YEREVAN — Artur Vanetsyan, a former powerful security official who has headed the Football Federation of Armenia (FFA) for more than a year, resigned on Thursday following a humiliating defeat suffered by the Armenian national soccer team.
All members of the FFA’s Executive Committee, among them political allies of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, also agreed to step down at an emergency meeting with Vanetsyan held in Yerevan.
Armenia was thrashed by Italy 9-1 on Monday in the final game of the qualifying campaign for the 2020 European Football Championship. The Italians topped Group J of the tournament with 30 points from their 10 games played against five other teams.
Armenia finished fifth with 10 points. The game played in the Italian city of Palermo marked the national team’s biggest ever loss, causing outrage among Armenian football fans. Many of them have demanded the resignations of recently appointed team coach Abraham Khashmanyan, Vanetsyan and other FFA officials.
Vanetsyan pointed to the “unprecedented” defeat when he announced his resignation after the meeting with the FFA’s Executive Committee. “As a result of discussions I, as chairman of the Football Federation of Armenia, told members of the Executive Committee to accept my resignation,” he told reporters.
“We accepted the resignation and thanked Mr. Vanetsyan for the joint work,” said Ruben Rubinyan, a member of the committee and a senior parliamentarian affiliated with the ruling My Step alliance.“We appreciated successes achieved by us,” he added, standing next to Vanetsyan.
According to Rubinyan, it was also agreed that the FFA will hold next month an emergency conference that will elect a new chairman and Executive Committee.
Several members of the current committee formed last year are government officials, notably Health Minister Arsen Torosyan, and pro-government parliamentarians. Some of them were quick to publicly blame Vanetsyan for the Palermo rout, highlighting his presently strained relationship with Pashinyan.
Vanetsyan took over the FFA shortly after Pashinyan appointed him as head of Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) in the wake of last year’s “Velvet Revolution.” He quickly became one of the most influential members of the prime minister’s entourage, overseeing a number of high-profile corruption investigations launched by the new Armenian authorities.
Vanetsyan was unexpectedly sacked as NSS director in September for still unclear reasons. He criticized Pashinyan’s “impulsive” leadership style, triggering a bitter war of words with the premier.