Despite a recent refit and expansion, the Tofik Bakhramov Stadium still echoes its Soviet heritage.
There’s its name for a start. Old-school official Bakhramov, whose antics on the touchline in the 100th minute of the 1966 World Cup Final were reminiscent of a silent movie, passed away in 1993. The stadium, originally titled after Josef Stalin and then Vladimir Lenin, took his name. In 2004 it hosted the visit of an England side whose grateful fans also honoured the linesman so adament that Geoff Hurst had scored a legitimate (and crucial) goal on that fateful day at Wembley.
Then there’s its shape. Though benefitting from a $10 million refurb in 2012 that allowed it to be the main host of the U-17 Women’s World Cup that year – so nearly won by North Korea – the Tofik Bakhramov still displays its neo-classical appearance common to all major Soviet stadiums. Also referred to as Stalinist Empire style, it was used for the major stadiums in Moscow, Kiev and Minsk, among others. Baku being state and football capital of the then Soviet republic of Azerbaijan, the city also needed its soccer showcase. Its main stadium would be shaped in the Russian letter C (ie ‘S’, as in Stalin).
Finally, there’s its history. It was German prisoners of war who completed it in the late 1940s and early 1950s, no few captured at Stalingrad.
From its unveiling in 1951 to Azerbaijan’s independence four decades later, the stadium was the home of Baku’s flagship club of Neftchi. As the conflict with Armenia spread outside the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, so Azerbaijan’s newly formed national side played home games outside its borders – and clubs such as Qarabag from devastated Aghdam were forced to flee to Baku and set up there.
Though a multi-host later in the 1990s and early 2000s, the Tofik Bakhramov has been superseded by the recently opened Baku Olympic Stadium, and abandoned by its domestic tenants.
Neftchi have already moved to the Bakcell Arena and FC Baku have left for… well, nothing, really, not to a promised new ground, anyway, only their training pitch. Even Qarabag, Azerbaijan champions in 2015, have opened their own arena out near Baku airport at Yeni Surakhani.
The Tofik Bakhramov remains in place, however, used for most European games involving Azeri clubs – and a monument to an obscure official who became a national hero.
Current capacity is 31,200 with away fans usually allocated sector 28.
The Tofik Bakhramov is right by Ganclik metro station, one stop from the hub of 28 Maya where the two lines cross, and two from the downtown stop of Sahil.
For domestic games, tickets are affordable and available on the day. For international fixtures, away fans should consult with their own clubs.
Alcohol is not permitted at the ground and there are no bars nearby. There is a number of kiosks and stalls serving drinks and kebabs, including the Olimp near the metro station and the Stadion along one side.