Author: Nadir XOSROVOGLU Baku
In the Football Championship of any country there are particularly important games called a derby. There are such games in the championship and national cup of Azerbaijan as well. And of course, Xazar-Lankaran - Neftci matches, referred to as the "Great Game", especially stand out here. Matches of these teams are always important, though they do not boast a big number of goals.
Neftci, being the flagship of Azerbaijani football, never had financial problems. Until 2004, this team was always in the lead in national football. With the ability to hire the best players, "the black and white" always fought only for higher places.
In 2004, businessman Mubariz Mansimov created Xazar-Lankaran. Although in the early years, the team did not show expressive and effective play, the high-profile transfers of 2006 changed the situation. And first of all, the "southerners" hired Neftci coach Agasalim Mircavadov who had led "the black and white" to the champion's title. Also, the main players of Neftci, Emin Quliyev and Mahmud Qurbanov, moved to Lankaran. These transfers caused a lot of commotion in local football. In the 2006 7 season, Mircavadov led Xazar -Lankaran (XL) to the champion's title.
XL also lured other players who fell into Neftci's sphere of interest. All this fomented tensions between the clubs, and every game began to have an important nature.
The latest game between the two clubs in the championship of Azerbaijan, which took place on 25 August, was remembered not by the play on the field, but by the unrest in the stands.
In principle, such a development was predictable - after the Azerbaijan Cup finals last season, XL fans promised a "hot" welcome in Lankaran. The match in the Cup finals ended in a goalless draw, and the winner was revealed in a penalty shoot-out, in which, by the way, Neftci players were more accurate. At this stage, the "black and white" goalkeeper Sasa Stamenkovic, who threw the ball and put pressure on XL players approaching the 11-metre mark, was remembered for his unethical actions. His actions strongly angered XL fans. Immediately after the game there was a fight between players of the two teams on the field, in which the "southerners" Rodomir Todorov and Kamran Abdullazada were beaten up. And XL fans promised revenge for such a welcome.
The match in Lankaran also ended in a goalless draw, though the home team tried very hard to win. Immediately after the final whistle, Neftci players and their few fans were attacked by XL fans. The law enforcement authorities had to use tear gas to quell the clashes. As a result, two police officers and four fans were injured and several people were arrested. Neftci was able to leave the stadium only an hour after the end of the match, and the club bus to Baku was accompanied by the police. As a result, the stadium in Lankaran sustained damage worth 14,000 manats, and a criminal case was launched into the clashes.
But this is only the first match of the clubs in the season. They will have four more matches, three of which are in the national championship and one - for the National Super Cup. Plus Neftci and XL may meet in the National Cup.
Therefore, the Association of Football Federations of Azerbaijan (AFFA) and the Professional Football League (PFL) shall take the necessary measures to prevent such violence. After all, it is likely that Neftci fans might try to take vengeance on the "southerners" for such a welcome.
In this connection, the following measures can be taken.
First of all, it is necessary to ban the fans of the "guest team" from coming to the stadium, as this will inevitably lead to incidents. By the way, this decision has already been approved by the Disciplinary Committee of AFFA.
Also before the match, it is necessary to hold a meeting of leaders of the two clubs and demand that they avoid harsh statements against each other. Fans keep track of news from the press, and sharp verbal attacks can lead to clashes.
If such events repeat themselves, it is important to punish the hosts. If the clubs meet on a neutral field, it can bring fans to reason.
Clubs should periodically meet with fans and fans groups to explain the inadmissibility of violence. In this regard, one can let only some of the fans into the stadium.
It is necessary to identify those responsible for the clashes in Lankaran and bring them to justice. Fans that violate the disciplinary rules should be barred from attending football matches.
The next match between Neftci and Xazar-Lankaran will be held in November. So, AFFA, the PFL and the leadership of the clubs have slightly more than two months to prevent such violence.