STEPANAKERT—The recently formed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic soccer team will be eligible to compete on the international arena, reported Lusine Musayelyan for the RFE/RL Armenian Service.
The team’s coach Sarkis Aghajanyan said the Karabakh team will be second Armenian national team after Armenia’s national soccer team.
The Karabakh team will compete within the Non-Recognized States’ Soccer Association, which was established in 2003 in Liege, Belgium and works to organize friendly matches between non-recognized states.
The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic joined Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Trans-Dnester, Kosovo and Tibet in this year’s competitions.
“The first match will take place on in Sukhumi, Abkhazia on September 25 and on October 22 we will host the same team in Stepanakert. This is the beginning. This will continue until we become recognized and become members of the European Soccer Federation (UEFA),” added Aghajanyan.
“This is one of the major steps in our post-war reality. This is our only chance to enter the international arena and stand under our national flag with our national anthem. This is already a different feeling,” said Aghajanyan.
The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic soccer team is financed through the state budget, which this year has an earmark of 70 million drams. This amount, according to Aghajanyan, allows the team to not fall behind on training. The team players are mainly 19- to 20-year old athletes, who, according to the coach, lack experience.
Aghajanyan reassured, however, the people of Karabakh do not like to lose.
“Although unrecognized, we now have a status that allows us to compete in matches. The entire world and the UEFA will see this,” said Aghajanyan.
Azerbaijan has impeded the participation of the Karabakh team in any competition thus far, including one against Armenia’s national team.
Until now, the Karabakh soccer team was held hostage to Soviet politics. In 1987, when the Karabakh movement had just started the Kirovabad team lost to Stepanakert 3 to 1, following which clashes took place between Armenian and Azeri team during subsequent matches. As a result, the Soviet government mandated the Stepanakert team play its home games in other Azeri regions.