Manchester’s Armenians preparing traditional welcome for Old Trafford recruit Mkhitaryan

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Manchester’s Armenians preparing traditional welcome for Old Trafford recruit Mkhitaryan

By Siranush Ghazanchyan

By Matt Ford / Mancunian Matters - 7/7/2016

Henrikh Mkhitaryan is set to become the first Armenian to wear the famous red of Manchester United following his £26 million transfer from Borussia Dortmund, but he’s not the first Armenian to make England’s north west his home.

The 27-year-old attacking midfielder, who scored an impressive 23 goals in 51 games for the German club last season, and set up 32 more, will join an established Armenian community which has lived in Manchester for generations.
And Artur Bobikyan, head of the Holy Trinity Armenian Church on Upper Brook Street which forms the centre of Manchester’s Armenian community, says that Armenians in the city are looking forward to welcoming their compatriot.
“We’re really proud of Henrikh and he is such a humble guy,” says Artur, speaking to MM at the Armenian Taverna restaurant on Albert Square.
“He’s a brilliant player and we hope he’s going to score a lot of goals for United.”
The first Armenians to arrive in Manchester were textile merchants in the first half of the 19th century and by 1862 there were around 30 Armenian firms operating in “Cottonopolis.”
The Holy Trinity church opened its doors on Easter Sunday 1873 by which time there were over 2,000 Armenians living in the north west of England.
Manchester’s Armenian community today numbers around 400 people, many of whom gathered on 3 July to celebrate Vardavar, the annual festival during which Armenians drench each other with water.
“We invited Mkhitaryan to our Vardavar celebration at the church,” says Artur, who is also a concert pianist and composer.
“We said to him: ‘Come here and we’ll wet you properly!’ We’re sure he will turn up at church at some point.
“Media interest in Armenia is huge and I’ve already had requests from friends of mine at home asking for reports, so it’s going to be big.
“Everyone in Armenia is talking about him.”
Football is the most popular sport in Armenia and Mkhitaryan is the top scorer in the history of the national team with 19 goals in 59 appearances.
His father, Hamlet Mkhitaryan, played for Armenian side Ararat Yerevan in the 1980s, scoring 46 goals in 170 games in the former Soviet Top League, before dying of a brain tumour in 1996 when Henrikh was just seven.
“I believe playing for such a great club honours my father’s memory, and the inspiration and drive he gave to me when I was young,” reads Henrikh’s

statement on the club’s website.

Artur, who played football on the pitches behind the seminary with the other priests when he was studying to join the clergy, recalls how everyone remembers when Ararat won the Soviet championship in 1973.
“Sport was very important and especially football. The Soviet Union contained over a dozen different countries so it was a very big deal back then.”
Football faces competition from another of Armenia’s favourite pastimes – chess.
Armenia has more chess grandmasters per capita than any other country in the world and chess lessons have formed a compulsory part of the school curriculum since 2011.
“The President of Armenia is a great chess player and he supports it, so they encourage chess from a young age,” explains Artur.
“It’s great to exercise the mind. If you walk around the back streets of Yerevan, you will see men playing chess in the shade – and kids playing football, obviously.
“Football is still really big now. Perhaps not compared to the Spanish or Latin countries as we are a very small nation – it’s about quality rather than quantity!”
Armenia might be a pawn in the world of professional football, but in Henrikh Mkhitaryan, United hope to have found their own grandmaster to keep their rivals in check.
And despite missing the Vandavar festival this year, he probably won’t have to wait too long to get drenched in Manchester either.


L’international arménien Henrikh Mkhitaryan au Manchester United : mon rêve est devenu réalité – 7/7/2016

Mercredi 6 juillet l’annonce tant attendue a été réalisée avec l’Arménien Henrikh Mkhitaryan (27 ans) le milieu offensif du Borussia Dortmund qui a signé au Manchester United pour quatre saisons et une supplémentaire en option. L’international arménien est apparu en compagnie de l’entraîneur de Manchester United le Portugais José Mourinho. Ce dernier a loué les qualités d’Henrikh Mkhitaryan « qui va beaucoup apporter au club par son jeu collectif et ses talents ». Mkhitaryan qui compté la saison dernière 23 buts et 32 passes décisives en 51 rencontres toutes compétitions confondues avec Borussia Dortmund. L’Arménien qui est de loin le plus grand réalisateur de passes décisives d’Europe cette saison devant Angel Di Maria (24 passes décisives en 47 matches) et Lionel Messi (23 en 49 matches).
Visiblement enchanté par son transfert Henrikh Mkhitaryan a déclaré sur le site officiel de son nouveau club « Je suis très fier de rejoindre Manchester United, c’est un rêve qui devient réalité. Je suis excité à l’idée de jouer dans un club avec une si belle histoire et j’espère en faire partie durant un long moment ». L’Arménien qui a remercié José Mourinho pour sa confiance, sera à Manchester United en compagnie de deux autres nouvelles recrues, Eric Bailly et Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Henrikh Mkhitaryan après une saison exceptionnelle en Bundesliga est à 27 ans au sommet de sa carrière. Le montant de son transfert est estimé à 38 millions d’euros, relativement peu élevé car le contrat de Mkhitaryan avec Borussia Dortmund prenait fin dans un an. Henrikh Mkhitaryan qui a passé une partie de sa jeunesse en France -son père Hamlet joueur professionnel venu d’Arménie a évolué quatre ans à Valence (Drôme) avant de partir pour la région parisienne et rentrer en Arménie pour disparaitre à 34 ans- a une pensée pour son père qui aurait été si fier de le voir ainsi au sommet du football européen adulé par les meilleurs clubs d’Europe.


Henrikh Mkhitaryan: Honored to be the first Armenian in the Premier League – Video

By Siranush Ghazanchyan


“It’s an honour for me to be the first Armenian in the Premier League,” Henrikh Mkhitaryan said in an interview with Manchester United TV.

Mkhitaryan said he is “very proud” to sign for Manchester United, adding: “This move is a dream come true for me.

“I am excited to play for a club with such an illustrious history and hope to be part of it for a long time.
“I thank the trust the club and Jose Mourinho have put in me.
“Finally, I believe playing for such a great club honours my father’s memory, and the inspiration and drive he gave to me when I was young.”
“A Dream come true!” Mkhitaryan wrote on Facebook.
‘I am very proud and excited to join Manchester United, a club which I have always admired for its great history and amazing fans. Can’t wait to work with the coach and my new teammates!” the Armenian international added.


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