Arsenal managing director Vinai Venkatesham has said it is “unacceptable” that Henrikh Mkhitaryan will not be playing in the Europa League final because of safety concerns.
Mkhitaryan has opted against travelling to Azerbaijan for the final against Chelsea on May 29 because of fears for his safety as an Armenian.
The latest on Mkhitaryan’s situation: Five key things to know…
- On Tuesday, Arsenal announced Mkhitaryan will not travel to Baku, Azerbaijan with the rest of the squad.
- Mkhitaryan’s native Armenia is involved in a dispute with Azerbaijan over the the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
- An official club statement revealed Arsenal have written to Uefa to express “deep concerns about this situation”.
- Mkhitaryan admitted it “hurts a lot to miss” the final after winning the competition with Manchester United in 2017.
- Vinai Venkatesham has reiterated Arsenal’s frustration and confirmed the club will sit down with Uefa to discuss it.
Venkatesham was speaking at a Financial Times summit when he was asked about Mkhitaryan’s absence from the travelling group.
The managing director revealed he hopes this kind of situation never happens again, to any club or player.
“I struggle to find words for how strongly I feel,” said Venkatesham, as reported by BBC Sport.
“We don’t feel he can travel and it’s extraordinarily sad. You don’t get a chance to play in major European finals often and Miki has had it taken away from him.
“We made our point clearly to Uefa – we have written to them. We will also sit down with them face to face after the final and express how it is unacceptable and how it can never happen again to Arsenal or anyone.”
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“We gave guarantees to Arsenal” – Azerbaijan FA
Prior to Mkhitaryan’s decision, Azerbaijan’s ambassador to the UK, Tahir Taghizadeh, attempted to reassure the midfielder he will be safe in Baku.
However, Mkhitaryan said he “had to take the tough decision” after considering “all the current options”.
The general secretary of the Azerbaijan FA, Elkhan Mammadov, has now echoed Taghizadeh’s sentiment, reiterating the fact Uefa and Arsenal were given guarantees of Mkhitaryan’s safety.
“We always protect the integrity of the sport,” Mammadov told BBC World News Sport. “We are confident that nothing would happen here in terms of security and safety.
“On behalf of the government and local organising committee we gave all the guarantees to Uefa and the club, but I think this was a personal decision of the player together with his family.
“That was of course a security and safety guarantee.”