Image credit: Gevorg Ghazaryan
The CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup 2019 has been a festival of culture as well as football. Every day in the host cities there have been events taking place, including large concerts in Stepanakert in the evenings.
Organisers also took advantage of the two rest days to show off the best of Artsakh to those who have travelled out to watch and report on the tournament.
On Wednesday 5 June, teams, referees, volunteers, press and the CONIFA Executive Committee travelled to Shushi, the cultural capital of Artsakh. The day trip began with a visit to the State Museum of Fine Arts, Sculpture Grove, and the Money Museum.
After soaking up some art and history, the trip made its way to the spectacular Canyon of Hunot, offering breathtaking vistas and plenty of photo opportunities for the participants.
For lunch, an enormous picnic of Artsakh delicacies was laid on in a park on the outskirts of Shushi. Players, press and Artsakhians alike danced to folk music – fuelled by plenty of local wine.
Journalists had the chance to interview Grigori Martirosyan, State Minister of the Republic of Artsakh, and Narine Aghabalyan, Minister of Education, Science and Sport, who also led toasts with the picnic guests.
The evening offered the chance for some slightly more relaxed football at the Stepanakert stadium, with the now-legendary CONIFA vs Media game, in which the Media ran out winners in a penalty shoot-out after an entertaining 4-4 draw.
The press were treated to another rest day on Friday 7 June, with volunteers taking many of the visiting press around some of the most important historical sites in the country.
The day began with a quick look around Stepanakert’s open-air market, and trying some zhengyalov hats –the herby bread that can be found everywhere in Artsakh. The press then proceeded to Gandzasar, a 10th-century hilltop monastery, offering amazing panoramas around the region.
A bumpy minibus ride followed, culminating in Tigranakert. Here, they looked around the 18th-century castle hosting an exhibition on this ruined, pre-Christian city built by Tigran the Great, as well as the excavation site itself.
All participants enjoyed the opportunity to get to know the country, which has hosted a fantastic tournament.