Armenian national team loses to Turkey, but leaves field to applause
Armenia-Turkey match in Yerevan
It was impossible to overestimate the importance of the match with Turkey for the Armenian national football team. Football fans, and even those not particularly interested in football, expected victory. But it was not to be, with Armenia losing 2: 1. Yet the Armenian team and its new head coach, Alexander Petrakov, did their resolute best and, when the game ended, Armenian fans applauded for quite some time.
The significance of the Armenia-Turkey game for the Armenian society lies in the complex relations between the two countries. It was probably for this reason that, in accordance with the decision of UEFA, Turkish fans were not allowed to the stands of the Yerevan stadium.
Turkey officially recognized Armenia’s independence in 1991, but refuses to establish diplomatic relations. After 2020, the process of normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations began – so far without much progress.
The meeting of football teams under these conditions was associated in Armenian society with a previous attempt at normalization known as “football diplomacy”, specifically a Turkey-Armenia match held on September 6, 2008. Then Turkish President Abdullah Gul went to Armenia and watched the match with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan.
A year later, the countries signed protocols to normalize relations, but they were never ratified. In December 2009, Ankara announced that it would not ratify the documents until the Karabakh conflict was resolved. In response, Armenia stated that the protocols assumed the establishment of relations without preconditions and in April 2010 suspended the process of their ratification.
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Intense interest in one match
The game with the Turkish national team went beyond standings and points scored. The excitement around this game was colossal, as if a game with one of the top European teams were expected.
The match of the first round of the EURO 2024 qualifying round was preceded by a procession of Armenia fans, with the stadium was full of fans long before the start of the game.
A crowded stadium is a rare occurrence in Armenia. But this time all tickets were instantly sold out, and on the day of the game thousands of ticketless fans gathered around the stadium. Until the last moment, they hoped that they would be able to find tickets and go to the stands.
In the first minutes of the game, the Turkish players seemed to have been caught by surprise. Experienced Turkish athletes, accustomed to stadiums of many thousands, seemed unable to establish their own game in the first 20 minutes.
The players of the Armenian team took advantage of this by organizing several quick counterattacks. Thus the first goal of the game was scored. Ozan Kabak scored the ball into his own net after Kamo Hovhannisyan’s pass.
After the goal, the players of the offensive line of the Armenian team continued to put pressure on the Turkish team.
The Turkish team found its game only in the middle of the first half, after an episode when an Armenian player, Taron Voskanyan, was injured and left the field.
The Turlish team immediately took advantage of the restructuring of the enemy’s defense line. Orkun Kekcu equalized with a well-aimed shot.
In the first half both teams played quite hard. Armenia got five yellow cards, Turkey four.
The beginning of the second half was also difficult for the Turkish team, and head coach Stefan Kunz replaced two players at once.
In such games, even small episodes become decisive and mistakes are not forgiven. A quick free-kick in the central part of the field came as a surprise to the Armenian defenders. Kerem Akturkoglu scored the winning goal. The remaining time was not enough for Armenia to save the game.
Fans of the Armenian team, despite the defeat, were not disappointed with the game, and after the final whistle the stadium applauded loudly. And the Armenian players dropped to the grass, tired or perhaps overwhelmed.
Turkey’s players celebrated their victory modestly – both on and off the field. The absolute silence on the way to the Mixed Zone to meet with journalists and at the locker rooms was so unusual that it seemed that both teams had lost.
As part of the tournament, they will have to play one more match in Turkey.
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Armenia-Turkey match in Yerevan