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April 16, 2014

CONIFA Visits Nagorno Karabakh: “For Us You Are a Peace Mission”

Last week a CONIFA delegation went on an official visit to Nagorno-Karabakh. Thanks to the local Football Association it became a more than an enjoyable trip. Our General Secretary, Sascha Düerkop, even got to meet the President. “We support everything that is good for our people and so we support CONIFA.”

A pleasant journey from the airport in Yerevan, through the Caucasus mountains, to Stepanakert, followed by a very warm welcome from Karen Vanyan, the general secretary of the Nagorno-Karabakh FA, and Armen Sargsyan. That’s how the first official CONIFA visit to this small but vivid country started. Karen and Armen hosted our delegation in the perfect hotel, brought us to the national stadium, guided us in the direction of the most interesting tourist locations and introduced us to a lot of important officials and politicians.

More than 40 players

In the national stadium – a comfortable place with 8000 seats – there was a first meeting with the National Coach: Mher Avanesyan (40). The former striker scored more than 100 goals in the Armenian League. Now he is very ambitious with the national team of Artsakh (an ancient name for Nagorno-Karabakh, often used by the locals). “I played myself for the Armenia national team, and when the Artsakh national team was established I was of course part of it. This national team is important for all of us. I have about 40 players in mind for the World Football Cup, and they all want to play for their country. Our biggest ambition: showing Artsakh. We want to get good results, but even more important is representing our people.”

Mister Samuel Karapetyan, the President of the Football Association, confirms the words of his coach. Karapetyan, who is also the President of the Union of Artsakh Freedom Fighters, said the following: “Everybody has to represent his own country. Football is the ideal way to do it. We regretfully had to spend some time on the battle field, now we want to show our nation on the football field too. We have not be recognised by the world, we’re very happy that we can be a part of CONIFA. We invite all members to come over and play here. We will improve our stadium and field. Our collaboration is an important step for the further development of football in Artsakh.”

Presidential support

The ambition of Nagorno-Karabakh within CONIFA became very clear in the way they welcomed us and even more by who welcomed us. Our General Secretary got interviewed by newspapers and television stations, and each time it was a struggle for him to be not too enthusiastic. His most used words: brilliant and fantastic. And he used the words even more after his meeting with… Mr Karen Mirzoyan, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Mr Bako Sahakyan, the President of the Republic of Artsakh. Yes, these Senior Politicians made time for our delegation.

“Because we are very interested in CONIFA”, declares Mr Mirzoyan. “International exchange is important, it gives us an opportunity to be a part of the world. I believe in the CONIFA concept, in the way you promote the Olympic idea – that football can bring peace to the world. For me you are a peace mission. I support everything that is good for our people, and so I support CONIFA. We shall do everything to make CONIFA and our collaboration a success.”

“You have our full support.” With them words the President of the Republic of Artsakh welcomed us. “We want to bring people together through football. And show the world that Nagorno-Karabakh is a well-developed, stable and welcoming country”, declares the President.“We hope one day we can organize a big tournament over here, and play a lot of games with the other teams. Our biggest wish is to connect with the rest of the world, and football is the right way to do it.”

The President ended our meeting with quite intelligent words: “But you cannot get results at the table. It’s not about words, it’s about acts.” And yes, that’s the way we think about it: let’s get ready for some action!

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By Robin Toal

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