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'Ugly side to beautiful game': Mkhitaryan Europa League case slammed in UK Parliament

'Ugly side to beautiful game': Mkhitaryan Europa League case slammed in UK Parliament
The decision for Arsenal's Armenian playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan not to travel to Baku for next week's Europa League Final against Chelsea due to tensions in the region has been criticized in the UK House of Commons.

It has been confirmed that Mkhitaryan will not be part of the Arsenal squad ahead of the May 29 fixture with their London rivals, with his Armenian citizenship cited as the principal reason over concerns for his safety remain amid tension between Armenia and host country Azerbaijan.

Also on rt.com Henri-KO: Arsenal confirm Mkhitaryan to miss Europa League final over safety concerns in Azerbaijan

Mkhitaryan was also excluded from the Arsenal squad who faced Azerbaijani side Qarabag in an earlier round of the competition, with Armenians ordinarily banned from entering the country. A similar incident occurred in 2015 while Mkhitaryan was on the books of German side Borussia Dortmund.

The scandal has threatened to overshadow the European final next week, with Azerbaijani officials resoundingly accused by several sections of the football community of blurring the line between politics and sport.

The debate has now made it to the highest level of the UK government, as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and shadow Culture Secretary, Tom Watson, discussed the matter in a session at the House of Commons on Thursday.

"UEFA's inclusion and diversity policy says the following: 'Everybody has the right to enjoy football, no matter who you are, where you are from or how you play'" Watson said.

"But next week Henrikh Mkhitaryan will miss the match of a lifetime because he's from Armenia and Arsenal fans with Armenian names are being denied visas to travel to Baku. This is a scandal. It's a deeply ugly side to the beautiful game.

"If I was Secretary of State, I would make clear to UEFA that it's completely unacceptable, so will the Minister demand that UEFA ensures that countries that force players to choose between their sport and their safety and discriminate against traveling fans will never be allowed to host future events."

Mkhitaryan has made known his unease at the decision, stating on Twitter that it "hurts" not to be involved in the final.

"It's the kind of game that doesn’t come along very often for us players and I must admit, it hurts me a lot to miss it," he wrote of the news. "I will be cheering my teammates on! Let’s bring it home."

Meanwhile, Azerbaijan’s UK ambassador has hit back by claiming there were no safety issues over the Arsenal star traveling to Baku, accusing the player of “making a political statement” over his decision not to go.  

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