Henrikh Mkhitaryan may not play for Arsenal in their UEFA Europa League final against Chelsea.
Not because of injury. Not because he’s suspended. But because of safety fears due to his citizenship.
The final on May 29 is being held in Baku, Azerbaijan and they have no diplomatic relations with the country of Mkhitaryan’s birth, Armenia.
Due their conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, tensions are high between Azerbaijan and Armenia and Mkhitaryan did not travel for Arsenal’s Europa League game against Qarabag in Azerbaijan earlier this season.
According to multiple reports Arsenal are in touch with UEFA about the situation, as European soccer’s governing body have offered to help secure a visa for Mkhitaryan to travel in and out for the game.
What a mess.
Mkhitaryan is the captain of the Armenian national team and will no doubt be a target if he enters Azerbaijan. Surely Arsenal will not risk taking him with them, even though he would be a valuable asset to Unai Emery‘s team on the pitch. Mkhitaryan, 30, has played in 39 games for Arsenal this season and has scored six times, adding seven assists. Not having him available for this game would be a blow for the Gunners.
After Arsenal sent out a strong statement questioning why Baku was selected as a host city due to their own fans and Chelsea supporters struggling to get to the Azerbaijani capital for the final — both clubs were handed only 6,000 tickets in a 69,000 capacity venue — they will be feeling even more hard done by with Mkhitaryan’s status up in the air.
“We have 45,000 season ticket holders and for so many fans to miss out due to UEFA selecting a final venue with such limited transport provision is quite simply not right,” Arsenal said in a statement. They have also expressed their displeasure at their British-Armenian season ticket holders being denied entry to Azerbaijan for the final.
It is totally understandable that UEFA want to spread the love and take their showpiece finals all over the region and to cities and countries who haven’t previously hosted the events, but serious questions have to be asked about other cities after such extreme issues for both of the finalists this season.