LONDON — Armenian forward Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s availability for Arsenal’s Europa League group stage clash against Azerbaijan’s FK Qarabag, as well as Europa League final is in doubt, due to tensions between his homeland of Armenia and Azerbaijan.
The Gunners have been drawn with Sporting Lisbon, Ukrainian side Vorskla and Azeri champions Qarabag in Group E.
The Armenian will be hit by visa problems if he tried to enter Azerbaijan, where the Baku-based club play.
And as the Europa League final is also in the Azerbaijan capital, the 29-year-old could even miss the showpiece event, should the Gunners get there.
There are currently no diplomatic relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, primarily because of the ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and as a policy Azerbaijan denies issuing entry visas to Armenian nationals or even people with Armenian surnames.
In relation to the situation surrounding Mkhitaryan, UEFA said in a statement: “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.”
This is not the first time that Mkhitaryan has found himself in this situation, with the forward left out of Borussia Dortmund’s squad to play Azerbaijani club Gabala in 2015.
Dortmund were informed by the Azerbaijan foreign embassy that Mkhitaryan would receive “a visa directly upon their arrival at Baku airport,” but Dortmund elected to exclude him from the trip because of security concerns.