Arsenal’s midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan will not play in the Europa League Final in Baku due to Armenia and Azerbaijan conflict.
There are no diplomatic relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, largely due to the ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
A Wikipedia search informs that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is a territorial and ethnic conflict between the two countries over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding districts, which are de facto controlled by the self-declared Republic of Artsakh. They are, however, internationally recognised as de jure part of Azerbaijan. The conflict has its origins in the early 20th Century.
In the 2016 clashes, an estimated 350 troops and civilians from both sides were killed.
Mkhitaryan is an Armenian and can thus not travel to Baku, Azerbaijan, for what he said is fear of his security on the pitch.
“Having considered all current options, we had to take the tough decision for me not to travel with the squad to the Europa League final,” Mkhitaryan told the BBC.
“It’s the kind of game that doesn’t come along very often and I admit, it hurts a lot to miss it.”
As a result of political tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia, Mkhitaryan has missed club matches played in Azerbaijan in the past.
“We have thoroughly explored all the options for Micki to be part of the squad but after discussing this with Micki and his family we have collectively agreed he will not be in our travelling party,” his club Arsenal said in a statement.
However, in a response to arsenal over their concerns, the Union of European Football Associations said, “Working alongside Arsenal FC, Uefa sought and received assurances regarding the player’s safety in Azerbaijan from the highest authorities in the country. As a result of these guarantees, a comprehensive security plan was developed and given to the club.”
The Azerbaijan FA regretted that the player would not travel with the team saying, “We very much regret this unwarranted decision taken. Whilst we recognise the right to make a personal decision not to travel, we would like to reiterate that as the host country Azerbaijan has provided all the necessary guarantees required by Uefa to ensure the personal safety of Mr Mkhitaryan.”
His coach Unai Emery said the matter was no longer in his hands.
“It’s a very, very personal decision and we need to respect him. I don’t understand the political problems but I must respect his decision,” Emery said.