Politics may prevent Armenian footballer from playing in Baku Europa League final
Captain of the Armenian national football team Henrik Mkhitaryan, who also plays for London’s Arsenal club, may not be able to reach the final of the Europa League tournament which will be held in Baku due to tense relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
How politics interferes with sport
During his professional career, Henrikh Mkhitaryan has twice had to refuse to travel to Baku.
Three years ago, the midfielder was unable to help Borussia Dortmund, who had to play Azerbaijan’s Qabala.
Then the head of UEFA Gianni Infantino said that any player has the right to play in tournaments, regardless of citizenship and the need to obtain a visa.
Mkhitaryan missed the second game in Baku, already as an Arsenal player.
The current situation is different in that the final of the European tournament is of particular importance not only for the club, but also for the player.
For Mkhitaryan, the final may be an attempt to win his second Europa League Cup.
For the first time he won the Cup in 2017 as part of the Manchester United team.
Why does Azerbaijan want to arrest Mkhitaryan?
The Karabakh conflict is at the centre of the issue.
There are no diplomatic relations between Yerevan and Baku. People with Armenian surnames are not always admitted into Azerbaijan, even if they are not citizens of Armenia.
The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry includes in the “black list” those who enter the territory of Karabakh across the Armenian border by bypassing Azerbaijan. And Henrikh Mkhitaryan often visits the unrecognized republic.
Armenian media cite the UEFA report that Heinrich Mkhitaryan will not have problems with his trip to Azerbaijan:
“Sending letters to football associations, clubs and embassies with the aim of obtaining visas by players to participate in matches under the auspices of UEFA in other countries is a standard procedure for the organization. In this regard, UEFA and Arsenal have requested confirmation, and the Association of Football Federations of Azerbaijan has confirmed that this player will not have problems with entry and stay in the country, and also that all necessary security measures will be taken.”
What do fans think?
The topic of Mkhitaryan’s possible trip to Baku and participation in the Europa League final turned out to be the focus of attention of football fans and users of social media in Armenia.
Many believe that if Azerbaijan does not provide security guarantees to Mkhitaryan, the final must be moved to another city:
“If they cannot organize everything at the proper level, then in general it is necessary to deprive them of the final.”
Some fans believe that Mkhitaryan should definitely go and play in the final:
“This is a chance to win a big title and run with the Armenian flag in the stadium. He needs to go.”
Other fans advises Mkhitaryan to refuse to participate in this match:
“It is not worth risking Mkhitaryan.”