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Arsenal's Henrikh Mkhitaryan to miss Europa League final against Chelsea
05-21-2019, 02:05 PM,
#1
Arsenal's Henrikh Mkhitaryan to miss Europa League final against Chelsea
Arsenal midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan will not play in
the Europa League final against Chelsea on 29 May.
It is understood the Armenian, 30, feared for his safety
on the pitch in Baku, Azerbaijan.
"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," said Mkhitaryan.
"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 written to Uefa expressing our deep
concerns about this situation," read an Arsenal
statement.
"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.
"Micki has been a key player in our run to the final so
this is a big loss for us from a team perspective.
"We're also very sad 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."
Uefa responded to Arsenal with a statement that 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.
"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."
Arsenal, who finished fifth in the Premier League, will
qualify for next season's Champions League if they
beat Chelsea.
It would be their first European trophy since they won
the Cup Winners' Cup in 1994.
On Monday, Azerbaijan's ambassador to the UK, Tahir
Taghizadeh, said there was no cause for concern.
"I would say [to Mkhitaryan] 'you are a professional
athlete, you are a footballer, and a class A footballer',
so let's make sure this is a class A event if our
purpose is to make a great final," Taghizadeh told Sky
Sports.
"If our purpose is to play political games around it, that
is something different, but I hope it is not, because you
[Mkhitaryan] are being paid as a footballer, not as a
politician, so let's leave other issues aside."
There are no diplomatic relations between Armenia and
Azerbaijan because of a longstanding conflict over the
disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. Azerbaijan usually
does not allow foreign nationals of Armenian descent
to enter the country.
While playing for Borussia Dortmund in 2015,
Mkhitaryan did not travel for a Europa League tie
against Azerbaijan Premier League side Gabala because
of security concerns.
He also missed Arsenal's 3-0 Europa League win at FK
Qarabag in October, with manager Unai Emery saying
"he cannot travel here" despite Uefa offering their
support over a visa application.
Armenian media reported that Anna Naghdalyan, a
spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of
Armenia, said Azerbaijan had an "opportunity to show
how real it is to prepare the people for peace".
"Manifestations of racism and xenophobia in sport
should not take place," added Naghdalyan.
"In this regard, the refusal of Azerbaijan to provide
such guarantees and a ban on the entry of alleged
fans of Armenian origin is nothing but a new
manifestation of racism, and this calls into question the
holding of similar international events in Azerbaijan."
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