The bulk of the tickets for the upcoming crunch game in Yerevan between Armenia’s and Russia’s national football teams will be sold only to Armenian citizens for security reasons, officials said on Tuesday.
The two teams will play each other on March 26 as part of their ongoing qualifying campaign for the next European soccer championship to be co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine in 2012. They both had been drawn into Group B of the qualifying tournament.
Russia is top of the table after four matches played last fall. Armenia as well as the Republic of Ireland and Slovakia trail the Russians by two points.
Following a run of good results, unfancied Armenia emerged as surprise packages at the Euro 2012 campaign. The forthcoming match against Russia and its return leg to be played in Moscow in June will be critical for its qualification ambitions.
Complying with European soccer rules, the Armenian Football Federation (AFF) has already reserved roughly ten percent of some 15,000 seats at Yerevan’s Vazgen Sarkisian Republican Stadium for Russian football fans. The tickets will be distributed through the Russian Football Union.
Sales of the remaining tickets got underway in Yerevan on Monday. In an apparent effort to prevent ticket-touting, the AFF banned box offices from selling more than four tickets to a single buyer.
The federation also announced that buyers will have to produce Armenian passports. Its spokesman, Tigran Israelian, said the unprecedented measure is aimed at keeping maverick Russian fans from attending the game and mingling with the home crowd.
“This is done for security considerations,” Israelian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “We want to make sure that traveling fans don’t get hold of more tickets. We have already allocated tickets to them for a reserved section of the stadium.”
“We don’t want to have incidents at the stadium during the match,” he said.
Preparations for the match were marred last month by an Armenian newspaper allegation that Russia has offered Armenia to throw the game in return for a hefty material compensation. The AFF’s chairman, Ruben Hayrapetian, angrily denied the allegation.