Arsenal To Leave Mkhitaryan At Home For Europa League Final

Arsenal manager Unai Emery looks from the bench prior to the Europa League semifinal soccer match, second leg, between Valencia and Arsenal at the Camp de Mestalla stadium in Valencia, Spain, Thursday, May 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Alberto Saiz)

LONDON — Henrikh Mkhitaryan will not play for Arsenal in the Europa League final against Chelsea next week because of concerns about political tension between his native Armenia and Azerbaijan, which is hosting the game.

Arsenal said on Tuesday it reached the decision following discussions with the midfielder and his family and after “thoroughly” exploring all the options available.

“We have collectively agreed he will not be in our travelling party,” Arsenal said in a statement, adding that it has “written to UEFA expressing our deep concerns about this situation.”

Mkhitaryan said on Instagram it had been a “tough decision” to pull out of the game, adding: “I must admit, it hurts me a lot to miss it.”

He has missed previous group games in Azerbaijan for both Arsenal and former club Borussia Dortmund.

“Micki has been a key player in our run to the final,” Arsenal said, “so this is a big loss for us from a team perspective.”

The Azerbaijan government previously said it would allow Mkhitaryan to play in the final in Baku on May 29. UEFA had also said it would ensure Mkhitaryan’s safety.

“Working alongside Arsenal FC, UEFA sought and received assurances regarding the player’s safety in Azerbaijan from the highest authorities in the country,” European soccer’s governing body said in an emailed statement.

“As a result of these guarantees, a comprehensive security plan was developed and given to the club. While the club acknowledges the efforts that UEFA and the Azeri government have gone to in this matter, we respect the personal decision not to travel with the player.”

Nagorno-Karabakh is a region of Azerbaijan which has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a war there ended in 1994. Some neighboring districts are also under the control of those ethnic Armenian forces. International efforts to settle the conflict have stalled.

“We at all times put the sport as something very separate from these political issues and of course the same issue is again with Mkhitaryan,” Azerbaijan Sports Minister Azad Rahimov said last week.

Tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia have spilled into European soccer tournaments since the neighbouring nations were drawn together in a qualifying group for the 2008 European Championship.

Both games were eventually cancelled, after Azerbaijan refused to host Armenia and no agreement could be reached on neutral venues.

UEFA has since separated the countries in its competition draws ensuring that their national and club teams do not play each other.

Arsenal will be playing its first European final in 13 years and looking to win its first continental trophy since the 1994 European Cup Winners’ Cup. The game has even greater importance because Arsenal needs to win to secure qualification to the Champions League after missing out on a top-four finish in the Premier League.

“We’re also very sad,” Arsenal said, “that a player will miss out on a major European final in circumstances such as this, as it is something that comes along very rarely in a footballer’s career.”

Arsenal also has been critical of the choice of Baku as host of the final after receiving only 6,000 tickets by UEFA and because of the “extreme” problems fans face to get to the match.

There are relatively few flights to Baku from Western Europe, though more are being operated for the final, and prices are far above usual levels.

Arsenal’s then-chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, was on the UEFA executive committee when Baku was chosen as Europa League host in September 2017. Mkhitaryan was then with Manchester United, playing in the Champions League, and joined Arsenal the following January.

Baku won the Europa League final hosting rights in a bidding contest that originally included Seville, Spain, and Istanbul. Seville was excluded because Madrid was awarded the Champions League final, which will be played on June 1.

UEFA evaluated each bidder, though a subsequent report did not mention the Armenia issue in a section analyzing security issues for Baku.

17 Comments

  1. Mkhitaryan is a football player not a politician. Politicalizing the event will not grant any positive reputation for this football player.

  2. Let`s make certain things clear: Two English football clubs will have the match on 29th May, not Armenian ones. I do believe English football fans love Azerbaijan and Tofig Bahramov, who has very critical role in English football history.

  3. I believe that this decision was given forcibly by Mkhitaryan under pressure from Armenian lobby. They threatened him for traveling Azerbaijan, although, there was not any risk or danger not only for Mkhitaryan, but for all others who visit beautiful Azerbaijan. And this article was written through paid bases to manipulate readers as if Azerbaijan is the reasoner of this issue, what a biased and unobjective approach against Azerbaijan. You will not be able to cast shadow on this game, Azerbaijan will successfully hold this event and all your unfarir efforts will fail.

  4. Europe League final in Baku is just sport event for footbaal fans. Azerbaijan is stabil country. There is no danger for foreigners and also Mhitaryan’s life. Mkhitaryan and other anti azerbaijan groups just want to damage Azerbaijan’s reputation. Till that time armenian origin athletes participated in international sport games. In European Games Azerbaijan President introduced the medals to armenian wrestler in Baku. So I think that Mhitaryan’s issue is show against Azerbaijan

  5. Just a hype around a player that no one gave a sh*t about. This is sport, games, where politics is not involved. This has already been in practice for a decade when Azerbaijan hosted several big international events, and armenians participated there with all comfort. Nonsense and baseless hysteria …

  6. Azerbaijan is tolerance country. In Azerbaijan 30 min armenian live.Henrik Mxitaryan must not worry.

  7. The reason for Mkhitaryan’s refusal to come to Azerbaijan is that he wants to propagandize Azerbaijan as a backward and insecure country, as his country is in such a state … Do not forget that Mkhitaryan repeatedly illegally visited the Armenian occupied territories of Azerbaijan, including Nagorno-Karabakh and persona non grant.

  8. The complaints made by Arsenal are not supported by Chelsea, which proves them to be biased and a part of propaganda to harm the image of Azerbaijan.

  9. Mkhitaryan obviously has become a tool for political agenda of Armenia and Armenian diaspora. It is very unprofessional from him letting sports lose to politics. Btw, Azerbaijan has guaranteed the highest level of safety for him. Also Armenian athletes constantly participate in sports events in Azerbaijan without any problem.

  10. Azerbaijan is a stable country. There is no danger to any foreign race participant in Azerbaijan. Some circles conduct black PR campaign against Azerbaijan. They sound ideas that are not true, they try to manipulate.

  11. Mkhitaryan and Armenian government are trying to politicise European League final in it’s own purposes. Despite of where this final play will take place, if the host country is giving guarantee for security, there is no doubts for it. Within framework of international events Azerbaijan is accepting delegates from Armenia and there ia no problem on it. Even Azerbaijan is not a first time that host international sport events with Armenian nationals.

  12. This issue can not be politicized. This is a sporting even. And Azerbaijan, the island of stability, guarantees the safety of all participants

  13. There is no any tension in Baku. Hey patsy, Come and see beautiful, peaceful, stable and tolerant country…)

  14. Some circles want to damage Azerbaijan’s positive international reputation. But it is not possible. Azerbaijan is a stable country. Not to come to Baku to participate in the final match of UEFA is Mkhtryan’s own choice. Everybody knows that there is no danger or threat to the UEFA Europe League final match participants in Azerbaijan.

  15. First of all Mr Mkhitarian is a football player, not a politician. Either we do need to mention that he refused two time to come to Azerbaijan as a football player. This facts show that he tries to be a politician more than a sportsman.

  16. Stop armenian propaganda. Mkhit. is not the first armenian to come to azerbaijan safely despite all the tragedy armenia caused to Azerbaijani people. He is simply lacking self-confidence to support his team in Baku. Azerbaijan has nothing to do with it.

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