An extract on #espaa
Freestyle wrestling has been traditionally regarded as Azerbaijan's national sport, in which Azerbaijan won up to fourteen medals, including four golds since joining the National Olympic Committee. Currently, the most popular sports include football and wrestling.
Football is the most popular sport in Azerbaijan, and the Association of Football Federations of Azerbaijan with 9,122 registered players, is the largest sporting association in the country. The national football team of Azerbaijan demonstrates relatively low performance in the international arena compared to the nation football clubs. The most successful Azerbaijani football clubs are Neftchi Baku, Inter Baku, Qaraba, and Khazar Lankaran. In 2012, Neftchi Baku became the first Azerbaijani team to advance to the group stage of a European competition, beating APOEL of Cyprus 42 on aggregate in the play-off round of the 2012-13 UEFA Europa League. In 2014, Qaraba became the second Azerbaijani club advancing to the group stage of UEFA Europa League. Futsal is another popular sport in Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijan national futsal team reached fourth place in the 2010 UEFA Futsal Championship, while domestic club Araz Naxivan clinched bronze medals at the 200910 UEFA Futsal Cup and 201314 UEFA Futsal Cup. Azerbaijan was the main sponsor of Spanish football club Atltico de Madrid during seasons 2013/2014 and 2014/2015, a partnership that the club described should 'promote the image of Azerbaijan in the world'.
Backgammon also plays a major role in Azerbaijani culture. The game is very popular in Azerbaijan and is widely played among the local public. There are also different variations of backgammon developed and analyzed by Azerbaijani experts.
Azerbaijan is one of the leading volleyball countries in the world and its Azerbaijan Women's Volleyball Super League is one of strongest women leagues in world. Its women's national team came fourth at the 2005 European Championship. Over the last years, clubs like Rabita Baku and Azerrail Baku achieved great success at European cups. Azerbaijani volleyball players include likes of Valeriya Korotenko, Oksana Parkhomenko, Inessa Korkmaz, Natalya Mammadova and Alla Hasanova.
Other well-known Azerbaijani athletes are Namig Abdullayev, Toghrul Asgarov, Rovshan Bayramov, Sharif Sharifov, Mariya Stadnik and Farid Mansurov in wrestling, Nazim Huseynov, Elnur Mammadli, Elkhan Mammadov and Rustam Orujov in judo, Rafael Aghayev in karate, Magomedrasul Majidov and Aghasi Mammadov in boxing, Nizami Pashayev in Olympic weightlifting, Azad Asgarov in pankration, Eduard Mammadov in kickboxing, and K-1 fighter Zabit Samedov.
Azerbaijan has a Formula One race-track and the country hosted its first Formula One Grand Prix on 19 June 2016. Other annual sporting events held in the country are the Baku Cup tennis tournament and the Tour d'Azerbadjan cycling race.
Azerbaijan hosted several major sport competitions since the late 2000s, including the 2013 F1 Powerboat World Championship, 2012 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup, 2011 AIBA World Boxing Championships, 2010 European Wrestling Championships, 2009 Rhythmic Gymnastics European Championships, 2014 European Taekwondo Championships, 2014 Rhythmic Gymnastics European Championships, 2016 World Chess Olympiad. On 8 December 2012, Baku was selected to host the 2015 European Games, the first to be held in competition's history. Baku is also set to host the fourth Islamic Solidarity Games in 2017.