August 15, 2022

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Refugee football travels around Europe every year.  It's about more than just football

Refugee football travels around Europe every year. It’s about more than just football

In the text, “Qarabag” will be used to refer to the football club and “Karabagh” to refer to a geographical area.

Tuesday’s competitor why Poznan in the fight for the father. Champions League He hasn’t played a game in his hometown for 29 years. He had to flee Agdam before the bombing, and his stadium was a wreck. He moved to Baku, but he does not forget his roots. It was a club for refugees, and over time it became an all-Azerbaijan club, backed by the money of the country’s largest food holding company. – That’s it for the people of Azerbaijan. Our territory has been occupied for years and thanks to the successes on the field, we are drawing the world’s attention to it – says Nurlan Ibrahimov, head of public relations at Karabagh.

You feel this club is about more than just playing football. The topic of Nagorno-Karabakh is important to them and I remember that in many situations when it was brought up, the players were very excited – he added Jacob Rzenicakwho played in Al-Qarbagh for two years.

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“It is amazing how quickly a person gets used to war.”

Armenia and Azerbaijan, two former Soviet republics, have been arguing for more than thirty years over Nagorno-Karabakh – a small region where at least two mass killings of civilians were carried out and the most mine-contaminated region in the former Soviet Union. Finally, a region that belongs to Azerbaijan from the point of view of international law, but is currently inhabited by Armenians and controlled by Armenia. The conflict has been going on for years. As a result, more than 30 thousand people died, 70 thousand were injured, and a million were forced to look for a new home. Agdam lived in 40 thousand people, and today it is deserted. They say it is a ghost town, Hiroshima Caucasus, Azerbaijan’s memory of their lands, but they have no control over it.

Two years ago she came back again. Armenia announced that Azerbaijan launched an air and artillery attack on Nagorno-Karabakh. “It was a counterattack in response to a military provocation,” Baku responded. Both countries introduced martial law. People started dying again. During the more than 40 days of war – between September and November – more than 5,000 people died. People. Azerbaijan regained the occupied territories in the southern part of Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as the destroyed Agdam. This is an important symbol, while the club has no chance of returning to its city in the coming years.

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Karabagh has always been at the center of this conflict – he played during the war, winning Azerbaijan’s first championship despite bombs exploding nearby. She gave joy in a sad time. He was raising the cup a week after his city fell. Instead of celebrating, the players returned to the bombed area of ​​Agdam to help their relatives recover their fortunes and family memorabilia from the rubble. The Armenians did not stop at throwing bombs. Later, they took everything that was left: furniture, pipes, bricks, beams. They built their homes out of this – says Adil Naderov, former football player and coach Qarabagh.

The Qarabakh was made by the people of Karabakh for the people of this place. It was a club rooted in this area. Historically – the neighborhood and the family. After the outbreak of the war, his players wanted to enlist in the army and fight, but they were not approved by the authorities, who repeated that as players in this case, they had their mission – to play as a team on the sinking Titanic. , to distract the masses from the war. Thousands of fans attended their matches despite the threat. According to the reports of the players themselves – up to 15,000, despite the fact that the stadium had 10,000. – It is difficult to describe what happened next. I cannot tell you the extent of the destruction in Agdam. It was happening in such a short time…every day we got up and found out that one of our friends had died. The pitch was hit twice. Fortunately, no one was there. In 1992, a bomb hit our training center. Nobody died, and we were lucky again and weren’t exercising. I remember we sewed in classes, cleared the field and kicked the ball normally. It’s amazing how quickly you get used to the war – Shahid Kassanov, the ex-team captain told The Independent.

Casanov also spoke about the match against FK Insaatci. – We played at home. The guests came from Sabirabad, more than 150 km east of Agdam. There was no war. During the match, shooting began. They fell on the field, we kept playing, and we got used to it. It’s amazing, he says.

As the crisis worsened, the club became a symbol of the will to survive. One game in 1992, we had to bring in mounds of dirt to bury a hole in the middle of the field made by a bomb. We knew we were at war, the planes flying overhead reminded us of that. But we were not afraid of death. It was our homeland and it was our duty to play football for those who fought for our future – said Kassanov.

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The last match – on May 12, 1993 – was also played under artillery fire. A few weeks later, the stadium was reduced to rubble. Thousands of residents fled to refugee camps outside the occupation zone. For many years, Karabagh sent several buses to the camps before each game so that fans could travel to their matches. It’s just a five hour drive one way.

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Karabakh is of great importance in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

Karabag seems to have lost everything: home, fans, identity and money. He was broke in the late ’90s. This terrible story saved him. The Azerbaijani authorities were looking for a way to permanently celebrate the allegations against the lost Nagorno-Karabakh. Heydar Aliyev, the former president of Azerbaijan and father of the current president Ilham Aliyev, ordered the state-backed holding company Azersun to invest in the club in 2001 and, as he himself put it, “save it from oblivion.” He saved. He gave money, built a new stadium and training center.

Thanks to this, today the Qarabagh has become a chess piece in the hands of the state authorities. Every year he enters the European cups, represents the disputed region and performs under the Azerbaijani flag. The ethnic makeup of the entire region is complex. Karabakh itself is divided into two parts: Gorsky, that is, the part over which there is a dispute, and the lowlands, where Agdam is located. There were already more Azeris in the Lowlands, but during the armed conflict in the early 1990s, the Armenians, colloquially, went a little further and bypassed Nagorno-Karabakh and wreaked havoc in these Lowlands as well. The Azerbaijanis had to flee, and so did the club – says Misko Rajkevich of the Institute of New Europe and the Faculty of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Warsaw. The importance of the club in the Nagorno-Karabakh issue is strong. Ethnically speaking, the entire Karabakh region is an Armenian region, but since we know the Azerbaijani club that bears this region in its name, we automatically assume that the entire region must also be Azerbaijani. After all, Karabagh plays under the Azerbaijani flag – he adds.

– I remember when we played with her Arsenal In London, a fan holding an Armenian flag ran onto the field. Our commander started chasing him, and I think if he gets it, he will be fought over. He won’t care if he gets a red card, I even think he’s going to be a national hero for some time. Karabag represents the region and its presentation in the world. The President hosted us after some successes. The president uses them to promote the country and for this the club is said to have political significance – said Jakub Rzynicak, who played in Karabagh for two years, in the “football department” of Sport.pl.

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The sports score itself is also very important. Karabagh is one of the few clubs that played in the post-Soviet era Champions League. So we can see that he runs well, plays football well, and has money. In short: we look at it positively and automatically associate it with all of Azerbaijan. And if this Azerbaijan is so well connected, then perhaps the area for which he is fighting is his? This way of thinking is what the authorities want – explains Rajkiewicz. – In addition, there are many sports events organized by Azerbaijan to warm up its image. In the twenty-first century, there were more than thirty of them. Seven years ago the European Games, three years ago the European League final last year euro – Lists.

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Same coach for 14 years and three wins with Polish teams

Qarabagh has played in the group stage of the European Cups every season since 2014. Mostly in European League, once in the Champions League, and the last in the Conference League. He was not used to failing in the qualifying rounds. He also won the last three confrontations with Polish teams – in 2010 with Vistula Krakow in 2013 with Piast Gliwice and in 2020 with Legia. In each of these matches, the coach was Gurban Gurbanov, who had been working for the club for fourteen years. When Qarabagh took over, Why Poznan He was still driving Francesc SmudaEleven other coaches have since worked on Bułgarska Street.

The potential of both teams looks the same, but the cup experience and the stability of the entire club – from the length of the coach’s tenure, through general manager Asif Asgharov (working longer, since 2004), to a few changes in the composition – speak in favor of Al-Qarabagh.