On Saturday, Armenia and Turkey played a qualifying match for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in Yerevan. It was a qualifier like any other with goals, early-season tensions, playing rhythms and passing combinations not yet quite up to scratch – to sum up, a game played at the start of September.
What made this fixture somewhat exceptional, however, was the historical context of the game. One has to imagine two countries with a common border, who ignore each other and who have not had any relations for 90 years – certainly a unique case in world terms.
UEFA President Michel Platini underlined the importance of the occasion, saying: "Football is our world. Consequently, it is not our intention to analyse the reasons for this state of affairs. However, it must be emphasised today that football has, once again, brought people closer together. A president of Turkey has visited Armenia for the first time. The Turkish national anthem was played and respected in Yerevan. There was great emotion on both sides, and my representatives in Yerevan tell me that the match was played in an exemplary spirit.
"I would like to take this opportunity to thank the two associations and the players. They have provided an extraordinary example of the power of sport's spirit, and have sent out a considerable message of hope in a region which has a great need of such messages."
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