EuroCup 2008 Qualifier, Azerbaijan-Belgium

Baku Travel Blog

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My ticket to get into the match.
This past Sunday, I had a wedding photography gig.  I had to take the Metro to the Ganslik area of of Baku to meet someone who would take me to the wedding party.  Being perpetually paranoid of being late, I got to the area 30 minutes early.  It gave me the chance to walk around the area a bit.  Ganslik is the area that houses the national football (soccer to us Yanks) stadium.  I walk around the stadium for a bit and stopped by the pro shop.  When in there, I asked if there were any games coming up.  As fate would have it, a EuroCup qualifier was being played on the 21st, but tickets did not go on sale until Monday, the 19th. 

I will be the first admit I do not know much about what the rest of the world calls football, although I do count Shaolin Soccer and England's Mean Machine as some of my favorite movies.
Azeri football fans
  I know that goalie is allow to touch the ball, I know what offsides means, I know what yellow and red cards mean, and i know the main goal of the game is to kick the ball in the other team's goal.  Anything as far as strategy is lost on me.  I can explain American football strategy, but that is another story.

Getting Tickets

took the Metro to the ticket office Monday afternoon.  I had some scalper trying to sell me a 1 Manat ticket for 10 Manats.  He claimed that the match was sold out.  For some reason I did not believe him.  I went to the ticket booth and got a 5 Manats ticket for 5 manats. 

Tickets for matches here are very reasonable.  The prices are 1, 3, 5 and 10 manats for stadium seating, but VIP tickets are 50 manats.
Some guys who were sitting in the row behind me. It is amazing how a DSLR camera makes everyone want to get their picture taken.
  While I am now a minor celebrity of Azerbaijani children's television, I am not about to pay that much for VIP.

The Game

I took the Metro once again to the stadium area.  The area outside of the stadium is not well-lit and the crowd was dense.  A strong police force was present.  I had to cross three lines of police officers before getting into the stadium.  Each officer checked my ticket and checked my camera bag.  The section numbers within the stadium is a little screwed up, but I eventually found my gate.

My main reason for going was to experience European football.  While Azerbaijan is ranked something 116th in the world, their fans are just as dedicated as most other countries i am assuming.  The stadium was about 3/4 full, which was impressive for a very chilly night.
Pre-game entertainment. This little kid ran around the entire stadium before the game carrying the flag.
  I tried to get into the singing of the team hymnals (I think that is what they are called.) I was expecting something complicated but it was not too bad for a guy with limited Azeri. 

Most of the fans were cordial even if they thought I was from Belgium.  i was even wearing an Azerbaijani scarf, but I definately do not look Azeri.

Azerbaijan missed some golden opportunities in the first half.  They were very aggressive, but could not finish.  One time they had the Belgium goalkeep out of position and the Azerbaijani player from the obvious shock of seeing a wide open net totally shanked a sure goal.  I found myself screaming at the top of my lungs several times.  At the end of the half, the score was tied 0-0.
Another missed opportunity for the Azerbaijani National team.

Beginning the second half, a cold and hard rain fell for 15 minutes.  Some of the crowd left, but I decided to stay.  Belgium scored the sole goal of the entire match.  Eventually the rain let off, but Azerbaijan was out of gas and really could only muster a few more scoring opportunities, but most of those ended with too powerful shots that sailed over the goals.

Getting Home

I took the Metro home.  Someone decided to only have one door open to get into the Metro.  This caused a mass of testoerone induced shoving to get to the one opened door.  I was caught in the middle of the human hurricane.  My left calf must have looked like a football because the guy behind me kicked it several times.  Somehow in the  swirl of arms, bodies and legs, I got to the open door with very little damage to myself.  I made it home fine.


This was my first live experience of a non-American football match ever and i had a blast.  I will admit that the World Cup drew my interest a few years ago while watching it on TV, but being a part of a real crowd and really getting into the game is something that really made it an experience that I will not soon forget.  I think that now I will have to seeing some big-time UK or Latin American professional football as  a future travel dream.

Marius1981 says:
i'm a football daft you know, and after you get into it its no way back. i'm a celtic glasgow supporter for almost 12 years and the biggest dissapointments and joys in my life were related to them.
anyways i'm glad you had a glimpse of football. the azeris are quite bad, i think one of their biggest recent upsets was when they beat finland in baku.
Posted on: Apr 12, 2008
IceTea says:
Yea European football is cool. But we're fanatics here. :)
Posted on: Apr 12, 2008
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My ticket to get into the match.
My ticket to get into the match.
Azeri football fans
Azeri football fans
Some guys who were sitting in the …
Some guys who were sitting in the…
Pre-game entertainment.  This litt…
Pre-game entertainment. This lit…
Another missed opportunity for the…
Another missed opportunity for th…
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