By Emil Danielyan
The Football Federation of Armenia (FFA) named the new foreign coach of the national soccer team on Wednesday less than a month before the start of its qualifying campaign for the 2008 European Championship.
Ian Porterfield, a veteran British tactician, pledged to bring a "good spirit” to the team as he was presented to the media after signing an 18-month contract with the FFA. “I am looking forward to working here over the next few months,” he said.
Ruben Hayrapetian, the federation chairman, said Porterfield was chosen from a pool of about two dozen foreign specialists that showed interest in the job. Hayrapetian said the 60-year-old Scot’s experience and track record was decisive in the selection process. He refused to disclose any financial details of the deal.
Porterfield managed the Scottish side Aberdeen in the late 1980s and England’s reigning champions Chelsea in the early 1990s before continuing his coaching career abroad. He has coached the national teams of Zambia, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Trinidad and Tobago. His last job was with one of South Korea’s leading football clubs.
Porterfield, who replaces Dutchman Henk Wisman, is the fifth foreigner to take the helm of the Armenian team in the last four years. He faces a daunting task of ending its protracted run of poor results in the European qualifying competitions. He admitted having little knowledge of the squad, saying that he last watched its games in 2003.
Armenia is presently only 104th in the worldwide rankings of national teams that are issued by the game’s governing body, FIFA. It faces Serbia, Belgium, Finland, Poland, Portugal, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan in Group A of 2008 European Championship qualifying.
The Armenians will open their qualifying campaign against Belgium, one of the group favorites, in Yerevan on September 6. Few believe that they stand a chance of qualification.
The competition will see the first-ever games between Armenia and Azerbaijan that are certain to arouse nationalistic passions in the two countries locked in a bitter conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. The FFA wants the matches, tentatively scheduled for September 2007, to be played in Baku and Yerevan. The Azerbaijani side, however, is pushing for a neutral venue, saying that it can not guarantee the security of Armenian players.
A final decision on the issue rests with UEFA, European football’s governing body. It is expected to be announced later this year or early next.
(Photolur photo: Ian Porterfield.)