Karen Rafayelyan –
Armenia’s national team played its first match of the year on March 25, registering a goalless draw with Belarus in the testimonial match of Roman Berezovsky. Along with the long-term No 1 and the captain, the Havaqakan lost three other leaders as well—Yura Movsisyan, Gevorg Kasparov and Robert Arzumanyan—when the Armenian Football Federation president, Ruben Hayrapetyan, announced that the three players did not deserve to wear the Armenian national team shirt.
Robert Arzumanyan—Armenia’s most experienced field player of recent years with 74 caps—was the first to announce his retirement from the Havaqakan (as the Armenian national team is also often called). The Shakhter Karagandy defender told sport.news.am that he quit the team because of the match-fixing allegations that emerged after the EURO 2016 Qualifying between Armenia and Albania match (0-3).
Hayrapetyan Accused Players of Betrayal
Ruben Hayrapetyan blamed the players for the loss, saying there was a “betrayal” in that match. The announcement by Robert Arzumanyan was a shock for the Armenian fans, as he was an important player in Armenia’s defense. The Federation, then, added more fuel to the scandal by stating, “If Robert Arzumanyan has made this decision he most probably understands the meaning of the president’s words”.
Then when the Armenian National team head coach Varujan Sukiasyan announced the squad for the Belarus match, many leading players were missing, including Yura Movsisyan, Gevorg Kasparov and Gevorg Ghazaryan. The coach refused to speak to the media about the excluded players, and instead the Football Federation president, made another shocking announcement regarding the situation..
“The exclusion of Yura Movsisyan, Robert Arzumanyan and Gevorg Kasparov from the squad is my own demand. They will never appear in our main team as long as I am the FFA president. They have played in front of you, and nobody can claim they have fought and played with devotion. Yes, they have high qualities, but the national team is not an entertainment center for them,” Hayrapetyan said in an interview to Football Plus newspaper.
All three, Robert Arzumanyan, Yura Movsisyan and Gevorg Kasparov, were main starters for the Havaqakan. The 28-year-old Movsisyan, who moved to Real Salt Lake this winter, is currently third on Armenia’s all time top scorer list with 10 goals, and 10 assists in just 35 caps. Gevorg Kasparov is the most experienced Armenian goalkeeper, and was expected to become the number one keeper after Berezovsky’s retirement. He also has the best performance record among Armenian Premier League goalkeepers, and plays for league leaders FC Alashkert.
Arzumanyan, Movsisyan, and Kasparov were not the first to be Excluded from the National Team by Hayrapetyan
This is not the first time that Ruben Hayrapetian has decided to exclude national team players. Other players, including Artak Dashyan, Denis Tumasyan, and Joaquin Bogosyan, among others, were excluded by Hayrapetyan. This, however, is the first time he has excluded stars of the team, and, as a result, Armenia’s dream to reach a major tournament has become even more unrealistic.
“They blame me for intervening in the internal issues of the national team. But the president of the Football Federation is the number one when it comes to managing football in the country, and should therefore have his hand on the national team,” Hayrapetian said to justify his decision.
The exclusion of their teammates may have been bad news for the team’s remaining players, but they all avoided becoming entangled in the politics of the situation by either saying that they have to fill the gaps and play well, or by refusing to clarify the situation. “Our work is to play football, not to choose players,” Armenia’s national team captain Henrikh Mkhitaryan stated when summarizing the players’ opinions after the Belarus match.
With the Hayrapetyan’s “black list” becoming bigger and bigger with every qualifying round, it is now difficult to imagine how the Havaqakan can assemble a competitive team which can fullfill the dream of a big tournament. The only consolation is the debut of many young players, such as Gor Malakyan of FC Stal Dniprodzerzhynsk, Gegham Kadimyan of FC Karpaty Lviv, and Arsen Beglaryan of FC Mika Yerevan. But who knows how long they will last as Hayrapetyan continues to turn the Armenian national team into his personal Fantasy Football team.