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Developing football in Azerbaijan

Recent strides bode well for Azerbaijan, where it is hoped the staging matches at UEFA EURO 2020 has provided a catalyst for further development on and off the pitch.

Baku staged four games at UEFA EURO 2020
Baku staged four games at UEFA EURO 2020 AFP via Getty Images

Overview

The Association of Football Federations of Azerbaijan's (AFFA) 2021–25 strategy focuses on five key areas:

  • Grassroots
  • Youth football
  • Women’s football
  • Infrastructure
  • Club football development

Additionally, the AFFA is working to digitalise many of its processes, with ambitious plans for a digital ecosystem incorporating an interactive football map, club licensing platforms and online football educational programmes.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the association soundly guided its clubs through a difficult period and launched a protocol (in line with the UEFA Return to Play Protocol) detailing medical and organisational requirements to be followed during matches, providing financial support to clubs and the women's national team.

It is hoped that by having hosted four matches at UEFA EURO 2020, the AFFA will be able to inspire more participation, creating a stable and sustainable club environment and improve national team performance.

UEFA support

UEFA's HatTrick programme, which channels EURO revenues into football development across Europe, has helped the AFFA improve its infrastructure to set the game up for success in Azerbaijan.

This support has funded the renovation of the national football technical centre in Tovuz as well as an upgrade to the Shamakhi City Stadium. The latter, which was inaugurated in November 2021, incorporates a new synthetic pitch, a 2,200-capacity main stand and new facilities for players and fans. Both projects will provide the AFFA with further opportunities to encourage participation levels in the game and use football to promote social inclusion.

Additionally, each year the AFFA is able to use UEFA funding to build around ten new mini-football pitches for public use.

UEFA Foundation for Children in Azerbaijan

Set up in 2015, the UEFA foundation uses football as a vehicle to help improve children's lives by supporting hundreds of campaigns and projects across Europe and around the world.

Azerbaijan Autism Association and CARE

In June 2021, the UEFA foundation announced 19 award winners among charities and other organisations working in support of children's rights.

In Azerbaijan, the AFFA works with two organisations, Azerbaijan Autism Association, which raises awareness of the condition within the country and provides support to families with autistic children, and CARE, which provides support and humanitarian assistance for internally displaced people, focusing on the rights of women and girls.

Timeline

Association history

1911 Football can be traced back this far in Azerbaijan, having been introduced by British workers during the industrial boom of the late 19th century. 1920s & 1930s The game catches on with a regional Baku championship and Azerbaijani clubs represent the country in the Soviet leagues. 1966 Neftçi PFK finish third in the USSR top flight, with a player from the Baku club, Anatoliy Banishevskiy, starring for the USSR at the FIFA World Cup in England. 1992 The AFFA is founded following the break-up of the USSR. 1994 The association joins UEFA, prompting assistance in developing financial, technical and logistical improvements to Azerbaijani football. 2007 The AFFA's new House of Football headquarters is inaugurated in Baku. UEFA and FIFA's assistance programmes had made possible the building of a five-storey HQ. The association has since opened the AFFA footballing academy, as well as a new national team training base in Mardakan. 2010 Azerbaijan's futsal team begins a run of qualifying for the UEFA Futsal EURO, also reaching the last eight at the 2016 Futsal World Cup. 2017 Qarabaǧ become the first team from Azerbaijan to play in the UEFA Champions League group stage, drawing two of their six matches. 2019 Baku hosts the UEFA Europa League final between English sides Chelsea and Arsenal. Present day

National team history

1994 Azerbaijan play their first UEFA qualifying match, a 3-0 defeat in Romania. 2012 Azerbaijan hosts the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup. 2016 The country hosts the UEFA European Under-17 Championship final round. 2021 Baku is a host city for UEFA EURO 2020 and is selected to stage four matches. Present day

AFFA president Rovnag Abdullayev
AFFA president Rovnag Abdullayev©UEFA.com

President

Rovnag Abdullayev

Nationality: Azerbaijani
Date of birth:
3 April 1965
Association president since: 2008 

AFFA general secretary Sarkhan Haijiyev
AFFA general secretary Sarkhan HaijiyevAFFA

General secretary

Sarkhan Hajiyev

Nationality: Azerbaijan
Date of birth: 8 July 1987
Association general secretary since: 2022

Association of Football Federations of Azerbaijan website