Straight from the Homeland: Edgar Manucharyan

His professional career started at the ripe age of 15 with the Armenian Club, Football Club Pyunik. He is an out-and-out striker, no matter if he starts up front, or if he is in the midfield position. He is considered one of the best talents ever to come out of Armenia. He is 22-year-old Edgar Manucharyan.

Born and bred in Yerevan, Manucharyan grew up playing the game of football (soccer) and his skills flourished, so much so that not only was he playing professional at a club level, but also on a national level with the Armenia under-17 team.

With Manucharyan at the helm, FC Pyunik won three consecutive Armenian Premier League titles, from 2002-04. The Armenian Cup (the cup competition for all of Armenia’s football teams in the entire country) was won in 2002 and 2004, and the Armenian SuperCup (a match played between the Premier League winner and the Armenian Cup winner) was also captured in 2004.

Manucharyan was becoming too big for Armenian football and with his performances on the international level, especially against the Netherlands, his star was on the rise and being closely followed by other European Clubs.

In December 2004, the Netherlands Club, Ajax, took him on a trial run to see how he would match up at a higher level of football, with more experienced players at a faster pace. He would prove his worth by coming on the pitch (field) for Ajax against some of the top clubs in the world—Barcelona (Spain) and Inter Milan (Italy)—and holding his own.

It looked like Manucharyan was on his way up to a bright football future on the European stage, but just when all was looking too good to be true, he came down with a foot injury that stopped his trial run and put him on the sidelines.

However, the injury did not stop his progression, nor determination. He recovered from his foot injury, rehabbing at Ajax’s training facility, and on July 1, 2005, signed a three-year deal to remain with Ajax, waving goodbye to Armenia and FC Pyunik, though Pyunik did receive a sustainable transfer fee for letting him go.

In football, players are not traded, they are transferred in or out of their clubs. Yet, this is done only during the summer or in January; at any other time, transfers are not allowed. If a player wants to leave his club, then, the club that wants him has to pay his current club for services, on top of paying the player. David Beckham, for example, is now playing for AC Milan of Italy, on a loan deal from his current club, LA Galaxy of U.S.A. If Beckham wants to stay in Italy, then AC Milan must pay LA Galaxy, either now, during LA Galaxy’s season break, or their summer break. A transfer fee is like trading the player for money, and while other players can be involved in the deal, they cannot be add-ons, though they could lower or higher the initial transfer fee for the main transfer deal.

Manucharyan ended his Armenian Club career with 53 appearances and 40 goals. Not only was Manucharyan starting a new club career, he was also starting a new international career. At the end of 2004, he was called up to the senior national team in Armenia. Now he was juggling two new ventures.

On the club side of things, he was getting comfortable. He scored his first goal as an official member of Ajax in an 18-0 friendly match against a Dutch amateur team. He made his debut in the Eredivisie (the Dutch Premier League) on Sept. 18, 2005, even though Ajax lost the game; he gained much needed experience in how the Dutch play their football.

His first goal came on Nov. 2, 2005 against Austria Wien in a European Champions League showdown (which is like the Super Bowl for European football). His pass to Ajax teammate Klaas-Jan-Huntelaar, which Huntelaar took all the way to score, was the first goal ever to be scored at Arsenal’s (England) newly opened Emirates Stadium.

He took part in the Amsterdam Tournament of 2006, a friendly pre-season tournament in which some of Europe’s biggest teams come to play—a warm-up tournament for the upcoming season. He came on as a substitute against Inter Milan, and the following match against European Super Club, Manchester United (from England and 2008’s World Club Champions), where he was in the starting line-up.

As his contract was coming to an end in Dutch football, other teams began showing an interest in him—Olympique Lyonnais (France) and S.L. Benifica (Portugal) just to name a few. But on March 16, 2007, Ajax renewed their deal with Manucharyan to hold him at Ajax until June 30, 2011.

Some of his achievements with Ajax, so far, are winning the KNVB Cup (the Dutch Cup, which all teams, an not just the Premiership Clubs, in the Netherlands compete for).

During the World Cup qualifying match against Turkey on Sept. 6, 2007, he was the lone striker for Armenia, but after being slide-tackled by two Turkish defenders (one from the side, going for the ball, the other from the back, going for…) he injured his right foot and was substituted off at the half.

With him out of the lineup, Armenia looked lost and Turkey capitalized, scoring two goals and winning the match, 2-0, which shows how much Manucharyan was worth to his country. With him they were a formidable team; without him, they have no backbone or a legitimate scoring threat, which opens up their young defensive core and gives up goals they lack the international experience to come back from.

Manucharyan has yet been able to fully recover from his numerous foot injuries, stemming from 2006 to today. He is currently on designation at Ajax’s youth team, Jong Ajax, to fully recover from his injuries and to get into football shape, both mentally and physically.

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Antranig Dereyan

Born and raised in New Jersey, Antranig Dereyan graduated from Rowan University with a bachelor’s in journalism. He contributes frequently to the Armenian Weekly with sports pieces. He also freelances for other online sites and newspapers.

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