Qarabağ FK

Qarabağ Futbol Klubu, commonly known as Qarabağ (pronounced [ɡɑ'ɾɑbɑɣ]) is an Azerbaijani professional football club, based in Baku, that competes in the Azerbaijan Premier League, the top flight of Azerbaijani football. The club originates from Agdam, a now-ruined ghost town, but has not played in its hometown since 1993 due to the First Nagorno-Karabakh War. The club is now based in the capital city of Baku.[2]

Full nameQarabağ Futbol Klubu
Nickname(s)Atlılar (The Horsemen)[1]
Founded1951; 70 years ago (1951), as Məhsul
1987; 34 years ago (1987), as Qarabağ
GroundTofig Bahramov Stadium
OwnerAzersun Holding
PresidentAbdolbari Gozal
ManagerGurban Gurbanov
LeagueAzerbaijan Premier League
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.

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.

In 2014, the club won the Premier League, their first league title in 21 years.[3] Qarabağ have won the Premier League eight times and Azerbaijan Cup six times.[4] Qarabağ became the second Azerbaijani team after Neftçi PFK[5] to advance to the group stage of a European competition, making its first of three consecutive seasons in the UEFA Europa League group stages in 2014–15. Qarabağ is the first Azerbaijani team to advance to the group stage of the higher UEFA Champions League, competing in the 2017–18 season.[6]


Early years (1951–1991)

The club was founded in 1951 as Mehsul after the Aghdam city stadium was built;[7][8][9] there then began a serious effort towards the creation of a professional football team.[10] Consequently, Qarabağ FK, playing under the name of Mehsul, took part in the 1966 Azerbaijani championship.[7] 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 1968). After 1968, however, owing to carelessness and a lack of financial support, the team withdrew from the championships for almost ten years.[7] 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.[7]

Effects of war and financial struggles (1991–2008)

On 23 July 1993, during the First Nagorno-Karabakh War, the city of Agdam was invaded by Armenian armed forces[11] and the team was forced to move from Imarat Stadium to Baku, while the head coach of the team, Allahverdi Bagirov, died in the war.[12][13][14] 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 Mushfig Huseynov. 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.[15]

Gurban Gurbanov era (2008–present)

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.[2] Gurbanov brought with him a tiki-taka style of play, characterised by short passes, long periods of build-up and players interchanging positions.[16]

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.[17][18] The achievements in European competitions marked Gurban Gurbanov as among the most successful Azerbaijani managers ever.[19]

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.[20][21][22] In 2011, the club duplicated the same record by beating Banga Gargždai 4–0 in Gargždai.[23] The 2011–12 season ended in disappointing style for Qarabağ, however, as they finished in fourth place, leaving the club without European competition.[24] In 2013, Qarabağ reached Europa League play-off-round for third time in their history.[25][26]

In May 2014, Qarabağ earned its second league title after 21 years.[27] A month later, by beating Red Bull Salzburg, the club became first Azerbaijani side to win in the third round of UEFA Champions League.[28][29] In August 2014, the club reached Europa League play-off round for the fourth time in last five seasons.[30] 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.[31] On 23 October 2014, after defeating[32] Ukrainian club Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk 1–0, the team became the first Azerbaijani club to win a Europa League group stage match.[33][34]

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.[35] 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.[36]

Crest and colours

The crest on the club emblem is the symbol of the Karabakh. It is produced by English designers and based on the Karabakh horse.[37] 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.[38] 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.[16][39] The club is sometimes called "Qaçqın Klub" ("The Refugee Club") after its conservative position on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and refugee problem in Azerbaijan.[16][40][41]

Shirt sponsors and kit manufacturers

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.

Years Manufacturer Sponsor
2004–2011 Adidas Azersun
2011–2012 Kappa
2012 – present Adidas


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.[42][43][44]

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.[45]

The Baku Olympic Stadium and Tofiq Bahramov Republican Stadium is used for UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europe League games,[46] 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.[47]


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.[48] 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.[49][50]

The club have few supporting groups such as Imarat, Qarabağ Ordusu, Boys Qarabağ, and Ladies of Qarabağ.[51][52] These groups often receive free tickets to Qarabağ's games, which helps Karabakh to have more support from fans.

Recent seasons

Last ten seasons
Season Div. Pos. Pl. W D L GS GA P Cup Europe Top Scorer (League goals) Head Coach
2011–12Premier League4321589372853SFELIII R Georgi Adamia (7) Gurban Gurbanov
2012–1323216115432659SF Richard Almeida (13)
2013–141362196652172QFELPO Reynaldo (22)
Reynaldo (10)
Leroy George (10)
Dani Quintana (15)
Dino Ndlovu (10)
2017–181282053371365QFCLGS Mahir Emreli (8)
Mahir Emreli (16)
Mahir Emreli (7)
Mahir Emreli (18)

European record

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

The club have participated in 14 editions of the club competitions governed by UEFA, the chief authority for football across Europe. These include 4 seasons in the Champions League, 9 seasons in the UEFA Cup and Europa League, two seasons in the Cup Winners' Cup and one season in the Intertoto Cup.[53] Qarabağ has played three times in the Europa League after qualifying via the Champions League. Counting all of the 86 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 32 wins, 22 draws and 32 defeats.

The club plays its home matches at Tofiq Bahramov Republican Stadium and Baku Olympic Stadium in Baku. Qarabağ biggest wins is 5–0 against Samtredia in the 2017–18 UEFA Champions League qualification, while the biggest defeats is 0–6 against Copenhagen in the 1998–99 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, Montpellier in the 1999 UEFA Intertoto Cup and Chelsea in the 2017–18 UEFA Champions League.[53] With 81 caps, Maksim Medvedev has appeared in the most UEFA matches for Qarabağ,[53] while Reynaldo has scored the most goals with 11.[53] Qarabağ has played Metalurg Skopje, Twente, Copenhagen and Sheriff Tiraspol four times, more than any other team.

In 2017, after beating Copenhagen 2–2 (a) in the Play-off round of the UEFA Champions League, Qarabağ became the first Azerbaijani club to reach the Group stage.[6] 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.[54]

As of match played 19 December 2020
Tournament P W D L GF GA GD Win%
UEFA Champions League 39 16 14 9 43 30 +13 041.03
UEFA Cup / UEFA Europa League 81 27 18 36 85 111 −26 033.33
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 128 44 33 51 131 164 −33 034.38


UEFA club rankings

Updated 9 August 2020[55]

69 Rapid Wien22.000
70 Leicester City22.000
71 Başakşehir21.500
72 Qarabağ21.000
73 PAOK21.000
74 Standard Liège20.500
75 FCSB20.500


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

As of 11 June 2021[56]

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 Shahrudin Mahammadaliyev
2 MF  AZE Gara Garayev
4 DF  AZE Rahil Mammadov
5 DF  AZE Maksim Medvedev (Captain)
6 MF  CPV Patrick Andrade
7 FW  GHA Owusu Kwabena
8 MF  SRB Uroš Matić
9 MF  ESP Jaime Romero
10 MF  FRA Abdellah Zoubir
12 GK  AZE Emil Balayev
No. Pos. Nation Player
18 MF  AZE Ismayil Ibrahimli
19 MF  CRO Filip Ozobić
20 MF  BRA Kady
21 DF  AZE Rauf Huseynli
27 MF  AZE Toral Bayramov
30 DF  AZE Abbas Huseynov
44 MF  AZE Elvin Jafarguliyev
55 DF  AZE Badavi Huseynov
81 DF  COL Kevin Medina
94 GK  AZE Ayhan Arazli

For recent transfers, see 2019–20 Qarabağ FK season and Transfers summer 2020 .

Out on loan

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 Hajiagha Hajili (at Zira)

Reserve team

As of 3 October 2020

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
15 MF  AZE Ali Alizade
16 FW  AZE Elvin Huseynli
24 DF  AZE Nihad Mammadli
26 FW  IRN Azad Alimian
29 DF  AZE Zamig Muztafayev
31 DF  AZE Mustafa Yildirim
33 MF  AZE Huseyn Naghizade
39 MF  AZE Zaur Husdiyev
44 MF  AZE Mahmud Mushitov
45 MF  AZE Seykhan Alibeyov
49 MF  AZE Ali Najafzade
54 DF  AZE Ibrahim Huseynov
59 GK  AZE Kanan Suleymanov
No. Pos. Nation Player
61 GK  AZE Gurban Alizade
66 MF  AZE Javid Bakirguliyev
70 MF  AZE Vusal Allahverdiyev
73 MF  AZE Tolgar Mahammadov
80 DF  AZE Kamran Bakhshaliyev
83 DF  AZE Nihad Khizamanov
88 DF  AZE Shirkhan Hasanbeyli
91 MF  AZE Farid Khajizade
95 GK  AZE Mammad Huseynzade
96 FW  AZE Zabir Isgandarov
97 MF  AZE Nariman Abdullayev
98 DF  AZE Samir Aghazade
99 MF  AZE Huseyn Zulfugarov

Club officials

Individual records

Lists of the players with the most caps and top goalscorers for the club in the Azerbijani league (players in bold signifies current Qarabağ player). Mushfig Huseynov is the club's all-time most capped player and top scorer with 125 goals in 320 games.

Almeida is one of the highest goalscoring players for the club.
Top Ten Highest Goalscorers in the Azerbaijani League
Player Period Appearances Goals
1 Mushfig Huseynov 1989–99; 2003–04; 2005–07 320 125
2 Samir Musayev 2002–06 85 44
3 Richard Almeida 2012–18, 2019–2020 191 44
4 Reynaldo 2012–2017, 2019 87 43
5 Dani Quintana 2015–2020 98 33
6 Georgi Adamia 2010–12 72 29
7 Tarlan Ahmadov 1993–97; 2004 102 28
8 Vugar Nadirov 2001–05; 2009–15; 2016–17 211 28
9 Vagif Javadov 2007–10; 2012–13 110 25
10 Rauf Aliyev 2006–13 131 23
Maksim Medvedev is the most capped players for the club.
Top Ten Players With Most Appearances in the Azerbaijani League
Player Period Caps Goals
1 Maksim Medvedev 2006–present 325 11
2 Mushfig Huseynov 1989–99; 2003–04; 2005–07 320 125
3 Ansi Agolli 2010–2019 224 3
4 Namiq Yusifov 2006–07; 2008–16 214 1
5 Vugar Nadirov 2001–05; 2009–15; 2016–17 211 28
6 Rashad Sadygov 2009–10; 2011–2020 211 8
7 Richard Almeida 2012–18, 2019–2020 191 44
8 Admir Teli 2009–15 173 8
9 Aslan Kerimov 1993–97; 2003–11 168 12
10 Rauf Aliyev 2006–13 131 23

Notable managers

Information correct as of match played 17 December 2018. Only competitive matches are counted.

Name Nat. From To P W D L GS GA %W Honours Notes
Allahverdi Bagirov  Soviet Union 1976 19?? N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A [57][58]
Adil Nadirov  Soviet Union 1987 19?? N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A [59]
Aghasalim Mirjavadov  Azerbaijan 1992 1996 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A Azerbaijan Premier League
Azerbaijan Cup
Azerbaijan Supercup
Elbrus Abbasov  Azerbaijan 1996 1998 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Boyukagha Aghayev  Azerbaijan 1998 1999 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Elbrus Abbasov  Azerbaijan 1999 2000 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Shahin Shahuseyni  Azerbaijan 2000 2000 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Shahin Diniyev  Azerbaijan 2001 2004 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Igor Ponomaryov  Azerbaijan 2004 2005 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Elkhan Abdullayev  Azerbaijan 2005 2006 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A Azerbaijan Cup
Boyukagha Aghayev  Azerbaijan 2006 2006 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Rasim Kara  Turkey Dec 2006 Jun 2008 38 14 12 12 35 32 036.84 [61]
Gurban Gurbanov  Azerbaijan Jul 2008 Present 406 226 106 74 588 301 055.67 Azerbaijan Premier League (7), Azerbaijan Cup (4) [62]

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).


Qarabağ has won eight Azerbaijan Premier League titles, six 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.[63] Qarabağ is one of the two teams in Azerbaijan, along with Neftchi Baku which has participated in all Azerbaijan Premier League championships so far.[63]



In popular culture

Qarabağ is featured on the football simulation game Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 and 2016.[64]

Ban for hate speech

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".[65] UEFA announced about temporary banning the club's official from any football-related activity for "racist and other discriminatory conduct” targeting Armenians.[66] 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".[67] 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.[68] On November 26, UEFA officially life banned the Qarabag official and fined the club €100,000.[69] Shortly after the UEFA sanction, Ibrahimov was declared wanted in Armenia.[70]


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Further reading

  • 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.