Sport in Azerbaijan

Sport in Azerbaijan has ancient roots, and even now, both traditional and modern sports are still practiced. Freestyle wrestling has been traditionally regarded as Azerbaijan’s national sport, however today, the most popular sports in Azerbaijan are football and chess. Other popular sports are gymnastics, judo, futsal, weightlifting, and boxing. Azerbaijan’s mountainous terrain provides great opportunities for the practice of sports like skiing and rock climbing. Water sports are practiced on the Caspian Sea and in inland waters. Competitively, Azerbaijan has been very successful at chess, weightlifting, and wrestling at the international level. Azerbaijan is also an active member of the international sports community, with full membership in the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), European Athletics Association (EAA), International Olympic Committee (IOC), among many others. It has also hosted the first European Games and 2017 Islamic Solidarity Games . Azerbaijan has recently employed a number of top Iranian athletes and coaches to its national teams by granting them Azerbaijani nationalities. These include Saman Tahmasebi, Sabah Shariati and Jamshid Kheyrabadi in wrestling; and Reza Mehmandoost and Milad Beigi in Taekwando.

Decree of the President of Azerbaijan Republic Ilham Aliyev on on March 4 2005 the year , given the importance and the role of physical training in the protection and promotion of health of the Azerbaijani people , the physical development of young people, reaching the sports honor of the country even higher peaks in the international arena, every year on March 5 in the Republic of Azerbaijan is marked as “Day of Physical Culture and Sports”.

Sport in Azerbaijan has ancient roots, and even now, both traditional and modern sports are still practiced. Freestyle wrestling has been traditionally regarded as Azerbaijan’s national sport, in which Azerbaijan won up to fourteen medals, including four golds since joining the National Olympic Committee. Currently, the most popular sports include football and chess.

Types of sports

Backgammon is a game that has ancient roots in the Persian Empire and plays major role in Azerbaijani culture. This game is very popular in Azerbaijan and widely played among the local public. There are also different variations of backgammon developed and analysed by Azerbaijani experts.

Azerbaijan is known as one of the chess superpowers and despite the collapse of the Soviet Union, chess is still extremely popular. Although he left Azerbaijan at an early age, long term world champion Garry Kasparov was born in Baku. Notable chess players of Azerbaijan includes Teimour Radjabov, Shahriyar Mammadyarov, Vugar Gashimov and Zeinab Mamedyarova. Azerbaijan has also hosted many international chess tournaments and competitions and became European Team Chess Championship winners in 2009.

In 2009, Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev issued an order to improve development of chess in the Azerbaijan from 2009 to 2014 period.

Football is the most popular sport in Azerbaijan, and the Association of Football Federations of Azerbaijan with 9,122 registered players, is the largest sporting association in the country. The national football team of Azerbaijan demonstrates relatively low performance in the international arena compared to the nation football clubs. The most successful Azerbaijani football clubs are Neftchi Baku, Baku, Inter Baku, Qarabağ, Gabala and Khazar Lankaran. In 2012, Neftchi Baku became the first Azerbaijani team to advance to the group stage of a European competition, beating APOEL of Cyprus 4-2 on aggregate in the play-off round of the 2012-13 UEFA Europa League.

The 1960s are considered the Golden Age for Azerbaijani football, as they produced great players like Anatoliy Banishevskiy, Alakbar Mammadov and football referee Tofiq Bahramov, who is most famous for being a linesman who helped to award a goal for England in the 1966 World Cup Final between England and West Germany.

The top football teams in Azerbaijan are FK Baku, PFC Neftchi Baku, FK Karabakh and Khazar Lankaran.

On March 19, 2010, Azerbaijan won the bid to host the 2012 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup.

The current shirt sponsor of Atlético Madrid is Azerbaijan which aims to develop football in Azerbaijan based on agreement between Spanish club and FK Baku.

Azerbaijan achieved far more success in futsal than football. In the late 1980s, it was here that influenced the creation of the Russian futsal club MFK Dina Moskva, who dominated the futsal in post-Soviet countries during the 1990s. The Azerbaijan national futsal team reached fourth place in the 2010 UEFA Futsal Championship, while domestic club Araz Naxçivan clinched bronze medals at the 2009–10 UEFA Futsal Cup and 2013–14 UEFA Futsal Cup.

Martial arts
Martial arts like judo have also brought many medals to this country, namely Elnur Mammadli who conquered gold at the European Championships and 2008 Summer Olympics in the -73 kg category. However, his Olympic opponent, Wang Ki-Chun, suffered ribcage fracture when Brazil’s Leandro Guilheiro hit him with an elbow in the quarterfinal. Movlud Miraliyev won the bronze medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics and World Judo Championships in 2003.

Rhythmic gymnastics
In recent years, rhythmic gymnastics developed rapidly in Azerbaijan. Many Azerbaijani rhythmic gymnasts such as Aliya Garayeva, Anna Gurbanova and Dinara Gimatova are among the leading rhythmic gymnasts in the world.

Paragliding in Azerbaijan is quite young and even though Azerbaijan has a rich sporting heritage, little was known about the sport of paragliding and air sport, generally, at the begging of the century. Early in the sports development some ex-parachute jumpers and short term foreign visitors were trying to develop the sport, but with no real success. As of 2015, the community consisted of about 20 pilots, members of the sporting clubs RockStone, Gilavar, Climb Club, CanFly. Pilots are required to follow Fédération Aéronautique Internationale main safety requirements and ethics.

Rugby union
Rugby union in Azerbaijan is a growing sport. They are currently unranked in the International Rugby Board’s world rankings, which ranks only the top ninety-five countries. The governing body for Azerbaijan is Azerbaycan Reqbi Federasiyasl (Azerbaijan Rugby Federation).

Azerbaijan is one of the leading volleyball countries in the world and its Azerbaijan Women’s Volleyball Super League is one of strongest women leagues in world. Its women national team placed fourth at the 2005 European Championship. Over the last years, clubs like Rabita Baku and Azerrail Baku achieved great success at European cups. Azerbaijani volleyball players include likes of Valeriya Korotenko, Oksana Parkhomenko, Inessa Korkmaz, Natalya Mammadova and Alla Hasanova.

Ivan Dyachkov played the key role in the development of Azerbaijani volleyball in 1946–1947 years. Under his supervision, Azerbaijani men’s volleyball team frequently gained victories in the 1950s. With the boost of the interest in volleyball n the country in 1950’s a number of very strong volleyball players emerged in Azerbaijan. They were drafted to the USSR teams and participated at the European and World Championships. There was an Azerbaijani volleyball player in the staff of the USSR team ranked 3rd at the World Championship in Paris in 1956. Two years later, Azerbaijani volleyball player Ogtay Agayev won the bronze at the European Championship.

Coach Shamil Shamkhalov made great efforts for the development of the women’s volleyball in Azerbaijan. In 1956 six students of Shamkhalov won the USSR Youths championship. Three years later Shamil muallim went to Moscow with boys’ and girls’ teams to participate at the All-union School Spartakiad. Both teams won the championship. In 1962 18-year-old Inna Riskal was drafted to the USSR team to participate at the World Championship. With the only loss to the Japanese the team ranked 2nd. Inna, who became one of the key players in the USSR team participated in four Olympiads and captured two gold medals and two silver medals. Another Azerbaijani volleyball player Vera Lantratova won the Olympiad in 1972. Vera Lantratova and Inna Riskal, being members of the USSR team, often participated at the World and European Championships, winning various titles. Inna Riskal was considered one of the three strongest woman volleyball players of the century.

At the beginning of the 1960s two Azerbaijani women’s teams, “Neftchi” and “Mahsul” participated at the USSR Championship. In 1966, the national women’s volleyball team won the USSR Championship bronze medal.

After the appointment to the position of chief coach in 1986 Faig Garayev laid the foundation for the restoration of women’s volleyball in Azerbaijan. A year after, our team entered the major league. Ranked 9th in 1989 and 3rd in 1990 the team won its first awards. The women from Baku won the last USSR Championship in 1991.

In 1992-1993 the team participated at European Top-Team Cup competitions as an independent nation’s team and took the 2nd place. Azerbaijani team ranked 1st at the 1993 Bulgaria World Championship elimination stage, won the “Bahar” cup in Rumania in 1994, and ranked 9th at the same year’s World Championship thus joining the list of the world’s 10 strongest women’s teams.

Wrestling remains a historically important sport of Azerbaijan and often even referred to as its national sport.

Both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling, particularly freestyle, are popular in Azerbaijan.

With a history of great wrestlers, such as Namig Abdullayev, Farid Mansurov, Rovshan Bayramov, and Mariya Stadnik, Azerbaijan is considered among the elite nations in this sport. Azerbaijan Wrestling Federation was established in 1959 as part of the USSR Wrestling Federation. After Azerbaijan Wrestling Federation was established in 1993, and officially admitted to the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles at FILA Headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland in the same year. During 1993-1997, Etibar Sardar oglu Mammadov was the President, Abbas Aydin oglu Abbasov the Vice President and Khanmirza Khanbala oglu Malikaliyev the Chief Scorer of the Azerbaijan Wrestling Federation.AWF conference is held every four years. During the regular conference held in 1997, Abbas Aydin oglu Abbasov was elected the President, Cavanshir Kazim oglu Qurbanov the First Vice President and Khanmirza Khanbala oglu Malikaliyev the Chief Scorer of AWF. Functional vice presidents (Mammad Ibrahimov, Chingiz Quliyev, Oleq Krapivin, Mammad Musayev, Arif Hasanov, and Oktay Huseynov were elected) carried out their activities within the Federation.

Olympic Games
Azerbaijan first participated at the Olympic Games as an independent nation in 1996, and has sent athletes to compete in every Games since then.

The National Olympic Committee of the Azerbaijani Republic made bids for Baku to host the 2016 Olympics and 2020 Olympics

Statistics of medals won
Sport in Azerbaijan is developing rapidly, and this is the example of the performance of Azerbaijani athletes and the strengthening of sports infrastructure in Azerbaijan. Only in 2007 Azerbaijani athletes won more than 300 medals at international competitions, 127 of which were gold medals. 127 medals were won in Olympic sports. At the Olympic Games in Beijing, Sydney and Athens, Azerbaijani athletes won 15 medals, including 4 gold medals.

Sports infrastructure
In Azerbaijan, both Olympic and non-Olympic sports are developing. At the initiative of the National Olympic Committee of Azerbaijan, since 2000 in Azerbaijan, especially in the regions, sports complexes that meet the highest level are being built and transferred to athletes. To date, 15 Olympic sports complexes have been built, and another 16 are under construction. In the Olympic complexes located in the regions, international world-class competitions are held.

International competitions
In recent years a number of representative international competitions have been held in Azerbaijan – the World and European championships in rhythmic gymnastics and wrestling. The number of countries participating in the World Wrestling Championship reached 103. The greatest successes are achieved by Azerbaijani gymnasts and wrestlers. For example, speaking at the European Judo Championship among juniors in 2009 , held in Yerevan , all five athletes representing Azerbaijan won medals.

Source from Wikipedia