Author: Sanan NADIROGHLU
This year went down in history with yet another important event in the history of Azerbaijani football. For the first time ever, Azerbaijani referee Aliyar Aghayev was a referee at a group stage match of the Champions League.
Thanks to the FIFA referee Aliyar Aghayev, the match between Copenhagen (Denmark) and Borussia Dortmund raised a great interest among the football fans in Azerbaijan. Aghayev showed four yellow cards to the players. He warned two representatives of the hosting side, Denis Vavro and Lucas Lerager, as well as visitors Antonio Modesto and Emre Can.
Aliyar Aghayev was assisted by Zeynal Zeynalov, Akif Emreli and Kamal Umudlu as his linemen. The fellow compatriot demonstrated a good performance and covered a total of 12km during the game, which was highly praised by the inspectors.
A footballer's dream did not come true
Incidentally, Aliyar Aghayev has been respected by both his fans and the football community from his first days on the field. Despite his young age, he stood out among the local referees for his character. One of his strong sides is that he does not break the tempo of the game stopping it for every minor violation.
Aliyar Agayev was born on October 17, 1987 in Baku. He is a graduate of the Academy of Physical Culture and Sport specialising in football. Interestingly, Aliyar's father was also a football referee: "Since my father was a referee also, we always talked about football at home. Perhaps that's why I fell in love with the game. Later, I had to make a choice. In the eighth grade, I made a decision to both study and play sports. I had a great interest in foreign languages and set a goal to enter the University of Languages in Azerbaijan. But in the last grades of school I realised that I did not have time to study and to play football. I had to take a two-year break because of an injury. And my dream to become a footballer did not come true.”
After retiring from football, Aghayev enrolled in a referee training course at the age of 18. That’s how his career as a referee began. His first game was a Premier League match between Khazar Lankaran and Turan, which he officiated at the age of 22.
"An Azerbaijani referee in the Champions League is a big event for Azerbaijan. What did you feel during the game?"
"The Champions League is Europe's most prestigious club competition. Perhaps it is the most prestigious tournament globally. It is every player's dream to play there, to make everybody listen the national anthem of his country. A dream for every referee of international level is to officiate a game in the Champions League. I was excited, of course. The fact that the whole football community was watching us live on TV doubled my excitement. It also promotes responsibility. I think as a team of referees we controlled the game well. We could represent our country with dignity. We demonstrated that Azerbaijan had long-standing traditions of refereeing. I thank everyone who gave us even the slightest support along the long path we went to be at that game."
"How did you feel when you learned that you would be officiating one of the games of the Champions League?"
"I was very happy when AFFA referee committee chairman Baris Simsek told me about the appointment. He congratulated me and said that I deserved this role thanks to my achievements during the season. I was happy. When I told the news to my team of referees, they were happy as well."
"Any special preparations for the game?"
"No, nothing special, as we always do. Otherwise the preparation might not go well. We analysed other teams and decided to prepare for this match the same way they did. Of course, we felt more responsibility. We were aware that the football community has been following us closely. This increased our responsibility even more."
"How did the Slovenian inspector Vladimir Sein find your work?"
"We have no right to talk about his assessment. This is against UEFA regulations. But I can say that the match went well for us."
"Do you think your appointment was a bit late?"
"Yes, we were expecting it earlier. People always wish for more. But the fate showed favour only now. It is important that our expectations were not in vain. The appointment could have taken place two or three years ago. But it depends on those who are entitled to make such decisions. I guess they thought we were ready now. Anyway, we have to earn back their trust in us."
"What are your plans? Do you think it is time to move into the elite category?"
"I have to be realistic in this case. I don't plan moving into the elite category currently. The key is to manage each meeting at a high level. Only after that can we think about another category and the next important meetings."
"There is no age limit as far as referees are concerned. What’s the age limit you plan to work as referee?"
“Yes, the age limit has been removed. But this does not mean that one can referee until his fifties. If you meet certain standards, you can referee until the desired age. The key thing is to be healthy. It's hard to say anything today. We don't know what awaits us tomorrow.”
"Your dream to play at the Champions League has come true. What is your next dream?"
"I wish I could referee the finals of the European Championship and World Cup. But I understand that I have to work to make this dream come true. A wish without effort is just a wish. If we work hard, there might be chances. I can say with certainty that I will be at the European and World championships. Anyway, we have to work hard."