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28/02/2016 15:01
Azeryol write history by making CEV Cup semis driven by young, energetic coach
2016 CEV Volleyball Cup - Women

Baku, Azerbaijan, February 28, 2016. Last Tuesday Azeryol BAKU made history by qualifying for the semis of the 2016 CEV Volleyball Cup – Women after a golden set victory over Italy’s standout Igor Gorgonzola NOVARA. Azeryol are the sole team from Azerbaijan still alive in this year’s European Cups and the semi-final appearance in Europe’s second most prestigious club competition represents the club’s best result to date on the international stage. Actually this journey had not started in the best way back in October with a 3-0 loss at C.S.M. TARGOVISTE in Romania but the team has rapidly progressed and improved under the guidance of a young, energetic coach, Ziya Rajabov.

Azeryol stormed back from their straight-sets loss in Romania to claim a 3-0 home win and also the golden set that followed to survive the Round of 32 in the CEV Volleyball Cup and their next ‘victims’ were two much decorated teams in Finland’s multiple champions LP SALO and Poland’s Polski Cukier MUSZYNA.

The 33-year old Rajabov has been at the helm of Azeryol since shortly before the away matchup with the Finns but one of the youngest coaches in the business – at this level at least – can boast a wealth of experience. Rajabov, who is also known by his nickname Ziko, spent five years with Azerbaijan’s Volleyball heavyweight Rabita BAKU and working as an assistant to many foreign-born experts he helped this team perform at the highest level.

Back in 2011 Rabita claimed gold at the FIVB Club World Championship in Doha, Qatar, before winning silver in that same competition one year later when they had to settle for second place after losing the ‘big finale’ to Brazil’s Sollys Nestlé Osasco. Rabita swept the national league for five years in a row and made history for Azerbaijan also in the CEV Volleyball Champions League with a historic silver medal in 2011 followed by another runner-up finish in 2013 – in both occasions losing the final to Turkey’s VakifBank ISTANBUL – and a bronze medal in 2014 when performing at home at the iconic Crystal Hall. 

Ziya Rajabov was the assistant to Italian-born Marcello Abbondanza when Rabita BAKU won silver in the 2013 edition of the CEV Volleyball Champions League - Women

Rajabov’s resume includes a number of achievements also as Volleyball player, since the energetic Ziya started playing the game at a very young age, eventually becoming a member of Azerbaijan’s national team and winning the country’s national league with the club of Neftchi BAKU.

After putting an end to his playing career, Rajabov – who is known for his easy-going and always friendly demeanour – switched to coaching and last year enjoyed another special experience when working with head coach Bülent Karslioglu and Azerbaijan’s men’s national team that competed at the inaugural European Games in Baku. This was a historic moment for men’s Volleyball in the country and the still young and fairly inexperienced Azeri team did well in front of a partisan audience, playing at eye level with the teams of Finland and Turkey. Azerbaijan lost these matches only at the tie-break, finishing only one little step away from causing a real sensation at the tournament.

The national teams of Azerbaijan and Turkey pose together at the end of their matchup in the group stage of the Baku 2015 European Games where Rajabov served as assistant to Turkish-born Bülent Karslioglu

The father of two little girls admits a big passion for motorbikes but for the time being his focus lies entirely on Volleyball. Under his guidance Azeryol BAKU have made it to the semis of the CEV Volleyball Cup to play there 2015 gold medalists Dinamo KRASNODAR of Russia. Azeryol never made it that far in any European Cup competition before and in order to achieve this feat, Rajabov and his players beat Italy’s Igor Gorgonzola NOVARA, a team whose roster includes many international stars and that had previously participated in the League Round of the 2016 CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League – Women.

Ziya Rajabov closely follows the actions on court as Azeryol play Italy standout Igor Gorgonzola NOVARA in the Challenge Round of the 2016 CEV Volleyball Cup - Women

Azeryol and Rajabov have also upset home rivals Lokomotiv and Azerrail this year, thus setting the bar high for the remainder of the season. The young, talented Azerbaijani coach and his cosmopolite team will now be trying to add another chapter to their success story when taking on the Russian armada featuring the likes of Tatiana Kosheleva, Liubov Sokolova and other Russian queens in the semis of Europe’s second most prestigious competition. Only time will say how far ‘Ziko’ will be able to take his team…

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