21-year-old with 10 years’ Football Manager experience becomes manager at FC Baku

22 Nov 2012

Football Manager players the world over rejoice: the hours spent toiling away at the computer trying to get Accrington Stanley to the Champions League may yet see you land that dream job some day.

Vugar Huseynzade was born in Azerbaijan’s capital city of Baku, studied business management at university in the US, and previously worked as a scout at sports consultancy Sport Business Nordic (SBN) in Stockholm, Sweden. Following a chance meeting at a hotel in Lithuania, Huseynzade got talking to the vice-president of FC Baku, an Azerbaijani Premier League club currently wavering above the relegation zone.

The chat proved fruitful for Huseynzade, who eventually left Stockholm for Baku to work as an assistant to the vice-president. He has worked as an adviser to the club since February of this year, and this month was promoted to manager of FC Baku’s A team (equivalent to reserve team manager).

How did a 21-year-old with no managerial experience come to win such a role? Through playing Football Manager, of course.

10 years of virtual experience

Swedish tabloid newspaper Aftonbladet reports that Huseynzade beat off competition from others with real-world management experience, notably Jean-Pierre Papin, a former professional footballer who has managed a number of teams in France. Papin is still expected to be offered a higher position at the club.

While Huseynzade made contacts in Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan during his time with SBN, his only experience with managing a football team is based in virtual reality.

“I’ve always wanted to work in football and have played Football Manager since 2002,” Huseynzade told the Scandinavian newspaper.

Huseynzade’s gaming experience has given him confidence, it seems, and he says he wants to help bring the team to the Europa League.

Undoubted talent

Citing Football Manager experience in an application to become a real-life football manager has become a long-standing joke since John Boileau’s famous letter to Middlesborough chairman Steve Gibson back in 2006, to which a good-humoured Gibson politely responded, declining his application on the grounds that European clubs would soon try to steal him away based on his “undoubted talent”.

Now, though, the dream has become reality, and Football Manager players everywhere can aspire to follow in Huseynzade’s footsteps. (Any excuse to play for another few hours, eh?)

Elaine Burke is the editor of Silicon Republic