In another case of World Politics and Sports colliding in less than fun ways, UEFA has signaled their support and aid to help Arsenal’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan attain a visa to travel to Azerbaijan for the Europa Final. If needed. Arsenal would first have to get past the second quarterfinal leg against Napoli and their semifinal to play in Baku on May 28th.
The Armenia midfielder has been reluctant in the past to travel to the region due to long standing territorial disputes and conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. The Nagorno-Karabakh region, historically Armenian in make up, was enveloped into Soviet Azerbaijan by Joseph Stalin, and has been fought over since 1988 between the two nations following the collapse of the Sovient Union. While not in active war, border skirmishes are continuing and talks are underway in Moscow to try and end the conflict. It’s serious.
Mkhitaryan missed a game against Qarabag this season and has done likewise during his tenures with Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund. Officially put down to “security reasons”, the Azerbaijan authorities have never stated they would not give Mkhitaryan a visa. This year, UEFA is confident that once again it shouldn’t be an issue.
“It is a standard procedure for UEFA to send letters of support to associations, clubs or embassies in order to obtain visas for players and allow them to play in UEFA competition matches.”
So that’s good. Arsenal will have a useful player if needed and maybe these types of interactions can help ease animosity. Maybe. But first, Arsenal face Napoli thursday and potentially semifinals go May 2nd and 9th.