The collapse of the USSR and Armenia's declaration of independence in 1991 were significant moments in the country's sporting life as well as in its political history. From a footballing perspective those events prompted the founding, on 17 January 1992, of the Football Federation of Armenia (Hayastani Futboli Federacia or HFF). The HFF duly became a member of the game's world and European governing bodies, FIFA and UEFA, in the same year.
During the Soviet era, Armenian teams had played in the USSR football system, enjoying their most successful period in the 1970s. In 1973 the country's leading team FC Ararat Yerevan achieved a golden double by winning both the USSR championship – topping the Soviet top flight ahead of FC Dynamo Kyiv and FC Dinamo Moskva – and the Soviet Cup, beating Dynamo Kyiv in the final. Ararat lifted the cup for a second time in 1975, having also finished as league championship runners-up in 1971 and 1976. Wider repute came the way of the capital club when they reached the European Champion Clubs' Cup quarter-finals in 1974/75, losing 2-1 on aggregate to FC Bayern München.
Given those achievements, it is no surprise that Armenia's footballers also won international caps with the USSR. The most famous of these talented players were Eduard Margarov and Khoren Hovhannisyan who took part in the FIFA World Cup final tournaments of 1966 and 1982 respectively. Hovhannes Zanazanyan and Arkadi Andriasyan, meanwhile, claimed football bronze medals at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, a feat matched by Hovhannisyan at the Moscow Games eight years later.
Since 1992 the country's élite footballers have competed in the Armenian Premier League or Hayastani Bardzraguyn khumb. This eight-team division runs from the spring to the autumn, with each side playing the other seven twice at home and twice away. The HFF is also involved in organising the Armenian Independence Cup, which was first contested in 1992, the Super Cup, a national futsal championship and various youth tournaments.
The European club competitions are another challenging frontier for Armenian football, whose representatives routinely begin each campaign in the qualifying rounds of the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League. In recent seasons FC Pyunik, in the UEFA Champions League, and FC Banants, in the UEFA Cup, have won qualifying ties before falling at the next hurdle of the preliminaries.
The national team made their competitive debut in qualification for the 1996 UEFA European Championship. Armenia kicked off with a 2-0 defeat in Belgium on 7 September 1994 yet also made history in that EURO '96 campaign. The team recorded their first competitive victory when they won 2-1 in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on 6 September 1995. Since then Armenia have been a permanent fixture in EURO and World Cup qualifying tournaments, earning the notable achievement of finishing third in their UEFA EURO 2012 group, during which talismanic FC Shakhtar Donetsk forward Henrikh Mkhitaryan emerged as a player of top international calibre.
On an infrastructure level, work began in 2007 on a national-team training centre and academy with residential facilities. The centre's opening is scheduled for September 2010. The Yerevan Republican Stadium has also been partly redeveloped, with one particular benefit of this initiative being its impressive new playing surface. While Armenia has always considered itself a football country, the aim of the HFF is to earn greater international recognition for the local game on both club and national-team fronts. For this reason it is constantly striving for higher standards.
©UEFA.com 1998-2013. All rights reserved.