Armenia’s Soccer Superstar Continues Way to the Top

Midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan may have just celebrated his 24th birthday, but he is a seasoned pro when it comes to netting goals in the post. In recent years, the Armenian soccer player has become a household name for European fans of the sport, as well as Armenians worldwide.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Henrikh Mkhitaryan

A myriad of awards and titles have been bestowed upon the young athlete, including three “Armenia’s Player of the Year” titles—in 2009, 2011, and 2012—and “Best Shakhtar Player” of the 2011-12 season, voted on by fans. His other accolades include the title “Man of the Year” in 2012 by Armenia’s First Channel News, Ukraine’s 2012 “Best Footballer,” the “most popular European player” in 2012 by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS), and most recently, the Commonwealth of Independent States’ (CIS) 2012 “Top Footballer.” It comes as no surprise that the UEFA European Football Yearbook 2012-13 named Mkhitaryan as one of its “Top 100” players.

The powerhouse midfielder has played for the Ukrainian premiership football club Shakhtar Donetsk since 2010. He previously played two seasons for Metalurh Donetsk, another Ukrainian football club. Mkhitaryan began his career at the age of 17 in the Armenian premiership league club FC Pyunik, where he scored 11 goals in 10 league games.

In addition to Mkhitaryan’s hard work and determination, his family’s background and love for the sport were key to his success at such an early age. Mkhitaryan’s father, Hamlet Mkhitaryan, was a Soviet and Armenian professional soccer player before his untimely passing in 1996. Inheriting his father’s athletic genes, little Henrikh seemed destined for greatness. His mother, Marina Taschian, currently heads the department of the Armenian Football Federation, and his elder sister, Monica, works at UEFA’s headquarters.

With 18 goals in the Ukrainian premiership league and a slew of honors to his name, the young star has attracted the attention of many of the top football clubs in the world, including FC Liverpool, FC Bayern, FC Juventus, and FC Tottenham Hotspur. If transferred to any of these teams, Mkhitaryan will have advanced Armenian soccer to unprecedented heights.

Mkhitaryan is the second top goal-scorer of all time for the Armenian national team, with 10 goals in 33 matches, just one behind Arthur Petrosyan’s record, which took 70 matches to complete.

If the awards aren’t enough to prove it, the athlete’s market value for a European transfer has jumped from under $1 million to nearly $25 million in the last 3 years, according to transfermarket.co.uk, a soccer portal for the premier league and transfer rumor forum.

In addition to his athletic abilities, Mkhitaryan is also an avid reader and language aficionado, speaking Russian, English, French, and Portuguese—the latter due to his four-month spell at Sao Paulo’s youth set-up between his first club, Pyunik FC, and Brazilian giants. He is keen on learning a few more, if time allows, which may be difficult with the busy schedule ahead for Team Armenia.

Without a doubt, Mkhitaryan is one of the most important players on the Armenian national team, and has helped the team soar to uncharted heights in recent years, becoming the little-engine-that-could. The great lineup of the team and enthusiasm from fans are at an all-time high, catapulting the national team of the Republic of Armenia to a status as a serious contender in international soccer championships. Who knows what’s in the future for Mkhitaryan and Team Armenia? Perhaps we may see a new trend of Armenian athletes advancing to play at the best clubs in the world. We’re excited to find out!

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Lilly Torosyan

Lilly Torosyan holds a Master’s degree in Human Rights from University College London and a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Boston University, where she served on the ASA Executive Board. She currently works at an HIV clinic in Uptown Manhattan, where she tries to immerse herself in as many cultural, political, and social events as humanly possible.

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