Qarabağ Futbol Klubu (pronounced [ɡɑˈɾɑbɑɣ]) is an Azerbaijani professional football club that competes in the Azerbaijan Premier League, the top flight of Azerbaijani football. The club originates from Aghdam in the formerly occupied Karabakh (Azerbaijani: Qarabağ) region, but has not played in its hometown since 1993 due to the First Nagorno-Karabakh War. The club now plays in Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan.[3] Qarabağ plays its matches at the Azersun Arena and Tofiq Bahramov Stadium in Baku, which also serves as the venue for Azerbaijan national team matches.

Qarabağ
Qarabağ FK logo
Full nameQarabağ Futbol Klubu
Nickname(s)Atlılar (The Horsemen)[1]
Göy-ağlar (Blue and Whites)[2]
Founded1951; 73 years ago (1951), as Məhsul
1987; 37 years ago (1987), as Qarabağ
GroundAzersun Arena
Capacity5,800
OwnerAzersun Holding
PresidentTahir Gozel
ManagerGurban Gurbanov
LeagueAzerbaijan Premier League
2023–24Azerbaijan Premier League, 1st of 10 (champions)
WebsiteClub website
Current season

Formed in 1987, Qarabağ were founding members of the Azerbaijan Premier League in 1992. One season later, they won their first league championship, becoming the first non-Baku-based club to win the Premier League title. Qarabağ is one of the two teams in Azerbaijan, along with Neftçi PFK which has participated in all Premier League championships so far.

In 2014, the club won the Premier League, their first league title in 21 years.[4] Qarabağ have won the Premier League eleven times and Azerbaijan Cup eight times.[5] Qarabağ became the second Azerbaijani team after Neftçi PFK[6] to advance to the group stage of a European competition, making its in the UEFA Europa League group stage in 2014–15 season. Qarabağ is the first Azerbaijani team to advance to the group stage of the higher UEFA Champions League, competing in the 2017–18 season.[7] The club has played more UEFA matches than any other Azerbaijani team.

History

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Soviet era (1951–1991)

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The club was founded in 1951 as Mehsul after the Aghdam city stadium was built;[8][9][10] there then began a serious effort towards the creation of a professional football team.[11] Consequently, Qarabağ FK, playing under the name of Mehsul, took part in the 1966 Azerbaijani SSR championship.[8] That year, the club reached fourth place in the local championship.

Qarabağ participated in the local championship for four consecutive years during which second place was their best result (achieved in 1969[12]). After 1969, however, owing to carelessness and a lack of financial support, the team withdrew from the championships for almost ten years.[8] In 1977, the team was reborn under name Shafaq. In 1982 Shafaq was the only representative of Aghdam in football. Between 1982 and 1987, the squad used the name "Cooperative society". In 1988, Qarabağ won the champions title in the Azerbaijan SSR local championship under its current name.[8] In addition to championship medals, the club won the right to play in the Soviet Second League.

Effects of war and financial struggles (1991–2008)

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On 23 July 1993, during the First Nagorno-Karabakh War, the city of Agdam was seized by Armenian armed forces,[13] and the team was forced to move from Imarat Stadium to Baku, while the former head coach and player of the team, Allahverdi Baghirov, died in the war.[14][15][16] Despite all these difficulties, in 1993, Qarabağ won the Top League as well as the Azerbaijan Cup. Financial problems plagued the club during the period from 1998 to 2001, and the club went through hard times although it became the first Azerbaijani team to win away from home in a European competition by defeating the Israeli side Maccabi Haifa in the 1999 UEFA Intertoto Cup thanks to a double strike from club legend[17] Mushfig Huseynov.[18] Qarabağ has also represented Azerbaijan in the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup and UEFA Cup many times.

These problems were alleviated in 2001, when one of the largest holding companies of Azerbaijan, Azersun Holding, starting sponsoring the team. The squad used the name of Qarabag-Azersun for two seasons, but then returned its original name in 2004.[19]

Gurban Gurbanov era (2008–present)

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Gurban Gurbanov the most successful Azerbaijani manager in European competitions.

In 2008, former Azerbaijani football star Gurban Gurbanov was appointed as head coach after the unexpected departure of Rasim Kara to Khazar Lankaran one week before the start of the 2008–09 season. Led by Gurban Gurbanov, Qarabağ have ignored a common strategy in Azerbaijani football: eschewing foreign signings in favour of nurturing local talent.[3] Gurbanov brought with him a tiki-taka style of play, characterised by short passes, long periods of build-up and players interchanging positions.[20]

Under Gurbanov, Qarabağ has become one of the most successful Azerbaijani football clubs in Europe (with three consecutive wins) and one which reached the UEFA Europa League play-off-round by beating Rosenborg in the UEFA Europa League, and also eliminated Honka of Finland.[21][22] The achievements in European competitions marked Gurban Gurbanov as among the most successful Azerbaijani managers ever.[23]

In 2010, the club set an Azerbaijani record for the most significant win in a European competition by beating Metalurg Skopje 4–1 in Baku and eliminating Wisła Kraków to reach the play-offs for the second year in succession.[24][25][26] In 2011, the club duplicated the same record by beating Banga Gargždai 4–0 in Gargždai.[27] The 2011–12 season ended in disappointing style for Qarabağ, however, as they finished in fourth place, leaving the club without European competition.[28] In 2013, Qarabağ reached Europa League play-off-round for third time in their history.[29][30]

In May 2014, Qarabağ earned its second league title after 21 years.[31] A month later, by beating Red Bull Salzburg, the club became first Azerbaijani side to win in the third round of UEFA Champions League.[32][33] In August 2014, the club reached Europa League play-off round for the fourth time in last five seasons.[34] In 2014, Qarabağ qualified for the 2014–15 Europa League group stage, becoming the second Azerbaijani team to advance to this stage in a European competition.[35] On 23 October 2014, after defeating[36] Ukrainian club Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk 1–0, the team became the first Azerbaijani club to win a Europa League group stage match.[37][38]

In 2017, after victory over the Sheriff Tiraspol, Qarabağ qualified for the UEFA Champions League play-off rounds for the first time. In the first leg they recorded a 1–0 victory over Danish side F.C. Copenhagen in Baku.[39] Despite losing 2–1 in the second leg, Qarabağ won on away goals and became the first Azerbaijani team to reach the group stages of the UEFA Champions League.[40] They were drawn in Group C alongside Chelsea, Atlético Madrid and Roma, where they managed to obtain two points in six games after two draws and four losses.[41]

In July and August 2021, Qarabağ secured their first participation in the group stage of UEFA Europa Conference League. Qarabağ knocked-out Ashdod (0–0 and 1–0),[42] AEL Limassol (1–1 and 1–0)[43] and Aberdeen (1–0 and 3–1)[44] in the qualifiers. On 27 August, Qarabağ was drawn on Group H of the 2021–22 UEFA Europa Conference League alongside Basel, Kairat and Omonia.[45] They eventually placed 2nd in the group, making it to the Knockout Play-off Round.[46]

In the 2023–24 season Qarabağ made it to the Europa League group stage where they finished 2nd behind Bayer Leverkusen. Qarabağ were subsequently drawn against Braga in the knockout round play-off. The first leg ended as a 4–2 victory for Qarabağ. The second leg would finish 2–0 to Braga after normal time, but ultimately ended 3–2 to the Portuguese side after extra time, which meant Qarabağ won 6–5 on aggregate, and thus became the first ever team from Azerbaijan to reach the round of 16 in any UEFA club competition. The round of 16 draw pitted them against Bayer Leverkusen, whom they had already played earlier in the group stages. The club tied with Bayer Leverkusen 2–2 in the first leg at home but were knocked out in the second leg following two stoppage times goals from Patrik Schick, ending the game 3–2.[47]

Stadium

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Azersun Arena.

The club have previously used Guzanli Olympic Stadium, which is situated in Quzanlı, the most populous municipality in the Agdam Rayon of Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan. The Imarat Stadium which was club's original home stadium was destroyed as a result of artillery attacks from Armenian military forces during the First Nagorno-Karabakh War.[48][49][50]

In 2012, the construction of a new football stadium Azersun Arena was announced, which was opened in June 2015. Azersun Arena is a multi-use football stadium in Surakhani settlement of Baku, Azerbaijan. It is currently used as the club's Azerbaijan Premier League home stadium and holds 5,800 people.[51]

The Baku Olympic Stadium and Tofiq Bahramov Republican Stadium is used for UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League games,[52] where the record attendance for Qarabağ occurred on 27 September 2017, in a UEFA Champions League group stage match attended by 67,200 fans against Roma.[53]

On 21 December 2023, Qarabağ played the 2023–24 Azerbaijan Cup match against MOIK Baku at Khankendi Stadium, Khankendi, becoming this the first match played in Karabakh Economic Region after the end of the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War.[54]

Supporters

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Although a large part of Qarabağ's support is drawn from the local Aghdam population, they remain immensely well supported in the rest of Azerbaijan. This is mainly due to their being the only team to represent the war-torn Nagorno-Karabakh region in the league.[55] The club is a sole remnant of the past and a living symbol of hope and pride for over half a million Azerbaijani internally displaced people. In recent years, thanks to achievements on the pitch, the club has been able to inspire and initiate special youth projects enforcing stability and development in the IDP-settlements near the border of Nagorno-Karabakh.[56][57]

The club have few supporting groups such as Imarat, Qarabağ Ordusu, Boys Qarabağ, and Ladies of Qarabağ.[58][59] These groups often receive free tickets to Qarabağ's games, which helps Karabakh to have more support from fans.

Crest and colours

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Qarabağ's away shirt for the 2018–19 campaign.

The crest on the club emblem is the symbol of the Karabakh. It is produced by English designers and based on the Karabakh horse.[60] The horse stems from the club's nickname "The Horsemen"; although it was included on club programmes and scarves earlier, the crest was not displayed on the shirt until 2004.[61] After Gurban Gurbanov's appointment, Qarabağ's attractive style of play led fans to call the team "Qafqazın Barselonası" ("Barcelona of The Caucasus"), which plays upon Barcelona's success in Europe.[20][62] The club is sometimes called "Qaçqın Klub" ("The Refugee Club") after its conservative position on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and refugee problem in Azerbaijan.[20][63][64]

Shirt sponsors and kit manufacturers

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Qarabağ's traditional kit alludes to the club's location in Nagorno-Karabakh with the black and white representing light and darkness respectively. The club's kits are manufactured by Adidas and sponsored by Azersun, a Baku-based food producing company.

Period Kit manufacturer Shirt sponsor
2003–2004 Fila FINAL
2004–2007 Adidas Azersun
2007–2008 Puma
2008–2010 Adidas
2010–2011 Azərbaycan Sənaye Bankı
2011–2012 Kappa Azersun
2012–2022 Adidas
2022–2023 İl`Azero
2023– Adidas

Recent seasons

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The season-by-season performance of the club over the last ten years:

Season Div. Pos. Pl. W D L GS GA Diff P Cup Europe Top Scorer (League goals) Head Coach
2013–14 Premier League 1 32 20 8 4 51 28 +23 68 W CL / EL III R / GS   Reynaldo,   Leroy (10)   Gurban Gurbanov
2015–16 1 36 26 6 4 66 21 +45 84 W CL / EL III R / GS   Dani Quintana
2016–17 1 28 19 5 4 46 14 +32 62 W CL / EL III R / GS   Dino Ndlovu (10)
2017–18 1 28 20 5 3 37 13 +24 65 QF CL GS   Mahir Emreli (8)
2018–19 1 27 19 6 2 62 19 +43 63 SF CL / EL III R / GS   Mahir Emreli (16)
2019–20 1 20 13 6 1 34 7 +27 45 SF CL / EL III R / GS   Mahir Emreli (7)
2020–21 2 28 16 9 3 64 18 +46 57 SF CL / EL III R / GS   Mahir Emreli (18)
2021–22 1 28 21 6 1 72 13 +59 69 W ECL KO   Kady Borges (12)
2022–23 1 36 28 6 2 91 25 +66 90 QF CL / EL / ECL PO / GS / KO   Ramil Sheydayev (22)
2023–24 1 36 26 5 5 97 37 +60 83 W CL / EL II R / 1/8   Juninho (20)

European record

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Qarabağ playing against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge during the 2017–18 UEFA Champions League.

The club have participated in 18 editions of the club competitions governed by UEFA, the chief authority for football across Europe. These include 7 seasons in the Champions League, 13 seasons in the UEFA Cup and Europa League, two seasons in the Cup Winners' Cup and one seasons in the UEFA Europa Conference League and Intertoto Cup.[65] Qarabağ has played six times in the Europa League after qualifying via the Champions League. Counting all of the 134 games the side have played in UEFA competitions since their first entry into the Cup Winners' Cup in the 1996–97 season, the team's record stands at 48 wins, 35 draws and 51 defeats.

As of match played 15 March 2024
Tournament P W D L GF GA GD Win%
UEFA Champions League 51 21 18 12 67 45 +22 041.18
UEFA Cup / UEFA Europa League 101 36 23 42 118 138 −20 035.64
UEFA Europa Conference League 16 8 4 4 19 17 +2 050.00
UEFA Cup Winners' Cup 4 0 1 3 1 12 −11 000.00
UEFA Intertoto Cup 4 1 0 3 2 11 −9 025.00
Total 176 66 46 64 207 223 −16 037.50

Matches

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UEFA club rankings

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Updated 08.03.2024[66]

Rank Team Coefficient
54   Young Boys 34.500
55   Fenerbahçe 34.000
56   Fiorentina 33.000
57   Qarabağ 33.000
58   Real Betis 33.000
59   Celtic 32.000
60   Galatasaray 31.500

Players

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The squad list includes only the principal nationality of each player; several non-European players on the squad have dual citizenship with an EU country.

Current squad

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As of 18 July 2024[67]

Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

No. Pos. Nation Player
1 GK   AZE Shakhruddin Magomedaliyev
2 DF   BRA Matheus Silva
6 MF   BRA Júlio Romão
7 MF   ALG Yassine Benzia
8 MF   MNE Marko Janković
9 FW   AZE Musa Qurbanlı
10 MF   FRA Abdellah Zoubir
12 GK   AZE Sadig Mammadzade
13 DF   AZE Bəhlul Mustafazadə
15 MF   CPV Leandro Andrade
17 FW   FRA Hamidou Keyta
18 FW   BRA Juninho
19 FW   ALB Redon Xhixha
No. Pos. Nation Player
20 MF   AZE Richard Almeida
24 MF   AZE Aleksey Isayev
27 DF   AZE Toral Bayramov
29 DF   MNE Marko Vešović
30 DF   AZE Abbas Hüseynov
44 DF   AZE Elvin Cafarguliyev
55 DF   AZE Badavi Guseynov (Captain)
66 MF   CPV Patrick Andrade
81 DF   COL Kevin Medina
89 GK   AZE Amin Ramazanov
90 FW   AZE Nariman Akhundzade
97 GK   CRO Fabijan Buntić

For recent transfers, see 2023–24 Qarabağ FK season, Transfers summer 2024 and Transfers winter 2023–24.

Out on loan

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Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

No. Pos. Nation Player
MF   AZE Ismayil Ibrahimli (at Zira)
FW   AZE Rustam Akhmedzade (at Zira)

Reserve team

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As of 12 April 2024

Qarabağ-2 plays in the Azerbaijan First Division from 2018. Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

No. Pos. Nation Player
25 DF   AZE Nihad Hasanzade
26 MF   AZE Rauf Maharramov
32 DF   AZE Hikmat Jabrayilzade
33 MF   AZE Ugur Safarov
34 DF   AZE Rustam Alizade
39 MF   AZE Eltun Babazade
40 MF   AZE Omar Mammadzade
41 GK   AZE Emin Isgandarli
45 DF   AZE Nihad Mollayev
47 MF   AZE Musa Musazade
54 FW   AZE Musa Mammadov
62 MF   AZE Nurlan Shabanov
70 MF   AZE Jafar Hasanov
71 GK   AZE Gurban Maharramov
No. Pos. Nation Player
73 DF   AZE Khayal Alakbarov
74 DF   AZE Sabuhi Niftiyev
75 MF   AZE Emil Binyatzade
76 MF   AZE Nihad Aliyev
79 MF   AZE Mirmovsum Janiyev
80 MF   AZE Ilham Huseynov
82 MF   AZE Samad Zalli
86 GK   AZE Vagif Malik-Yeganov
91 MF   AZE Elton Mikayilov
92 FW   AZE Ibrahim Jamalov
93 MF   AZE Ashraf Zeynalli
94 MF   AZE Huseyn Huseynli
95 MF   AZE Farid Taghiyev

Club officials

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Honours

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Qarabağ has won eleven Azerbaijan Premier League titles, seven Azerbaijan Cup titles and one Azerbaijan Supercup trophy. The club is the first non-Baku based club to have won the Azerbaijan Premier League title.[68] Qarabağ is one of the two teams in Azerbaijan, along with Neftçi PFK which has participated in all Azerbaijan Premier League championships so far.[68]

Azerbaijan

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USSR

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Individual records

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Lists of the players with the most caps and top goalscorers for the club (players in bold signifies current Qarabağ player).[71]

Top goalscorers

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As of match played 2 June 2024
 
Mahir Emreli is one of the highest goalscoring players for the club.
Rank Player Years League Cup Continental Total
1   Mushfig Huseynov 1989–1999
2003–2004
2005–2007
125 (320) ? (?) 2 (?) 127 (320)
2   Mahir Emreli 2015–2021 59 (126) 7 (21) 5 (49) 72 (216)
3   Reynaldo 2012–2017
2019
44 (92) 7 (9) 11 (35) 62 (139)
4   Richard Almeida 2012–2018
2018–2019
2021–present
49 (249) 5 (30) 8 (91) 62 (370)
5   Abdellah Zoubir 2018–present 43 (158) 4 (21) 14 (84) 61 (263)
6   Samir Musayev 2002–2006 44 (85) ? (?) 2 (?) 46 (85)
7   Yashar Huseynov 1989–2002 44 (?) ? (?) ? (?) 44 (?)
8   Dani Quintana 2015–2020 33 (98) 3 (12) 8 (44) 44 (154)
9   Filip Ozobić 2018–2023 34 (95) 0 (8) 7 (47) 41 (150)
10   Vüqar Nadirov 2001–2005
2009–2015
2016–2017
28 (211) 8 (19) 5 (36) 41 (266)

Most appearances

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As of match played 2 June 2024
 
Maksim Medvedev has the most appearances for the club.
Rank Player Years League Cup Continental Total
1   Maksim Medvedev 2006–2024 376 (12) 50 (2) 126 (3) 552 (17)
2   Qara Qarayev 2008–2023 308 (5) 41 (0) 120 (0) 469 (5)
3   Richard Almeida 2012–2018
2018–2019
2021–present
249 (49) 30 (5) 91 (8) 370 (62)
4   Badavi Guseynov 2013–present 231 (5) 31 (0) 89 (0) 351 (5)
5   Yashar Huseynov 1989–2002 325 (44) ? (?) ? (?) 325 (44)
6   Mushfig Huseynov 1989–1999
2003–2004
2005–2007
320 (120) ? (?) ? (?) 320 (125)
7   Ansi Agolli 2010–2019 224 (3) 24 (0) 69 (1) 317 (4)
8   Sattar Aliyev 1989
1990–2004
306 (17) ? (?) ? (?) 306 (17)
9   Aslan Kerimov 1993–1997
2003–2011
268 (12) ? (?) ? (0) 268 (12)
10   Vüqar Nadirov 2001–2005
2009–2015
2016–2017
211 (28) 19 (8) 36 (5) 266 (5)

Notable managers

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Information correct as of match played 28 October 2022. Only competitive matches are counted.

Name Nat. From To P W D L GS GA %W Honours Notes
Elbrus Abbasov   Soviet Union 1988, 1990 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A Azerbaijan SSR League (2)
Azerbaijan SSR Cup
[72][73]
Aghasalim Mirjavadov   Azerbaijan 1993 1994 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A Azerbaijan Premier League
Azerbaijan Cup
Azerbaijan Supercup
[74][75]
Boyukagha Aghayev   Azerbaijan
2006
N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A Azerbaijan Cup [76]
Gurban Gurbanov   Azerbaijan 2008 Present 406 226 106 74 588 301 055.67 Azerbaijan Premier League (10)
Azerbaijan Cup (4)
[77]

Notes: P – Total of played matches W – Won matches D – Drawn matches L – Lost matches GS – Goal scored GA – Goals against
%W – Percentage of matches won

Nationality is indicated by the corresponding FIFA country code(s).

Transfers

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The top transfer was agreed in January 2023 when 26 years old Brazilian attacking midfielder Kady Borges moved to Russian club Krasnodar for a fee €2.00 million.

Record transfers

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Rank Player To Fee Year
1.   Kady Borges   Krasnodar €5.00 million 2023[78]
2.   Ibrahima Wadji   Saint-Étienne €1.50 million 2022[79]
3.   Dino Ndlovu   Zhejiang Professional €0.65 million 2018[80]
4.   Musa Gurbanli   Djurgårdens €0.50 million 2023[81]
5.   Owusu Kwabena   Ferencváros €0.50 million 2023[82]
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Qarabağ is featured on the football simulation game Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 and 2016.[83]

Ban for hate speech

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In October 2020, amid the Nagorno-Karabakh war, Qarabağ was called on for sanctions by Armenian Football Federation after the club's PR and media manager Nurlan Ibrahimov made a hate speech on social network calling to "kill all the Armenians, old and young, without distinction".[84] UEFA announced about temporary banning the club's official from any football-related activity for "racist and other discriminatory conduct” targeting Armenians.[85] Qarabag issued a statement saying Ibrahimov had "suffered psychological trauma" watching the news of Ganja and Barda missile attacks, while also urging its employees to "refrain from such sharing in this sensitive period, adhere to the principles of humanism and fully comply with the laws of our state".[86] Ibrahimov was punished in an administrative manner for the calls he made expressing cruelty against another nation and inciting national, racial or religious hatred while behaving emotionally on social network.[87] On November 26, UEFA officially banned the Qarabag official for life and fined the club €100,000.[88] Shortly after the UEFA sanction, Ibrahimov was declared wanted in Armenia.[89]

References

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Further reading

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  • Huizinga, Arthur (2012). Offside – Football in Exile. Paradox / YdocPublishing. ISBN 9789081887601.
  • Giulianelli, Emanuele (2018). Qarabag: La squadra senza città alla conquista dell'Europa. Ultra sport. ISBN 978-8867767113.
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