Here is a look back on how Yura changed the fortunes of Armenian national football team, when he joined it in 2010, the anticipated run-up to the match with Russia and the remarkably unlucky game in Dublin.
Movsisyan brings goals, victory to Armenia football
by Emil Sanamyan
October 08, 2010
Washington - Armenia's national soccer team, now competing in the qualification round of the European Cup 2012, is generating fresh excitement by playing its best games in years thanks to a productive offensive line comprising three young and talented players: Edgar Manucharyan, Henrik Mkhitaryan and Yura Movsisyan.
The October 8 3:1 victory over Slovakia, now ranked sixteenth in the world, was the first victory of this scale for Armenians since they beat Poland 1:0 in a 2007 World Cup qualifying game.
Slovakia did well in the last World Cup, where it beat defending champions Italy before losing to the Netherlands, the cup's eventual runners-up. Prior to the game with Armenia, Slovaks were undefeated in the Group B, after beating Russia and Macedonia.
Armenia began the tournament after losing to Iran 1:3 in a friendly and then to Ireland 0:1 in the first qualifier game, both played at home.
But playing away in Macedonia on September 7, Armenia's three forwards exhibited great skill and effort, bringing the team close to victory were it not for a costly defensive mistake at the very end of the match resulting in a penalty award to Macedonia and 2:2 draw.
Movsisyan, 23, who played his first-ever game for Armenia against Iran last August has been at the heart of Armenia's newly re-discovered offensive prowess.
After first showcasing his talents for Kansas City and Salt Lake City teams in the MLS, Movsisyan earlier this year moved to Denmark to play and score for the local Randers side.
Movsisyan has now brought his scoring streak to Armenia, reaching the goal twice in two games and coming close to realizing at least half a dozen other opportunities. Manucharyan and Mkhitaryan scored against Macedonia and Slovakia, respectively.
In a telephone interview just before the tournament, Movsisyan told The Armenian Reporter about his decision to join the national team and hopes for the future.
AR: You have played in MLS from 2006-9 and now you are in Denmark's football league, how did the idea to join the Armenian national team come about?
YM: We have been in talks for a long time. And I considered the options of playing for U.S. or Armenia national teams. And I thought the opportunity was much bigger to play for Armenia, my home country, and to help them reach new heights. That is my biggest goal with regard to Armenia. And meeting with the president two weeks ago (last August) made me decide that it was a right decision.
AR: The fact that Robert Arzumanian from Armenia's national team also plays with you at Randers [in Denmark], did that factor in as well?
YM: Obviously, he gave me information about the national team. But it was more or less for me to decide that that is the route I wanted to go in my international career. So he did help me out with information, but at the end of the day it was my willingness to go play for Armenia.
AR: When did you begin playing football?
YM: Since I was a little kid I always dreamt of football, it was always a dream of mine to play that sport. And when I got to the U.S. [in 2000], obviously I had an opportunity to play in club environment with other kids. After getting to U.S. and having the free will to do what I wanted I chose to play football. And it ended up being the right decision.
AR: During your time at Real Salt Lake, you scored that goal getting Real into playoffs [in 2008], would you say that was the pivotal point in your football career so far, something that caught everyone's attention?
YM: Yes that was a pivotal point in the sense that people began to recognize me around U.S. and the football world. It was a good memory, something that never goes away, because people live off of memories. That was an early turning point in my career and it was good to have that at that early age. To make a big difference for a big club at the young of an age was just a big boost for my career.
AR: In terms of your hopes and expectations for Armenia's national team and the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign?
YM: We definitely have a group from which we can qualify. We have good teams, Ireland, Slovakia, Russia ahead of us, as well as Macedonia and Andorra. But we do think we have a better chance of qualifying now than in previous occasions when we had Spain, Turkey and teams like that in our group.
AR: What's going through your mind ahead of those games?
YM: I am just trying to stay healthy and I know I can help the team out if I play my game. Three of the first four games are at home and the most important thing is to win in those first few games and from there on that brings out a lot of confidence in players and that will help us have a good campaign.
AR: Of course to win games, you have to score goals. And you seem to have the sort of innate ability to score goals very frequently. What is your secret, you think?
YM: I think it just comes from focus, experience and my dedication to what I do. Since I began playing, I have had several years to learn a lot about the game. And now it is the time that I put my talent to use.
AR: On your first trip to Armenia [last August], did something surprise you in a positive or negative way?
YM: I was surprised to see how well Armenia has come along. I think before Armenia was the second- or third-world sort of country. Now Armenia has picked up. And the capital Yerevan was just beautiful with all the new buildings, all the construction underway. So everything that went on really impressed me. All in all, it was a good impression and hopefully it will continue.
Armenians in anticipation of key football battle with Russia
by Emil Sanamyan
Published: Wednesday March 23, 2011
WASHINGTON - On March 26 at 1900 hours local time (11 AM EST), eleven men representing Armenia's national squad will enter the football pitch at Yerevan's Republican Stadium to make history.
For the first time ever, Armenia has significant chances of qualifying for a European Football championship, but first Armenians will have to confront their group favorites Russia in back-to-back matches.
Over the past year, Armenia's newly recruited young talents added unprecedented dynamism to its offensive line, scoring nine goals in four qualification games, while allowing less than half that number.
Those nine goals scored by 22-year-old Henrik Mkhitaryan, 23-year-old Yura Movsisyan, 23-year-old Gevorg Ghazaryan, 24-year-old Edgar Manucharyan and 26-year-old Marcos Pizelli were the product of work ethic, creativity and skill exhibited on the level that Armenians have not seen in their football players in decades.
The five twentysomethings have also benefited from veteran players like goalkeeper Roman Berezovsky, 36, who began playing competitive soccer in his native Kapan in southern Armenia in 1992, and team captain Sargis Hovsepyan, 38, who is two years older than team coach Vardan Minasyan.
On March 26 Armenia squad will try their magic against a Russian team that according to FIFA, the world football organization, is 13th strongest in the world and 10th strongest in Europe. Armenia itself is currently ranked 65th in the world and 34th in Europe.
Both teams come to the game after losses in "friendly" matches. Last month Armenia playing without Movsisyan lost to Georgia 1:2, while Russia lost to Iran 0:1.
Movsisyan has yet to play a full game this year, but has already contributed one goal assist and one goal for FC Krasnodoar, Russia premiere league team he joined earlier this year.
Probably the team's biggest star, Mkhitaryan is playing for Ukrainian champions Shakhter Donetsk that just ousted Italy's FC Roma in UEFA Champions' League and will next face Spain's FC Barcelona.
On March 26 Armenia's success will likely most depend on Mkhitaryan-Movsisyan coordination in getting the ball close to and into the other side's goal, so Movsisyan's time on the field is crucial.
The outcome of the two games with Russia - the one on March 26 in Yerevan and subsequent on June 4 in Russia - may prove decisive for Armenia's qualification chances.
Currently Armenia is sharing the second through fourth spots with Ireland and Slovakia with 7 points each and Russia is leading the qualification group with 9 points. The group leader qualifies automatically while chances of the team that comes second will depend on number of points they had won.
Coach Minasyan has called the following players for the March 26 game:
Goalkeepers: Roman Berezovsky (FC Khimki, Russia), Stepan Ghazaryan (FC Banants);
Defenders: Sargis Hovsepyan (FC Pyunik), Robert Arzoumanyan (FC Yagiellonia, Poland), Ararat Arakelian (FC Banants), Hrait Mkoyan (FC Mika), Hovanes Hambartsumyan (FC Banants), Artak Yedigaryan (FC Pyunik), Artur Yuspashyan (FC Pyunik), Levon Hayarapetyan (FC Lehia), Valery Aleksanyan (FC Uliss);
Midfielders: Artur Yedigarian (FC Pas, Iran), Edgar Malakyan (FC Pyunik), Henrik Mkhitaryan (FC Shakhtar, Ukraine), Karlen Mkrtchyan (FC Pyunik), Artak Daschyan (FC Banants), Levon Pachadjyan (FC Sanat Naft, Iran);
Forwards: Gevorg Ghazaryan (FC Pyunik), Edgar Manucharyan (FC Pyunik), Marcos Pizelli (FC Pyunik), Yura Movsisyan (FC Krasnodar, Russia), Rober Zebelian (Dinamo-Minsk, Belarus).
October 11, 2011
Dream Dashed in Dublin
By Emil Sanamyan
Armenia missed an unprecedented opportunity to qualify for the Euro 2012 championship after losing 1:2 to Republic of Ireland in the October 11 match that was watched with trepidation and later also disbelief and disappointment by Armenians and others around the world.
A clearly unjustified call by a referee red-carding Armenia’s veteran goalkeeper on 26th minute meant that Armenia was left to play most of the match with a man down and goal tended by Arsen Petrosyan, who turned 20 two weeks ago and was making his first international appearance.
Armenia’s troubles were compounded by an own goal just before the end of first half and another at one hour mark. But Armenia players went down fighting, shortening Ireland’s lead three minutes later and staying on attack for remainder of the match.
“Rough justice” as Ireland “compensated” at Armenia’s expense
The two teams played a largely even game the first 25 minutes, with Armenia handling the ball better but Ireland first testing Armenia with Kevin Doyle strike handled with relative ease by Roman Berezovsky; initial efforts by Henrik Mkhitaryan and Yura Movsisyan were off but as in previous games Armenia was setting into a comfortable play while building up for an inevitable offensive on Ireland goal.
More than 50,000 capacity Dublin stadium was only half full and several hundred Armenian supporters were frequently audible with their chants of “Hayer!” and “Hayastan Hup Tur!”
But on 26th minute Armenia was wounded in its most vulnerable spot – the goalkeeper. With Ireland’s Simon Cox charging forward on counterattack, but followed closely by two Armenian defenders, Berezovsky sought to ascertain the charge would be neutralized by leaving his box and stopping the ball with his chest (seconds after Cox himself used his hand to try control the ball as video replay showed).
But Spanish referee interpreted the play against Armenia (unlike NFL, video replays are not consulted by referees in European football), showing Berezovsky a red card and giving Ireland a leg up for the rest of the match.
Hot off the showdown Armenia’s captain Sarkis Hovsepyan told ArmSport.am that he thought the call was an intentional effort to compensate Ireland for the injustice it suffered in its match with France in 2010 World Cup qualification play-off. In that match the referees missed a hand ball by a French player shortly before France scored in added time.Ireland’s football federation at the time formally appealed for the match to be re-played, but UEFA – the European Football Federation – disagreed.
After the Armenia match Irish players and commentators readily admitted that the call was unjustified and that Cox himself handled the ball, but Ireland is unlikely to agree to a replay now.
Movsisyan said the referee’s call was an “embarrassing mistake” and Coach Vartan Minasyan stayed true to his style of not commenting on referee performance. One Irish newspaper called it “rough justice” for Ireland’s grievance against France.
Odds compounded with own goal
Without Berezovsky and man down Armenia nevertheless dominated the remainder of the first half, at one stretch of the game enjoying 71 percent ball possession. But few real threats were posed to Ireland goal and own mistakes eventually made the match unwinnable for Armenia.
Two minutes before the break, Armenia’s defender Valery Aleksanyan sent Ireland’s cross into his own net. But both before and after this devastating mistake Aleksanyan played the match with diligence doing well to repeatedly stop Irish advances.
A minute later Spanish referee showed no compassion for Armenia’s replacement goalkeeper showing Petrosyan a yellow card after he slipped across the box line while handling the ball.
Second half began with Armenia’s first genuine effort on goal, when Movsisyan strike was saved by Shay Given on 46th minute.
The Irish took over the initiative in subsequent quarter of an hour. Starting on 53rd minute Armenia began refreshing its offensive line when Edgar Manucharyan came in for Marcos Pizeelli.
But Armenia was visibly nervous losing the ball on more than a dozen occasions through this stretch culminating in Richard Dunne’s goal from Aiden McGeady’s cross on 60th minute.
(Ironically, just ten days earlier this author watched live as Dunne himself scored an own goal against Given in an English Premier League match for Aston Villa where both play. But this time all irony was at Armenia’s expense.)
Just two minutes later, however, Armenia shortened Ireland’s lead with Mkhitaryan’s strike from twenty meters out. The goal was a twin of Mkhitaryan’s strike against Slovakia in early September and was the first allowed by Ireland since March.
With Artur Sarkisov coming in for Gevorg Ghazaryan, Armenia pressed on but Movsisyan’s and Karlen Mkrtchyan’s efforts went wide and Manucharyan’s header just high.
Towards the end of the half referee seemingly warmed up to Armenia. Doyle was sent off after a second yellow on 81st minute and referee did not appoint a penalty shot against Armenia after an apparent fault by Petrosyan on 83rd minute.
But that proved little help for visibly tired Armenia which mounted just a few attacks in the final few minutes of the match: Given caught the ball after Hovsepyan’s cross and deflected Manucharyan’s strike minutes later.
One dream dashed, will another flourish?
Just over a year ago, only diehard Armenia football fans could have dreamed of the heights since reached by the national football. Since then Armenia scaled up into the Top 50 of world football, for the first time in its history, amazing Armenians and football critics around the world.
Armenia however was not the only success story in this qualification campaign. Both Estonia and Montenegro (each has a population of less than one million people) have made it into playoffs and may yet reach Euro 2012.
With all the progress clearly achieved, and all that has and will be said about referee’s role, the Ireland match also showed Armenia’s weaknesses.
Ultimately it was up to Armenia team to win the match despite the odds presented and it fell short due to own mistakes, lack of resources and steam.
The most glaring hole is one for replacement goalkeeper. Berezovsky now 37 will be 40 by the time of the next major championship, the World Cup. His replacement is both long overdue in coming and has very little time to mature.
Armenia’s defensive play has also much approved with addition of Karlen Mrktchian and Hrair Mkoyan, but defense’s overall performance is yet to catch up with that of the offensive line.
Good news should continue on the offense with the recent addition of Aras Ozbilis, the Turkey-born attacking midfielder who plays for the Dutch champions Ajax.
Already with Movsisyan, Mkhitaryan, Pizzelli and Ghazaryan – and Sarkisov and Manucharyan as subs – Armenia managed 22 goals in ten qualification matches. Only the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Hungary and Spain scored more.
All these players are in the early to mid-20s and will be around to play again. The new generation – the under 21 team – is doing well among its peers providing more reasons for optimism.
Less than a year from now Armenia will begin the qualification campaign for the 2014 World Cup that will be hosted by Brazil. In that campaign Armenia will be competing against Italy, Denmark, Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Malta.
Not the easiest group to qualify from but Armenia will certainly be in contention.
December 11, 2011
Yura Movsisyan: to be the best you must expect the best
After four goals and five assists in nine matches for Armenia in Euro2012 qualification as well as eight goals and three assists for FC Krasnodar club in Russian Premiere League, 24-year-old Yura Movsisyan has emerged as one of the best Armenian athletes anywhere and also an increasingly well-known name in European football.
Movsisyan answered questions, including those submitted by readers via e-mail and Facebook, that The Armenian Reporter’s Emil Sanamyan asked him in a phone interview on December 9 while he was relaxing back in Pasadena.
Just a normal guy who loves Starbucks; khash – not so much
AR: Hello Yura! Now that you have a few days off, how do you begin your day?
YM: First of all, I go and get Starbucks, this is what I miss a lot [in Krasnodar and Yerevan], I have to have my Starbucks. Then it depends on what we, my family need to do, what my parents need, seeing different friends, etc.
AR: So you don’t get the star treatment and have people run errands for you?
YM: No, not at all. I am a normal man and there is nothing special about me.
AR: Any food preferences in LA for you?
YM: When I am back here I just like to eat what I miss in Russia; there are no specific preferences, but I just like to eat a lot when I am back home, and I eat a lot more than I normally do. I just need to get that need out of the way, with all the food that I miss.
AR: Any khash for you during this winter?
YM: I am not a big khash eater, but I eat everything else.
AR: And I guess no alcohol or smoking?
YM: No, not at all.
AR: When people see you arrive to a stadium and you most and other players have earphones on. What sort of music do you make sure to take with you?
YM: I listen to everything, Armenian and anything that has a good beat, anything that keeps me calm. I like a lot of hip hop, European songs.
Respect for other people is key
AR: Your son is now about two years old, how much time do you get to spend with your family?
YM: It is a bit difficult to spend a lot of time with them, because I am always traveling and I am always playing, that is the difficult part. But I try to spend as much time as possible, when I get a little bit of time with them. It is very important to me be home, to see my son.
AR: As a father what do you want to do for your son? What do you want to make sure that he has and learns from you?
YM: First and foremost, I want to make sure he has everything he needs to become a normal person. Another thing, and this was very important for me when I grew up, is to have respect for other people. He is a little kid now, but it needs to start early, I don’t want him to grow up an annoying kid.
AR: Who would you say have been the biggest influences on your life?
YM: My parents and my father especially, as well as my brothers. Being in a new country and not having other relatives here, the family has been very important. And also in terms of playing soccer, they have helped me stay disciplined.
AR: You are very intense on the field and very calm off of it. Are there two Yura’s, one the football player and another the person?
YM: There is not too much difference, but I definitely don’t want to be the same person on the field and off of it, where I just want to be a normal person.
AR: In terms of the game, what is it about football that makes so many people love it and even obsess over it?
YM: People who understand the game know how difficult it is to play and how difficult it is to be a footballer. And I think that’s the main thing that people respect, and the beauty of the game is that you get to score goals, and that’s what people especially love and pay attention to.
Making a name for Armenia and himself, Euro 2012 and beyond
AR: We last interviewed you when you just signed on with Armenia over a year ago. You must have gone to Armenia with certain expectations, have they been realized?
YM: Yes, definitely. From first moment I went to Armenia, I knew what I could do and I was confident in my abilities and everything turned out as I liked it to be. I wanted to make a name for myself and for the Armenian national team, and we did that.
AR: What have been the most memorable highlights?
YM: The beginning of the qualification campaign, in the first game with Ireland that we lost 0:1, I think we did a very good job and showed that we could play against anybody. That started it all and then we started to win games.
We scored seven goals against Slovakia, which has players -particularly defenders - playing for top teams in top leagues including English and Russian.
I think the whole qualification campaign has been the highlight, because every game was important and in every game we were able to step up as a team.
AR: Anything that hasn’t happened?
YM: We were unlucky not to qualify for Euro 2012, but that’s all.
AR: Henrikh Mkhitaryan said that Armenia was “deeply wounded” by the way the last game with Ireland went on, the refereeing etc. Is this how you feel as well?
YM: Yeah, definitely, it is hard to go through something like this as a young team, but it is a learning experience and I hope the guys learn, and we come out strongly in the next qualification.
AR: Have you had a chance to meet Aras Ozbilis who was the latest addition to Armenia team?
YM: Yes, I’ve met him and I think he is a great guy and will help out our national team a lot. He is very excited to play. It is great to have him on the team.
AR: Do you feel any weight of responsibility now that expectations from not just football fans but pretty much all Armenians are so high from the team going forward?
YM: People have the right to have their expectations and it is pretty normal to have those expectations, because if you want to be the best you also have to expect the best.
AR: People want to know how to get a jersey with your name on it and have footballs, posters or photos signed by you?
YM: I know that next year Adidas will be making our national team jerseys and I think those should become available through www.adidas.com. (Ed.: The current maker of national team jerseys Hummel does not sell them at http://www.hummel.dk and other distributors either do not sell named jerseys or have run out.)
For now I have been bringing a few jerseys from Armenia for friends here in LA. For other stuff, people can contact me via Facebook.
Moving up the club ladder in Russia and, perhaps, England
AR: How has been your Russia experience, getting used to Krasnodar?
YM: Obviously, it has been difficult going from LA to Krasnodar. But for me the city is secondary to playing soccer and that is what I do.
AR: There is a large community in that area and Krasnodar itself; have you met local Armenians?
YM: Yes, there is a big number of Armenians there and I definitely met quite a few of them, and they make themselves heard.
AR: Krasnodar has two premier league teams, your Krasnodar is owned by a businessman of Armenian descent Sergey Galitsky and the other is Kuban which is sponsored by Oleg Mkrtchyan, who also sponsors Armenia’s national team. How is that dynamic working out?
YM: The rivalry is there. We had two derby matches, we won one and they won one, so rivalry is just getting bigger.
AR: There have been persistent reports that the top Russian teams, Zenit-St. Petersburg and CSKA-Moscow, are interested in recruiting you. And Yerevan magazine just reported that there may also be interest from English Premiere League. What can you say about that?
YM: Well that is of course interesting, but I really don’t want to comment on any of the teams or any of the leaks because I think that the interest is there and people who need to be working on it are working on it.
AR: Any official transfer news to expect soon?
YM: I don’t know because you never know what teams are thinking.
AR: Do you still follow MLS and your former teams? Real Salt Lake in particular just reached the semi-finals, did you see any of those games?
YM: Yes, definitely, I’ve seen the games and I stay on top of their matches.
AR: Any regrets about not staying put and getting selected for U.S. national team?
YM: No, not all, no regrets.
AR: The soccer camp at Pasadena High School (on December 10), how did that idea come about?
YM: I have done this sort of thing before and I’d like to do these camps on an annual basis, probably every December to give back to the kids. We get a lot of requests from fans, via Facebook, etc. to get together. And it is very important to connect with local kids, to share my knowledge and this is an opportunity.