Ruben Hayrapetian, the controversial chairman of the Football Federation of Armenia (FFA), said on Friday that he will not step down despite a promise given two years ago.
Hayrapetian faced street protests and resignation calls by angry fans in Yerevan after the Armenian national team failed to qualify for the 2016 European football championship in France. They held him responsible for the team’s poor performance, pointing to his interference in the selection of team players and failure to hire a renowned coach.
Meeting with a group of other soccer fans in November 2015, Hayrapetian said he will resign if Armenia also fails in the qualifying campaign for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
The squad captained by the Manchester United midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan lost seven of its ten competitive matches played in 2016 and 2017. It finished fifth in a qualifying group that included six European teams.
“I want to disappoint those people who are awaiting my resignation,” Hayrapetian told a news conference. “No, I’m not going to resign.”
Hayrapetian insisted that he is not breaking any promises, saying that his 2015 statement was never valid because he made it during an unofficial “friendly conversation.” “I would ask those who doubt my keeping my word or my masculine traits to study me thoroughly … I have never broken any pledges and have always been true to my word,” he declared.
Hayrapetian said he too is unhappy with the national team’s performance but believes its head coach, Artur Petrosian, can turn things around. “Serious conclusions have been drawn and will be drawn and there will certainly be changes in the national team,” he said.
He further made clear that he intends to continue running the FFA in the years ahead. “I don’t see anyone else who can build on what I have created or at least not ruin it,” he said.
A wealthy businessman and influential government ally commonly known as “Nemets Rubo,” Hayrapetian has long been dogged by controversy resulting from his reportedly violent conduct. As recently as in August 2015, he avoided prosecution despite admitting that he beat up another entrepreneur.
He was subsequently implicated in a violent attack on a member of an Armenian group critical of the government. He denied any involvement when questioned by law-enforcement authorities.
In 2012, Hayrapetian was forced to step down as parliament deputy representing the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) following a brutal attack on several army medics who dined at a Yerevan restaurant owned by his family. One of them, Vahe Avetian, died while two others were seriously injured after arguing with men working at the restaurant.