Specialist education is available for referees and coaches in line with UEFA's strict criteria, and Azerbaijani match officials have received international assignments. Futsal is an area of excellence for the AFFA. Azerbaijan, and Baku in particular, was considered a heartland of the smaller-sized game from the 1960s, and Araz Naxçivan uphold that tradition by competing among Europe's elite in the UEFA Futsal Cup.
Football in Azerbaijan can be traced back to 1911, having been introduced by British workers during the industrial boom of the late 19th century. The game caught on in the capital Baku and the provincial cities of Tovuz and Shamkir, inspiring such passions that neutral referees were drafted in from neighbouring Georgia to supervise big matches.
Azerbaijan successfully hosted the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in 2012 while two years later Baku was selected as one of the UEFA EURO 2020 host cities.
The draw has also been made for the 2011-2012 Europa League first and second qualifying rounds. The ties will take place as soon as the June 30 – over 10 months away from the showpiece final – which will take place in Bucharest on Wednesday 9 May 2012. 2010 runners up Fulham will begin their campaign against The Faroe Islands’ NSI Runavik, and a victory could set up an all-UK affair with Crusaders FC of Belfast.
By the 1920s there was a regional championship in Baku, before the 1930s saw Azerbaijani clubs represent the country in the Soviet leagues. A breakthrough came after World War Two when Neftçi PFK, Soviet Cup debutants in 1944, competed in the Soviet Top League. Neftçi finished third in the top flight in 1966, and a player from the Baku club, Anatoliy Banishevskiy, starred for the USSR at the FIFA World Cup in England.
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First qualifying round draw (28/29 June and 5/6 July) SP Tre Fiori (SMN) v Valletta FC (MLT) FC Santa Coloma (AND) v F91 Dudelange (LUX)