Turkish national soccer team beats Armenia in Yerevan

    SPORT  26 March 2023 - 08:57

    The Turkish National Team kicked off their campaign on March 25 with a successful start against their neighbors, Armenia, in Group D, beating the latter 2-1 in Yerevan.

    Orkun Kökçü and Kerem Aktürkoğlu scored for Türkiye, and Ozan Kabak mistakenly scored an own goal for Armenia, Daily Sabah reports.

    Türkiye went behind to an own goal in the 10th minute when Armenia's Kamo Hovhannisyan fired in a cross from the edge of the penalty area and Ozan Kabak's outstretched leg knocked the ball past his goalkeeper Mert Günok in the 10th minute.

    Kökçü equalized in the 35th with a long-range shot into the corner of the goal just beyond Armenia keeper Arsen Beglaryan.

    Aktürkoğlu put the visitors ahead in the 64th minute when Enes Ünal took a quick free kick in his own half, putting the winger through to fire the ball into the corner of the net.

    Armenian football fans eager to win

    Armenian football fans gathered for the Euro 2024 qualifier match in Yerevan, years after the two countries first resorted to "football diplomacy" to heal their historical animosity.

    Shouting "Armenia, forward!" some two hundred members of the local fan club, Red Eagles, gathered in central Yerevan before kick-off later in the day.

    Fans then lit colored flares, threw firecrackers, and beat drums as they marched toward the Vazgen Sargsyan Republican Stadium.

    In the crowd outside the 14,000-capacity stadium under the pouring rain, many blew vuvuzelas and waved Armenia's red-blue-orange national flags.

    "We are in a fighting mood; we have come for a victory," a Red Eagles' member Karen Antonyan, 36, told AFP.

    "The spirit and passion of our players will help them to prevail over the strong and experienced adversary."

    Another fan, 20-year-old Mane Zurabyan, said she was confident in her team's win.

    "We will help our team with our crazy energy; the stadium will tremble from our shouts and applause," she said.

    All tickets were sold for the match, but citing security concerns, the governing body of football in Europe, UEFA, has banned Turkish fans from attending the qualifier in Yerevan.

    Armenian fans were banned from the return fixture in Türkiye in September.

    Hovik Arustanyan, 46, said his team's success depended on "whether our footballers will manage to forget politics and concentrate on the game."

    Armenia and Türkiye have never established formal diplomatic relations, and their shared border has been closed since the 1990s.

    The two countries first played each other in Yerevan in 2008 in attendance of Türkiye's then-president Abdullah Gül.

    In 2009 Armenia's leader Serzh Sarkisian traveled to the Turkish city of Bursa to watch a second game between the two countries.

    Commonly referred to as "football diplomacy," the matches marked the beginning of a diplomatic normalization process.

    On March 24, Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan said the two countries plan to permanently open their borders, which have been closed for 35 years.


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