Ruben Hayrapetian, the controversial chairman of the Armenia Football Federation (AFF), on Wednesday accused unnamed players of Armenia’s national soccer team of deliberately losing its last competitive game.
Hayrapetian made the allegations in an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) following a series of street protests staged by Armenian football fans demanding his resignation.
The angry fans hold him responsible for the team’s poor performance in the qualifying campaign for the 2016 European football championship that will take place in France. They point to his long-running interference in the selection of players and failure to hire a renowned coach.
Hundreds of young people mostly affiliated with the biggest local fan group, the First Armenian Front, scuffled with riot police as they rallied outside the AFF building in Yerevan on Tuesday.
Armenia ended the Euro 2016 campaign on October 11 with a 0-3 home defeat to Albania. The victory allowed the Albanian team to qualify for a major tournament for the first time in its history.
Subsequent reports in the Albanian and Serbian media claimed that Albanian football executives paid four Armenian players 2 million euros ($2.2 million) to throw the game. The AFF declined to respond to the allegations.
Hayrapetian spoke of “treason” committed by Armenian footballers but refused to name any of them. “Thirty minutes into the game [with Albania] I realized that,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
“I think this is what happened and we must expose that and name those people,” he said. “We just need to prove that. This is my personal opinion. We don’t have evidence right now, but I think we will have it.”
Hayrapetian claimed that he was too shocked to discuss the matter with the Armenian players immediately after the October 11 match. “When the team gathers for the next training camp I will definitely talk about that,” he said, adding that his allegations are not based on the Albanian and Serbian media reports.
The AFF chief went on to reject the resignation calls. “They can’t force me to quit,” he said. “I don’t think I have done a bad job. I will resign only after proving that I’ve done a good job.”
A wealthy businessman close to the Armenian government, Hayrapetian has a long history of violent and abusive behavior. As recently as in August, he avoided prosecution despite admitting that he beat up another entrepreneur who was hospitalized with serious injuries.
And in September, Hayrapetian was implicated in a brutal attack on a member of an Armenian group critical of the government. He denied the any involvement when he was questioned by law-enforcement authorities last month.