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No justice for Mkhitaryan


“What is equal game? Everyone should be able to enjoy football. No matter who you are, WHERE YOU’RE FROM or how you play, that’s equal game”

These words should ring loud in all of football’s heads because these are the words of UEFA, an organisation that paints itself as liberators of football not only for all countries but for fans themselves.

Arsenal and Chelsea’s fans face an estimated 3-day journey and costs of around £1000 if they want to witness the Europa League final in Baku on May 29th.

This is also compounded by the fact both London clubs have been given a ticket allocation of just 6000 tickets each. A number that is around just 10% of the Emirates stadiums capacity.

The greed of the elite

This is frustrating, confusing and wrong from UEFA but as hopeless as it sounds to say we are used to this from them – this is simply UEFA.

They are an organisation littered with greed, incompetence and hypocrisy. We know who they look after when they make decisions and it’s not fans, it’s themselves and more specifically – lining their pockets.

This isn’t the huge issue in all of this, though. The real miscarriage of justice is that Arsenal has now revealed that down to safety concerns Henrikh Mkhitaryan won’t be travelling to Azerbaijan.

Mkhitaryan might now be a household name calibre footballer, he may not be a definite starter for the final, he might not be someone that has millions of fans on social media but he is a footballer and that is the only qualification he needs to be able to play in this match.

Mkhitaryan has played more minutes in the Europa League for Arsenal than any other player in our squad, and he is our third highest goalscorer (not that any of this should matter).

This was followed by Arsenal, very publicly, seeking assurances for his safety from UEFA and seemingly get little to nothing back. So little I fact and UEFA failed to even mention it when replying to Arsenal’s statement on the location of the final.

The reason for this is because there is political tension between Azerbaijan and Mkhitaryan’s home country of Armenia. This has been a problem for a while and has caused Mkhitaryan missing Europa league away trips to Azerbaijan for Dortmund and Arsenal as recently as earlier this season vs Qarabag.

Football should be EVERYONE’S game

The idea that UEFA can preach exclusivity of football as a game for EVERYONE just to choose a location for a European final that brings safety concerns to a player for no reason other than his nationality is a crime against football and everything football is meant to be.

Football is a sport that is glorified for its diversity. In countless teams, you can see players made up of the favelas of Brazil, the council estates of London, the streets of Lisbon, the football cages of Gelsenkirchen and so much more.

People play football on grass, mud, sand, and concrete.

You can play if you’re a man, a woman, disabled, rich or poor, young or old, happy or sad.

Football is a sport filled with emotion, from the pitch to the terraces, to the TVs and people frantically checking the score on their phones.

Football is a universal language and we all deserve our place in it for no reason other than we are human beings and to see this game taken away from Mkhitaryan is a violation of his human and professional rights.

Politics and football should never mix, yet UEFA is forcing them together in a way that is unavoidable.

Common sense and common decency

Let me make this clear – if your country is in a political position that causes certain nationalities of people to have a legitimate fear for their safety you are not fit to hold a sporting event, let alone a European final.

This isn’t helped that a spokesman for Azerbaijan has said Mkhitaryan “will be safe unless he plays the issue”

The phrasing of this statement almost implies that Mkhitaryan and Arsenal’s worry for his safety is what’s putting Mkhitaryan at risk which is laughable.

If Azerbaijan had political problems with Belgium and Hazard couldn’t travel due to safety concerns could you imagine the uproar? If French players were the ones affected and Kante, Aubameyang, Lacazette and Koscielny couldn’t travel could you imagine the uproar?

If Spanish citizens were the ones affected would UEFA have risked putting a Champion’s League final in Baku on the hope that at least one of Barcelona or Real Madrid wouldn’t make the final?

If Ronaldo or Messi missed a cup final because they couldn’t travel safely through no fault of their own except the place they were born would the football world stand for it?

The answer is they wouldn’t. They preach that all countries should enjoy these events and plead to our conscience as “men of sport” to understand this but this isn’t right and whether its hurting one player playing in a final or twenty players it doesn’t make it any more wrong.

This cannot happen again

Footballer’s careers are notoriously short and Mkhitaryan will be missing a huge game in a footballer’s career. A game that he has the right to be a part of.

If we are able to win the game he will not be able to celebrate with his teammates, he will not be able to lift a trophy he has contributed heavily to winning, he will somewhere else probably trying to make sense of why he has lost this opportunity from nothing more than his birthplace.

Realistically we can do nothing to change the circumstances of this game but the footballing world has to make sure UEFA knows that a repeat of this won’t be tolerated and I hope that a swift response by Arsenal and Chelsea will hopefully lead other clubs to exert pressure on them for future decisions.

Shame on you, UEFA.

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