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European Soccer / UEFA Europa League

Arsenal’s Mkhitaryan Will Not Play In Europa League Final

Arsenal’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan Will Not Play In Europa League Final Because UEFA Can’t Guarantee His Safety

Arsenal announced on Tuesday that star midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan will not be joining the club in Baku, Azerbaijan for the Europa League final against Chelsea due to safety concerns, depriving the London club one of its best players for what seem to be entirely avoidable reasons.

Picture: Getty

Mkhitaryan is from Armenia, Azerbaijan’s neighbor with which it has a strained relationship. Due to the longstanding conflicts between the countries, Arsenal feel like Mkhitaryan would not be safe venturing to Baku for the final. This despite UEFA and the Azerbaijani soccer authorities insisting as recently as last weekend that they could guarantee Mkhitaryan’s safety.

Tahir Taghizadeh, the Azerbaijani ambassador to the United Kingdom, spoke to Sky News this week on the matter, saying that the player would be safe—as long as he stuck to sports while in the country. However, “if you want to play the issue,” Taghizadeh added, “then that’s a different story.” Not exactly the most reassuring comments.

The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan dates back both countries’ independence from the fallen Russian Empire in 1918. The countries fought two wars against each other during the 20th century, and have not had formal relationships in almost 100 years.

Now, Mkhitaryan will be forced to watch his team attempt to win the final, and a crucial Champions League spot, without him, barred from participating simply due to his country of birth and UEFA’s casually callous lack of foresight—very good reasons for conscientious fans to ignore the actual final entirely.

What do you think about this issue? Are UEFA and the Azerbaijani Government too complacent with security? Or are Arsenal and his player too cautious about the game? Discuss this topic and many other issues on our Europa League Forum.

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