UEFA block Mkhitaryan tribute as Arsenal teammates label his Europa League Final absence 'a scandal'
Safety concerns mean Arsenal will be without star midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan for the Europa League Final, and now UEFA officials have put a block on Gunners players paying tribute to their absent teammate at the final in Baku.
Armenian international Mkhitaryan has felt that he has been forced to miss the trip through security concerns amid long-standing tensions between the two nations, and fans and media have openly criticized UEFA for insisting on the match remaining in the Azerbaijani capital.
READ MORE: 'If it was Messi UEFA would move the final!' Arsenal Fan TV Robbie on 'disgraceful' Mkhitaryan issue
It's something that Mkhitaryan's teammates in the Arsenal dressing room have been particularly aware of, and they had hoped to be able to show their solidarity with their teammate before kick-off in Baku.
It is understood that the team was considering conducting their pre-match warm-up wearing shirts bearing his name, but UEFA representatives have told the media that there are strict rules in place to prevent such statements from being made.
All kit worn by the players - in warm-ups, during the match and during post-match celebrations - must be approved by UEFA officials prior to the match.
And any attempt to show solidarity with Mkhitaryan through their kit would likely be stopped at source.
Arsenal bosses are also sensitive to the nature of the political issues between Mkhitaryan's home nation of Armenia and the host nation of Azerbaijan and are keen to avoid any displays that will provoke hostility.
UEFA have been unable to adequately guarantee Mkhitaryan's safety and security during the Gunners' stay in Baku, leaving the 30-year-old feeling he was unable to make the trip. Instead, he will watch his teammates bid to complete the job without him when they face Chelsea in the all-English final.
"It's a scandal that he cannot play because of that," Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno told German publication Kicker.
"He works hard all season and cannot come to such a final for political reasons. I'm just sorry for him."
Midfielder Alex Iwobi called the situation "very upsetting," and said he and his teammates would do everything they can to win for their absent teammate.
"We’re going to fight and hopefully win the trophy - not just for us, but for him."
Arsenal will face fellow London side Chelsea in Baku, with the choice of venue widely criticized for the cost of travel from England to Azerbaijan and for the inaccessibility of the host city for both sets of fans, with the supporters facing a monumental 5,500-mile round trip to attend the game.
It was reported last week that the two clubs, which have formidable away followings, could return thousands of tickets from their official allocations as a result of a lack of fan interest in traveling that far for the match.
With the purchase window for tickets now closed, Chelsea have sold just 2,000 of their 6,000 allocated tickets, while Arsenal have returned 2,300 of their allocation.Also on rt.com 'Ugly side to beautiful game': Mkhitaryan Europa League case slammed in UK Parliament