Saturday, 6 September 2008

Armenia – Turkey historic football match: Armenia lost, I feel disappointed, but will football diplomacy win?

Everything related to this much - in the build up to this game - was more about politics than actual football. Perhaps, this was the most politically colored football match ever. The funny thing is that as soon as the game started, politics became something very secondary to me, I did not even feel the presence of Turkish and Armenian presidents side by side watching the match. It was all about sport for me, again, at last.

I think Turkey’s win was deserved. Well, they were not in their best form, for sure, to say the least, but technically were superior without any doubts. The main problem for our national team was in their weak physical preparedness for the game, they were out of shape, or whatever (no news, eh?), and yes, they just cannot run!!!

Anyway, even though we all knew that chances to win were slim for Armenia, we were expecting better football from our team. They failed to deliver expectations of thousands of fans who started leaving the stadium 10 mins before the game ended, when it was already 0:2. Everyone in the crowd started remembering our youth team with their recent win over Turkey, and with the hopes that perhaps in time we will witness a very different type of football, a quality one, from our national team.

The good thing is that despite worries of possible nationalist outburst or ugly scenes, nothing of that sort happened. Security was pretty tight, at least in terms of numbers one could spot. Even plastic bottles were not allowed inside the stadium. Things went well, overall, except perhaps booing when the national anthem of Turkey played on. But it was kind of expected, regrettable though, and I saw quite a few people around who were against it and trying to calm people down, urging them to behave in a civilised manner. And towards the end, many Armenians were cheering winners, Turkish team, as it should be.

40 mins before the match

Tight security

Armenian fans

There was pretty small but vocal and active group of Turkish fans there. They were at the centre of curious attention of Armenian fans.

Turkish fans

Back to the football diplomacy. The day passed. At least on surface things seem went well. Follow-up practical actions, if any, will determine whether football diplomacy worked. I sincerely hope so.

*for video - see Armenia - Turkey football match: national anthems, mutual booing.

Recommended reading (with quality photos):
Armenia: Football Diplomacy & Relations with Turkey
FIFA World Cup Qualifier: Turkey 2 — Armenia 0


Onnik Krikorian said...

Like you said, nobody was expecting Armenia to win, but I do think that the first half was better than the second. I think the Armenian team pretty much matched the Turkish one, but they're just not experienced enough or of the same quality to keep that up for the second.

Anyways, all in all, a good day when you consider what the game represented. However, while not good for the Armenian team because they lost, it was a good first half for them.

spm said...

Armenia was playing defensive football and it is fault of the technical director of the team. I was astonished that he declared in the press before the game that the turkish team had more chances to win. Everyone in the world had right to say that but not the coach preparing the team for the game. And not the coach who prepares his team for this particular game. I think Armenia lost first of all psychologically then technically.

I had a chance to watch late British Ian Porterfield during game with Portugal, and I could tell the guy was emotionally with the team. He would embrace and kiss every player after the were leaving field for change or after game. This couch from what I seen on TV screen was cool and unnerved. No surprise, since he decided beforehand that his team is expected to loose.

Anonymous said...

Agreed with the comment and with Onnik here, but I am not sure how many fans were "cheering the winners" - where I was sitting, it was all about cheering on Armenia, and the bitterness that went with the loss.

Better luck next time. Plus I had no problem staying seated (ie not standing) during the Turkish national anthem. Standing is a sign of respect. Respect is two-way.

Turkey is not yet respectful of Armenia, our history, nor our present or future. When that time comes, I'll have no problem standing with respect.

Haik said...

Booing the Turkish national anthem was a demonstration to show that Armenian people don't accept the Turkish state because it is build on the blood of our grandparents. This will continue until Turkey accepts what they did to us.
There is no need for a historic panel there is a need for an apology and admittance panel initiated by Turkey.

grigor said...

No wounder they were out of shape. Just two weeks ago or so they had a wonderful chance of playing friendly, but our federation never seems to consider friendlies an important part of it all.

People should start asking many questions now. The thing is that there are many bad teams in the world, but only the worst teams in the world cannot score a goal when they actually want it as much as we wanted it. If our team cannot put together a single solid attack resulting in a goal in a game which was the most important one of them all and we had 20 years to prepare for such a match, then perhaps things aren't being done correctly. Football is not a casual sport. It is very expansive and it is very demanding. Unless our federation changes things a bit, we will be far better of if we stop investing in football and put that money into something else that will be good for the country.

Media has to share the blame here as well. I am actually puzzled that media doesn't go after the federation in any way. Each time our team has to travel to some country they will have to spend a very large amount of money. How come no one is after that money? How come everyone wants to know about Levon, but no one wants to know if the money, which is a huge amount, that our federation has spent on football was a waste or not? If we spend that money wisely maybe we wouldn't even need to talk about Levon. And this is actually the Armenian reality, we just care about Levons and the likes, not about us, about our country, about our football, but Levons...

Anyway, its a mess, and quite honestly I am glad I am not part of it.

Anonymous said...

grigor - "being happy to not be a part of the problem" is the surest way for a problem to perpetuate.

All Armenians should start feeling a sense of owndership to the problems (and why not, the joys) of Armenia.

Only then can there be the chance of coalescing of political will to change anything.

It is easy to run away from Armenia and make fun of parliament, or the bad quality of this or that sport, or the state of journalism, schools, or what have you.

It will only change with lots of effort and lots of good will.

grigor said...

Anonymous, just so that you know. It is not easy to run away or criticize. What is easy is to judge people when you don't even know them. At any rate, as I said before, making football better in Armenia isn't my fight. People care about Levon's daughter more than our football and that is why our team plays like that.

It has been few days and no one is criticizing our federation. Therefore, since things are so nice, I congratulate our nation with its victory. Ura, lets lose it again.

Anonymous said...

Who is this Levon you mentioned? Is he an Armenian footbalplayer or something? About the game:I wouldn't feel bad about it as Turkey ranks 10th on the global FIFA list, so it wasn't really expected that Armenia would win from Turkey. For what's it worth:the Turkish team is criticized within Turkey for gaining such a mediocre result (Armenia is 98th on the global FIFA list). It is suspected that Fatih Terim (the Turkish coach) was holding too far back in order not to risk injuries or yellow cards for the matches ahead which of course results in a pretty boring match.

grigor said...

Levon is our first president.

The point isn't that we supposed to win the game against Turkey. The point isn't even that we played Turkey. The point is that nobody cares how our federation deals with the games. All they do is hire a foreigner who in most cases just doesn't care and uses the job as a transitional one.

Question 1, why didn't Armenia play a friendly two weeks before the game? Everyone played but us.

Question 2, how come our team consists of bunch of old guys, older than 30? What are we really trying to do with 30 year old people?

Question 3, how come all our players are out of shape? The coach is responsible for this and he gets a lot of money for it. How come no one is asking this question?

Question 4, how come that Armenia couldn't even create a chance, or even pass the ball around a little bit. It is not about Turkey, it is about how we play football which is horrible.

Now, thank you very much for your lesson on where Turkey stands on the rankings. Quite frankly I don't care. Yesterday, I saw Wales vs Russia. Wales is a country of 3 million and they are 53rd while Russia is 12th. They were equal for lengthy periods. You can also take Armenian vs Poland 98th vs 30th or Armenia vs Portugal. The ranking, quite frankly doesn't mean much and it is not even the point. The point is that the way we play is an indication that no one cares. Once in a while we get lucky and hire a coach that actually cares who starts shaking up things (of course, these coaches either die or move to a better place very soon), but in most cases what we get is this and federation and the people and the media don't care, that is what is agitating here not the actual loss to Turkey. But everyone seems to care when posters with Levon's face on it get removed from the buildings.

I am not trying to imply that we should care more about football, but with the current state of affairs it will be much better if we actually stop playing it and spend that money on say education or other sports.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for explanation.

Ad 1:I don't know why Armenia didn't play a friendly match first. Where was this friendly match supposed to take place?

Ad 2:It is indeed not very common if a national teams age on average is quite high. It doesn't necessarily mean that it would pose any less threat, but chances are that the endurance of teamplayers could be lower than preferred. It is a bit odd.

Ad 3:see above

Ad 4: I don't know the answer on this question. Every team can have a bad match though. Look at the match between Turkey and Belgium which was played tonight. It was a horrible match which ended 1-1.

Could it be that the pay received by footballplayers and coaches is the culprit? Turkish players and coaches do get paid a lot (one of the higher average paychecks in European foolball associations). See:

Anonymous said...

Why are posters of a former president removed? What's the problem? Is there some kind of political tension between political parties and their followers? Is it approved/sanctioned by the authorities that these posters are removed?

me said...

First of all, the removed pictures were of Robert Qocharyan and the so-called political prisoners. Second of all, suggesting that people should care more about football than the fact that 6 months after one of the most horrific crimes in independent Armenia's history our police is busy fighting cardboard cutouts is just quality stuff. Do carry on.

grigor said...

me- unfortunately the point is that if we care about ourselves more than our president's pictures we would never have March 1st. There is no nation in the world that can rally behind people like Levon the way we did on March 1st, and not for our sake but for his sake.

I have never suggested that we should care more about football, you made it up. What I said is in the first paragraph. I also said that people should in fact stop carrying about football because we spend huge amount of money on it in a wrong way.

To Anonymous - don't worry about posters. The political situation in Armenia is tense and I was just being sarcastic towards the opposition media who never write about the kind of stuff that people should care but write about a kind of stuff that concerns only the families of the opposition. This way they force people to care more about the members of the opposition instead of carrying about things that directly concern them like their education or their sports and etc. Browse online Armenian newspapers and see how often you can find an article about such social topics. I bet not very often. This is part of the problem in our society.

As for football, yes we do have financial problems. Many of our players (not of the national team) have second jobs. They don't live with football. My info is old, partly because as I said our media doesn't like to tell us this kind of stuff very often, but there is a huge difference between how much our foreign coaches make and how much our players make and our native coaches make. I think this is just a bad organization. A player should have many kinds of incentives including a huge financial one to play for the national side especially in small countries. The point is that most of these guys heavily depend on their salaries at their clubs and even a small injury picked up during a national game can be fatal for them.

Another sign of bad organization is that you don't pay a huge some to a coach but then give no means of making the team better. Again my info is old because of our crappy media, but our federation has rather silly schedule of friendlies for the national side. We played two friendlies right before the Euro one against the Greeks and we drew, but we played no friendly before a game that actually matters. The federation failed to organize a game. We didn't need two friendlies at the end of the season before the Euros we needed two friendlies before the season before an important match. At any rate I can go on and on and part of what I say isn't going to be factually correct because of our media. The bottom line is that perhaps we should stop playing the game and invest in education instead. That will be better for the country, no?

grigor said...

Here is how federation should react to miserable defeats. If Kazakhstan can do it we can do it too no?


"How long should we endure it?" the Kazakhstan FA secretary general Sayan Khamitzhanov said.

"We in the federation are ashamed of the existing situation and we all must apologise to the country's fans for it. We will start seeking a new coach today."

Here is the source,

When was it the last time people in our federation were ashamed of anything?