always an international club, bringing together players of different ethnic backgrounds. Aleskerov made a team of them, however, and the success he kindled sparked a new wave of interest in the game across Azerbaijan.

League championships: 1992, 1996, 1997.

Azerbaijani Cups: 1995, 1996, 1999, 2002.

Last updated: 01/02/12 6.24CET

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