Armenian national team disobeyed UEFA isolation regulations in Estonia

The Armenian men's national football team visited the Armenian Apostolic Church in Tallinn on Wednesday.
The Armenian men's national football team visited the Armenian Apostolic Church in Tallinn on Wednesday. Source: Football Federation of Armenia/Facebook

The Armenian men's national football team, who travelled to Estonia in the beginning of the week for Wednesday's UEFA Nations League match, directly disobeyed isolation and safety regulations established by the governing body of European football, UEFA.

The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) has set up a regulatory protocol called the "UEFA Return to Play Protocol" for all matches played under its auspices, portal reported.

The protocol, published on August 5, touches on national delegations' stay in hotels on away trips and forbids teams from leaving the hotel at any point "unless it is under previously agreed and organised conditions and does not involve coming into contact with anyone outside of their group."

However, during their visit to Estonia, the Armenian team posted pictures on social media of their visit to the Armenian Apostolic Church in Tallinn and of a meeting with youth players and parents of local Armenian football club FC Ararat.

UEFA's protocol does allow for tours to be organized for longer road trips but Armenia's two-day stay in Estonia comes far from falling under that specification.

The governing body of European football responded to's inquiry about the Armenian team's actions before kick-off on Wednesday: "UEFA can confirm that the match Estonia - Armenia will take place on the scheduled time. There are no further comments."

Mihkel Uibo, spokesperson for the Estonian Football Association's (EJL) said options were limited after the Armenian team's actions came to light. "It is a complicated situation. The match will take place and consequences must be dealt with. The solutions have one more factor: if all Armenian players give a coronavirus test after the match and all turn out to be negative. Then we know that negative players were on the pitch."

Uibo continued on ETV's "Aktuaalne kaamera": "Of course, if there are corona-positive players, it is commonly understood. We do not want to put any players in risk or take any unjustified risks, but as you mentioned, there were no other options [on Wednesday] and the match had to be played."

Estonian team must quarantine after their match against Armenia

One of the personnel for the Armenian national team was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Monday, September 12.

The director of the Health Board (Terviseamet) Üllar Lanno wrote in a press release before the match: "Although the doctor for the Armenian national team stated the infected person had no contact with any of the players, all 47 members of the delegation arrived in Estonia on one charter flight. Therefore, nobody can make a guarantee when it comes to contact within the team."

As of the Health Board's and the EJL agreed rules, the Estonian national team must now isolate after Wednesday's match, which ended in a 1:1 draw.

Interview with Health Board chief Üllar Lanno

Director of the Health Board Üllar Lanno joined ETV's daily affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" on Wednesday to discuss the isolation and safety regulations of the match.

How would you comment on the actions of Armenian footballers? What did you do when you heard the team moved around town, regardless of the restrictions?

We received a note from the association on Tuesday that one of the staff members of the Armenian national team gave a positive test. The so-called corona detectives traced all close contacts, a part of the team members, who we also asked to take a repeat test to confirm they are not infected.

The discussions went successfully, the Armenian team said, yes, they will take new tests. And another message came in just before midnight that the Armenians are not for taking repeat tests.

After our morning department meeting (on Wednesday - ed.) at 10.30 a.m., we set off on a new attempt to test all those people in 30 minutes, a large group of 47 people. This would have technically given us a chance to clarify the situation by 7 p.m., giving our athletes certainty that the risk of infection has been taken to the possible minimum.

They were walking around town, that was unprofessional?

Our own worker, who was in the team's hotel waiting for test results, saw it first-hand.

What does this mean for our national team players, the match was not cancelled?

Actually, the match was hanging by a threat, we had to assess all options of what a cancellation would bring.

As sad as it is, for top athletes, in this case, the Estonian national football team, must be in quarantine until Tuesday (October 20 - ed.), when they are tested again and they can continue their athletic actions then.

If someone turns out to be positive for COVID-19, then another two weeks of quarantine in hotel will tack on. It was a terrible surprise for our athletes.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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