On Saturday night, Armenia and Turkey will go head-to-head in their Euro 2024 qualifier in a clash that goes beyond football.
These teams have only played twice since Armenia’s declaration of independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 – during the 2010 World Cup qualifiers. “This is just a football match, not a war. We cannot carry the weight of history on our shoulders,” Fatih Terim told reporters before the match.
However, the two countries do not have diplomatic relations, and their 193-mile land border is closed. Their rivalry stems from Turkey’s refusal to recognize the Armenian Genocide that preceded each country’s founding, yet UEFA allows them to play each other.
However, some countries are considered too dangerous to face each other.
Russia vs. Ukraine
Russia and Ukraine have been separated by UEFA since 2014 – when conflicts broke out in the Donbas region of Ukraine.
However, the two sides clashed at the 2021 European Futsal Championship, just weeks before Vladimir Putin’s troops crossed the border and began a siege of Kiev. That evening, Ukrainian fans chanted: “Putin is an a***head.”
This was met with a reaction over the PA system: “Please stop singing political songs. If it continues, the referee will stop the game.” In 11-a-side matches, Russia and Ukraine have not played each other since 2007.
Armenia vs. Azerbaijan
Europe’s ‘forgotten war’ still sees a flourishing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh – also known as Artsakh.
Internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, it is ethnically Armenian – causing the two sides to clash in a bitter conflict. It is interesting that FK Qarabag – which played in the Champions League in recent seasons – is technically from the region.
Qarabag, who play in Azerbaijan, fled the conflict in 1993, moving to Baku: the capital of Azerbaijan, where they were heavily funded by the government. In Azerbaijan they look at them as a wonderful fairy tale, while in Armenia they laugh at it as a PR exercise to support their claim.
Kosovo against Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Russia
When Kosovo received status from FIFA and UEFA, they were almost instantly banned from facing Serbia – who also claim the region.
Kosovo declared its independence 15 years ago, after the civil war in Yugoslavia. However, they faced numerous challenges because some countries did not recognize the new state: in addition to Serbia, there are Russia, China and Spain.
Due to lingering tensions in the Balkans, Kosovo cannot face Bosnia – while Russia cannot face Kosovo, with UEFA citing security risks.
Spain v Gibraltar
Another disputed territory means the two UEFA sides must be separated in the qualifiers and – if Gibraltar miraculously qualifies – in the tournaments.
Gibraltar is an overseas region of the United Kingdom, ceded to the United Kingdom under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. However, Spain still has a claim to the region – and playing them in an international match would recognize their independence.
This is the same reason why Spain does not recognize Kosovo, because of their attitude towards Gibraltar.
Palestine vs. Israel
In a similar situation to the previous entry, both Palestine and Israel claim the same area. And their bitter conflict often makes the headlines.
Because of Israel’s treatment of Palestine, the Arab world refused to play them, leading to Israel qualifying for the 1958 World Cup without playing a single game. In the 1980s, Israel left the AFC, which meant it entered Oceania’s qualifiers for two World Cups.
Israeli clubs began participating in European club competitions in 1991, and their football association became a full member of UEFA in 1994.
READ THE FOLLOWING: