Have you ever played Jenga? What is the aim of the world-renowned board game? Surely it is not merely putting the small rectangular prism blocks. You also have to maintain your building’s balance whilst pulling those blocks. If the building collapses, you lose. This was the fate of an Azerbaijani football club called Abşeron FK. Despite a promising start, the club disappeared from the face of the earth all of a sudden a year into existence. This is how it all went for that football club from Baku.
For a start, we can see what we have got from the Internet. Abşeron FK was founded on 14 July 2010 in Baku. Not much is known about the story of the foundation of the club as the club’s website is virtually obsolete. We can, nevertheless, look at their records. The club was quickly admitted to the First Division in 2010. The 2010-11 season saw ‘Qartallar’ (The Eagles) demonstrate their domination in the second-tier, winning the league with 23 wins and 3 draws out of 26 league games on the first attempt. Which achievement is more impressive, winning the league in your very first season or going unbeaten in the league – calling to mind the original invincibles from Deepdale? Their cup run was pretty impressive for a second-tier side, too – eliminating MOIK and Simurq Zaqatala in the Azerbaijan Cup before getting knocked out by Xəzər Lənkərən in the quarter-finals.
All good things must come to an end, but it came too early for a young football club in the example of Abşeron FK. Due to sponsorship problems, the club ceased to exist on 1 July 2011, thirteen days short from a one-year anniversary. To their replacement came in Sumqayıt FK, also known as ‘Kimyaçılar’ (The Chemists). Sumqayıt had finished the First Division in seventh place; but by the virtue of a wildcard place, they were given the spot of Abşeron FK in the twentieth edition of the Azerbaijan Premier League. Six years and -almost- five months into its dissolution, Abşeron FK resumed its activities on 29 November 2017. They now play in the AFFA Amateur League, the bottom tier of Azerbaijani domestic football pyramid. Since then, the ‘resurrected’ Eagles won two Amateur League titles. In 2017-18, they went unbeaten in 23 league games, reminding everyone of their performance in the First Division seven seasons ago. Although the next season saw Abşeron FK lose a league game for the first time, that did not stop the team from winning another league title. They have never finished a season below the first place in their entire existence – a feat that, in itself, is impressive.
People without any knowledge of how football works in Azerbaijan might ask this question to themselves: ‘Should not they be promoted to the upper division?’ They, Abşeron FK, should indeed be promoted to a higher league. The problem is, though, the inconsistency within the Azerbaijani domestic football pyramid. There are only 8 teams in the Premier League, with only one team getting relegated to the First Division. The second tier has got 14 teams in it, although Şüvəlan FK left the competition on 8 August 2019 – half of the teams are the reserves of the Premier League clubs, we might add. There is no relegation from the second tier; so, the champions of the third-tier competition, Azerbaijani Regional Leagues, cannot get promoted. The same applies to AFFA Amateur League, the bottom tier of Azerbaijani domestic football pyramid – which explains why Abşeron FK are still in the fourth tier. Anything can happen in Azerbaijani football, however; so, nothing should ever be taken for granted. We can even see either of Qarabağ FK or Neftçi PFK dissolve out of nowhere. The thing is, unless the Azerbaijani FA decide to expand the number of teams in the higher divisions, we may not be able to witness the rise of an ‘eagle’ back into where they originally belong.
This was the story of an ambitious football club in Azerbaijan that dared punch above its weight but was ultimately knocked out by financial factors. This is a very common case in Azerbaijani football. The dissolved clubs, which had been mostly dependent on the Azerbaijani FA, were replaced by the new ones. Off went the likes of Xəzər Lənkərən and Şəmkir FK; on came the likes of Sabah and Səbail.
Let us see what the future unfolds – for both Abşeron FK and Azerbaijani domestic football.
I would like to give credit to James Montague for helping me have a short chat with an Azerbaijani domestic football expert on Twitter. I would also like thank the person himself who summarised the current situation of Azerbaijani football, the man with the alias ‘General Michels’ on the same social media website. If you find any misinformation, grammatical or punctuation mistakes, please do warn me @jmanstories on Twitter, and via firstname.lastname@example.org on Gmail. All feedback are much appreciated. If you want to read more stories like this, you can either visit this website, or simply, subscribe by entering your e-mail. All the content is free, so you do not have to pay for anything as I do not release stories for money. Thanks for reading!