The field of dreams – and the stands around it
As a national arena of 14,400 capacity, the Republican Stadium suits Armenia’s needs perfectly. Filled for the visits of Russia, Portugal and the Czech Republic in recent qualifying campaigns, it looks impressive enough inside and out. The grandiose colonnades, the elegant façade with figures from classical antiquity, Armenian flags and bas-reliefs, all help visiting dignitaries feel as if they are in the capital of a country of some standing.
Come here for a league fixture, however, and it’s a different story, the blocks of red, blue and orange seating empty, the colours of the Armenian flag fully visible to all. The ticket office closed as admission is free anyway, the game played out in silent duty.
Currently, both 2018 title-winners Alashkert and ten-time consecutive champions Pyunik use the Republican Stadium for home fixtures, as well as their own grounds.
The last tenants, Ulisses FC, folded halfway through the 2015-16 season, despite four recent European campaigns and a title win in 2011. In a previous guise, they were Dinamo 2000 Yerevan, with convoluted links to the original club who built and named the stadium Dinamo in the early 1930s. Dissolved in 2008, Dinamo were Armenia’s first representatives in the Soviet top flight.
Ironically, it was their great rivals Spartak Yerevan, forerunners of Ararat, who played the curtain-raiser here against KBKT Moscow in June 1935 after architect Koryun Hakobyan created an oval ground encircled by a ring neo-classical colonnades.
Their stadium was renovated in 1963, superseded less than a decade later by the Hrazdan Stadium for top international fixtures, before being completely overhauled in 1999. The colonnades remain, echoing the stadium’s Soviet heritage.
That same year, as $3 million-plus was being spent on stadium modernisation, five gunmen stormed the National Assembly in Yerevan and assassinated prime minister Vazgen Sargsyan and several leading ministers. Sargsyan had commanded Armenian forces during the war with Azerbaijan and was considered a national hero. The attackers cited government corruption as the reason for their deed, no other motives came to light.
The rebuilt stadium took Sargsyan’s name and a plaque of his likeness was placed at the main entrance.
The first competitive fixture here was a cracker, Armenia going 2-0 up against Ukraine in October 2000, at stake a place at the 2002 World Cup. Andrei Shevchenko then got two back as Ukraine ran out 3-2 winners. The attendance hit 16,000 for the game with Spain three years later, but capacity has since been reduced to 14,400 with more VIP sections installed in 2008.
For international fixtures, the security system now means that entry is through electronic gates triggered by a barcode on your match ticket – ominously, the official FA video explaining this discourages spectators from entering with guns.
The stadium is laid out in the same oval shape as devised in the 1930s, with a roof one of the recent additions. For international fixtures, away fans are usually allocated a section behind the north goal, diagonally opposite the corner containing the Dinamo sports hall. For domestic games, there are hardly any fans at all.
Going to the stadium – tips and timings
Republican Stadium is about a 15-minute walk from focal Republic Square – head down Aram Street, past the Vernissage market, over the main road, then down Vardanants Street, taking a left at Simon Vratsyan Street.
If you’re coming from the airport or the train station, alight at Zoravar Andranik metro station. Take Yervand Kochar Street, past the Tashir mall, turn right at the Thailand Centre, right again, and you’re on Simon Vratsyan Street.
A taxi from either Republic Square or the metro station shouldn’t cost more than AMD800/£1.25.
Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much
Admission is free for all domestic fixtures. For international ones, arrange tickets beforehand through your country’s association or your club.
Where to Drink
Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors
There are no bars in the immediate vicinity of the stadium. The nearest outlet for drinks is Citrus, a basic provider of beer at the junction of Yervand Kochar and Vardanants. Other cheap eateries are dotted around the lake in the nearby greenery, possibly worth a stop on a hot afternoon.