Why You Should Care About Qarabağ FK
On Sept. 12, Chelsea FC played their first Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Champion’s League group match of the 2017-18 season against Qarabağ FK.
Many Chelsea fans like myself had never heard of this team before, but as fans, we were excited to see our club back in the Champion’s League.
Chelsea defeated the Azerbaijani team 6-0, with new boys Davide Zappacosta and Tiemoue Bakayoko both scoring.
After missing out on Champion’s League football last season, Chelsea is looking to make a comeback this year.
Even though Chelsea won comfortably, that was not the biggest story coming out of Stamford Bridge that night.
Qarabağ FK are the first team from Azerbaijan to ever qualify for the Champion’s League.
They were founded in 1956, and were founding members of the Premyer Liqa, or the Azerbaijan Premier League when it was founded in 1992.
The club is originally from the city of Agdam, however the area was heavily bombarded during the Nagorno-Karabakh war, forcing the residents of Agdam to evacuate.
Unfortunately, the city of Agdam became a ghost town shortly after.
Armenia occupied the city of Agdam and seized their stadium, forcing Qarabağ FK to move east to the capital of Azerbaijan: Baku.
Even before they moved to Baku, Qarabağ FK still played in their home stadium despite the war going on.
Qualifying for the Champion’s League group stages is a huge deal for not only the club, but the fans as well.
Despite the loss on Tuesday, Qarabag fans consider this a win, as these games allow them to tell the story of their club from a war-torn country.
Even their manager Gurban Gurbanov, a legend of the Azerbaijan National team and a three time winner of the Azerbaijani league, was quoted saying in the post match conference, “Unfortunately Qarabağ’s land is occupied by Armenian forces. This makes us stronger and inspires me to lead for Azerbaijan.”
Compared to the other clubs in Group C (Chelsea FC, Atlético Madrid and AS Roma), Qarabağ FK are a significantly smaller club than the rest.
So it’s very unlikely that they will progress past the group stage.
But with that being said, progressing past the group stage does not seem to be their primary goal.
It seems that the goal of Qarabağ FK fans is to tell the incredible and positive story of a small club from Azerbaijan.
Qualifying for the Champion’s League group stages for the first time in the club’s history is the crowning achievement.
Despite the tough loss against Chelsea, this team is a good example of how smaller clubs use tournaments like these to share their story.
Luke Stergiou can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org