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Arsenal star midfielder set to miss Gunners game away to Qarabag and UEFA Europa League final



Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Arsenal football club could miss the services of their Armenian international midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan when they face Qarabag in the group stages of this season’s UEFA Europa League in Azerbaijan and if the North London club reaches the final of the competition which is to be played in Baku, Azebaijan.

The Gunners have been paired with Azerbaijani side Qarabag, Portuguese outfit Sporting Lisbon and Ukrainian side Vorskla in group E of the competition.

There has been diplomatic tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh territory, with a ceasefire declared in 1994 after fighting erupted several years earlier. This situation has degenerated into a situation where the country of Azerbaijan have banned the entry of Armenian citizens regardless of any links to the neighbouring country.

For Mkhitaryan, this is nothing new. In 2015 when he played at Borussia Dortmund, He was left out of the trip to Qabala in Azaerbaijan when they played Gabala football club.

At the time Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke told reporters: ‘It’s a conflict situation between two countries. This can happen. We have taken the decision together. Had it been the semi-final, we would have maybe decided differently,’

‘We’ve talked to the player again, and it’s the best decision for all involved. There’s a bit of discomfort. Henrikh’s not upset to stay behind.’

While UEFA’s stand on this issue is summed up in its statement to Press Association Sport as saying:

‘It is a 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.’

FIFA President, Gianni Infantino in 2015 stated unequivocally that:

‘At the end it’s always the decision of the state whether visas can be granted or not. It’s not up to UEFA to grant or not grant visas.’