Reports from England pin Arsenal attacker Henrikh Mkhitaryan to miss Europa League tie against Qarabag, following political tensions.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan may be set to miss Arsenal’s tie against Qarabag due to political tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The English club drew Qarabag in the Europa League group on Friday.
Mkhitaryan did not travel to Azerbaijan with Borussia Dortmund in 2015, despite Azerbaijani embassy assuring that he will get visa on arrival.
Armenia and Azerbaijan are stuck in conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory. The relations between both the countries worsened in 2016, when at least 200 people were killed in violent clashes between the two nations.
If Mkhitaryan decides to stay back for Arsenal’s trip to Azerbaijan, it might well be possible that he will also miss the Europa League final – if Arsenal goes that far in the competition. This year’s final is scheduled to be played in the city of Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.
Unai Emery, the head coach of Arsenal, stated that he is yet to have a discussion with Mkhitaryan on the issue, but is hopeful that the player will be available for selection. “I would like him to stay with us if we can. If we can arrange this, I think it is better,” said Unai Emery in the press conference following the draw.
Arsenal’s official spokesperson also released a statement on the issue.
“Safety and security of all our players and staff is always a top priority. We will be looking into this situation, talk to the player and make a decision after that,” read the statement.
In 2015, Armenian athletes were granted visa on arrival in Azerbaijan to participate in European Games, but received hostile treatment from the public.
UEFA, meanwhile, also released a statement insisting that the association will follow the protocols and contact concerned authorities.
“It is standard procedure for Uefa to send letters of support to associations, clubs or embassies in order to obtain visas for players in order to be able to travel to another country and play in Uefa competition matches.