Armenia won a surprise victory against Belgium in World Cup Qualifying game on September 9. The much needed first victory in this World Cup Qualifying round comes ahead of the anticipated football match with Turkey in October, which has become more of a political event, rather than sport.
Last year Armenia’s president Serzh Sargsyan started the ‘football diplomacy’ – an initiative to tie sport to normalizing Armenian-Turkish relations, by inviting Turkey’s president Abdula Gul to Yerevan to watch the Armenia-Turkey game together. Gul’s visit was historical, as it was the first ever visit of a Turkish president to Armenia, while the two countries still lack diplomatic relations. Currently Armenia’s president Serzh Sargsian is weighing his chances and deciding on whether he should pay a return visit.
Meanwhile, Armenian football fans complain of continuous poor performance of Armenia’s national football team. In fact, several newspapers reported on Tuesday, that police used force against hardcore fans of Armenia’s national football as they reacted angrily (but not violently) to its defeat to Bosnia and Herzegovina in a game played at Yerevan’s Republican Stadium on Saturday, September 5th. The police confiscated a huge banner accusing Armenian players of “disgracing” the nation and beat several fans in the process. The fans responded by chanting “Shame! Shame!” and demanding the resignation of Ruben Hayrapetian, the controversial chairman of the Armenian Football Federation.
Hopefully this victory will raise the spirit of Armenian national football team as they head to Turkey for the game entangled into president Sargsian’s ‘football diplomacy’.