Lettre 34: Armenia 2 – Ireland 1 (But the Irish moved on to qualify because... I brought our flag early!)

Letter 34: Armenia 2 – Ireland 1 (But the Irish moved on to qualify because... I brought our flag early!)

Vachik, our young corner grocer, about 150 meters down from our house, asked to borrow our large Armenian flag to parade it in Yeghegnadzor at 1:00 am Wednesday Oct 12, if Armenia wins the game against Ireland and qualifies for the 2012 World Soccer Cup.
I agreed, but the issue was: Would we be up at 1:00 am so he can borrow it then? I told him that we usually go to bed before 10 pm.
On the evening of Oct. 11, I was going to buy milk, so I decided to take our flag down to Vachik, to save him coming to get it that evening. He felt a bit uneasy accepting it, because it is bad luck to brag before actually winning a game. Nevertheless, he took the flag and told us he had planned to watch the game at the Vayots Dzor Café, down on the main Yerevan-Artsakh highway, where it was to be projected on a large outdoor screen.
We don’t have a TV here, but when we heard of the large screen, we thought it would be fun to go and watch the game with a group of locals. The main point being that, since it was an outdoor cafe, we would not be bothered by tobacco smoke!!!. We therefore booked a taxi for 10:30 pm and we got there in time for the national anthems.

It was a beautiful clear and cool evening and the full moon was shining. There was a crowd of about 40 people there and Sheila was the only woman. Vachik was nowhere to be found. I thought to myself, wouldn’t it have been great if I could reach our friend Berge; he had planned to watch the game at the “Sports Bar” on Yonge and College, with a group of TorontoHyes. I could have called them to give them impressions from the locals… They would have surely been impressed to know of the 150 TVs at Toronto’s “Sports Bar”.

The Armenian team played so well right from the start. Theirs was a fast-paced tactic with short passes on the ground to compensate for the height difference with the Irish team.

One of the most fascinating moments for me was when, early in the game, S. Cox managed to get almost alone in front of our goalie and midfielder Mkrtchyan stole the ball from him at the last moment, without any foul play (see photo), and saved us from a quasi certain goal.

Things started going bad for the Armenian team in the 26th minute, when the referee red-carded our excellent goalie (video replays showed that this penalty was unwarranted). Nevertheless, our outnumbered team continued to play valiantly and respectfully with one man short.

Ireland’s forward Simon Cox, the closest man to the play, remorsefully but nevertheless ‘honestly and magnanimously” declared after the game that it was not a handball by the keeper as seen and called by the referee and that the ball had accidentally touched his own hand immediately before.

In the 43rd minute, V. Aleksanyan scored a goal in Armenia’s own net, giving Ireland the lead.

The first half ended 1-0 for Ireland.

In the second half, Ireland’s Richard Dunne (who reminds me of my nephew Patrick) scored a beautiful goal at the 59th minute, and put the hosts 2 goals ahead. Look at him in the photo consoling our (second) ‘debutant’ replacement goalie!

At this point, the odds were overwhelmingly stacked against Armenia: facing the Irish on their home turf, with only 10 players, and needing three goals to qualify.

Three minutes later (62nd minute), Mkhitaryan (#18), linking up neatly with striker Yura Movsisian, scored a beautiful goal for Armenia. Our honour was safe!

The subdued crowd at the Vayots Dzor Café dispersed without much fanfare, behaving just like they did during the game. The final score was: Aleksanyan (Armenia) 43rd minute; Dunn (Ireland) 59th minute; Mkhitaryan (Armenia) 62nd minute. Like I said: 2-1.

Vachik returned our flag today. He said he didn’t use it. I told him I had been at the Vayots Dzor Café but did not see him there. He said: I was told there was no room left. He obviously did not want me to feel bad about having given him the flag ahead of time... He said: so you know we lost. I said: no, we won: the respect of the Irish team and that of all those who watched this game around the world. Our team played well and clean to the end and, in the spirit of the sport, did not make a scene contesting the referee’s decision (a request was made to UEFA after the game to annul the ban linked to the red card wrongfully awarded our goalie).

A video of the match highlights can be found in the following link:

Antoine S. Terjanian
We're in Armenia keeping our heads up!

All rights reserved. This letter can be reproduced with full acknowledgements.


  1. 3 resounding cheers for the Armenian team. You are right. They did, indeed, win!

  2. Hi Antoine!

    Thanks for your comment on our blog :) You can use "name/URL option and get real link to your blog :) Remember? We met in Yeghegnadzor in May last year. I was with Susan and Liz.


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