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Armenia always a football hotbed

Armenia's football history began officially in the 1990s but its traditions stretch back further.

Armenia always a football hotbed
Armenia always a football hotbed ©AFP/Getty Images

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 FFA). The FFA 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 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 elite 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 FFA 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 was opened on 1 September 2010 providing not only a training camp for Armenia's national sides but also for a youth academy.

In 2014, a football academy was founded in Gyumri, which provided an opportunity to develop football in the north of Armenia. This was followed two years later by the opening of another academy in Vanadzor. 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 FFA 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.


Armen Melikbekyan

Armen Melikbekyan
Armen Melikbekyan©FFK

Nationality: Armenian
Date of birth: 10 May 1980
Association president since: 2019

• Armen Melikbekyan has worked as a journalist and literary critic, as well as in the academic sector. From 1997 to 2002, he studied at the State Linguistic University, following this with PhD studies until 2005. He was a foreign literature teacher at the same university for five years until 2010.

• His initial work as a sports journalist included a stint at the public TV service from 1999 to 2000, and he has gained vast experience as a website journalist and editor over a number of years. From 2003 to 2016, he also worked as sports analyst on Armenian television services, and has also written for newspapers.

• Armen Melikbekyan was deputy CEO at the Football Federation of Armenia from 2005 to 2008, and was appointed as the association’s general secretary in September 2018  He was elected FFA president in December 2019.


General secretary

Artur Azaryan

Artur Azaryan
Artur Azaryan©FFA

Nationality: Armenian
Date of birth: 19 January 1987
Association general secretary since: 2020

• Yerevan-born Artur Azaryan studied at his home city’s State University Faculty of International Relations, and was awarded a masters’ degree in 2009. Five years later, he was also awarded a candidate’s degree in historical sciences.

• Azaryan first worked for the Football Federation of Armenia in 2007. Since then he has taken up management roles in, among others, the departments of licensing and football, as was assistant technical director from 2010 to 2018.

• After serving as deputy FFA general secretary from October 2018 to January 2020, Azaryan was appointed as the association’s general secretary.