For millions of fans across the world, the ambition of one day managing your football team is merely a pipe dream. For most, they are limited to living out their fantasy through football management-simulation video games like Football Manager or Championship Manager. These games allow fans the opportunity to manage all aspects of their chosen club from tactics to player selection to scouting and transfers. The popularity of these games has exploded in the last 10 years with the most recent Football Manager game (FM 2013) released only at the start of November but already sitting top of the gaming charts for sales. It has created a host of avid fans, some of who have become so addicted to the game that their personal lives have been affected (there have been 32 cases where FM has been cited as the reason in divorce papers) but for most it is like most games, for enjoyment purposes only. Some ambitious fans have applied to real managerial vacancies at clubs in the past, such as recently at Dumbarton and in the past at Middlesbrough, but most chairman have dismissed the applications with a light-hearted thanks but no thanks.
But for one lucky fan, 21-year-old Vugar Guloglan oglu Huseynzade, the dream became a reality this week as he was appointed the manager of FC Baku in the Azerbaijani Premier League, based on his impressive track record on Football Manager.
Huseynzade applied for the position after Baku terminated the contract of then manager, Serbian Bozdar Bandovic. FC Baku, who have won the Premier League title twice in 2005 and 2008, won the Azerbaijan Cup last season by beating local rivals Neftchi Baku PFC in the final, but a poor start to this league season, saw owner Hafiz Mammadov lose patience with Bandovic and sacked him earlier this month. Applications for the vacancy have not been hard to come by with some familiar names like former French striker Jean Pierre Papin applying but it was Huseynzade who impressed and was given the role. Huseynzade’s connection with the club is not as fairytale as it may seem. He has been working as an advisor for FC Baku for the past year so hence why he was considered for the job. However his lack of any real management experience would have made most clubs dismiss the application and go for someone of calibre like Papin (who has managed several clubs such as Strasbourg and Lens) instead but Mammadov decided that the youngster had all the qualities he was looking for.
In his application, Huseynzade explained that he had 10 years of management experience through Football Manager and talked about his ambitions to take FC Baku into the Europa League within 3 years.
‘I’ve always wanted to work in football and have played Football Manager since 2002″
The ambitious new manager is bursting with enthusiasm for the role but with his new team sitting 3rd bottom of the league, within the relegation zone, the focus for the time being is on survival. He does have some experience within his squad to call on such as Serbian international midfielder Nenad Kovačević and Georigian international defender George Popkhadze, who he will likely lean on for support, but the 21-year-old certainly has a job on his hands. He is unlikely to persuade Lionel Messi to join anytime soon as he could have potentially done in the game so his new role may be a shock to his reality. Time will tell if his management skills within the game will lead to success on the real pitch but for millions of Football Manager fans watching on, everyone is hoping he succeeds and he opens the door to other fans who have tasted success in the virtual world.