Qarabag FC has made symbolic win

It was a nice evening for Qarabag FC players and technical staff. The Azeri club has reached qualification to the UEFA Europa League group stage through a well-deserved 3-0 victory over Legia Warsaw in Polish capital. This sport success was celebrated more than expected back in Azerbaijan, as it was the first time in weeks that this name has been linked with everything other than war, weapons and deaths.

Qarabag FC originates from Agdam. This is a town in Azeri territory, which is occupied by Armenian forces the last 30 years and has turned into a “ghost town” due to the scale of its destruction during the war. The club has not played in its hometown since 1993 and is based in capital Baku.

If you wonder where you heard this word lately, you’re not wrong. Unfortunately, Karabakh (the Latin version of orthography) made headlines last week, after the eruption of clashes in the Nagorno Karabakh (meaning Mountainous Karabakh) region between Armenia and Azerbaijan. On September 27th Armenia declared martial law and mobilization and Azerbaijan parliament declared a state of war against Armenia. In terms of casualties, the clashes were the worst since 2016 and caused alarm in the international community. Most countries and international organizations urged both sides to return to the peace negotiations process. The United Nations Security Council condemned the resumption of hostilities.

The Karabakh conflict is a result of politics against the will of nationalities. Nagorno Karabakh, a territory having more than 90% Armenian majority, has been made in 1921 part of Azerbaijan instead of nearby Armenia, by early URSS decision, made by Joseph Stalin himself (then the Soviet Union commissar for nationalities). The territory has been organized as an autonomous oblast, but the Armenians living there didn’t give up their dreams or joining their mother country nearby.

Nagorno Karabakh unilaterally declared independence from Azerbaijan in 1988, before even the Soviet Union dissolution. The Karabakh war started in 1988. The local Nagorno Karabakh forces, with Armenian aid, not only freed their designated territory, but also occupied another 9% of Azeri territory to reach the borders of Armenia.

Agdam, a nearly 95% Azeri city according to official Soviet census, is located in this zone. The club reminds in all Azeris the displacement of more than half million Azeris, which took place some decades ago. Qarabaq FC is the most popular club in Azerbaijan, surpassing even the historic capital club Neftci Baku. This qualification in the Europa League group stage is hailed as symbolic.

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