TORONTO (A.W.)—For the first time, teams from Diyarbakir and Dersim will participate in the Pan-Armenian Games in Yerevan. They join 57 other teams this summer from cities in Armenia, Russia, Georgia, Lebanon, Iran, France, the United Kingdom, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, the United States, and more. The players from Diyarbakir and Dersim will participate in futsal, which is a variant of soccer that is played on a smaller field and considered as a version of five-a-side soccer. Soccer teams from Sasun and Istanbul will also be participating for the second time.
The organizers of the Diyarbakir group are members of the Surp Giragos Dikranagerd Church Restoration Committee. Since the restoration project was a global initiative with many donors and supporters from North America, Armenian athletes from the U.S. and Canada with roots in the region were invited to be part of the team. Five players from Turkey and five from North America (two from Canada, and three from the United States, including the captain of the U.S. Eastern Region Homenetmen soccer team, Asadur Tufeckgian) make up the team.
“I was honored to be invited on the team by the Church Restoration Committee,” said Toronto resident Daron Bedrosyan, who will represent Diyarbakir at the games. Speaking to the Armenian Weekly, Bedrosyan said that participating in the Pan-Armenian Games in the year of the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide was especially meaningful for him. “My family’s history in Dikranagerd [Diyarbakir] dates back as far as we can trace our roots—at least two centuries back. This has been a historic year for all of us as Armenians with everything that transpired for the Centennial commemorations. The Pan-Armenian Games will also be a significant commemoration in this regard,” he said.
A group from Diyarbakir and Dersim will also travel to Yerevan to support the athletes and participate in the Ari Tun program organized by the Armenian Ministry of Diaspora. This will be the second time that Armenians from the region will participate in the program. The main objectives of Ari Tun are to introduce Diasporan Armenian youth to Armenian history, culture, public life, religion, and family traditions. Participants will visit historical and cultural sites in Armenia, and attend concerts, festivals, exhibitions, and plays. Courses will also be offered in Armenian language, literature, dance, history, and church traditions.
Last year, 50 “hidden Armenians” from Diyarbakir participated in the program; they were led by Canadian-Armenian pianist and engineer/constructor Raffi Bedrosyan. This year, a group of 86 hidden Armenians from Diyarbakir, Dersim, and the Hamshen regions of Turkey will participate in the Ari-Tun program to rediscover their roots.
“We arranged for the hidden Armenians’ trip to coincide with the Pan-Armenian Games so that there will be more occasions for them to interact and experience Armenian events,” said Raffi Bedrosyan of the Church Restoration Committee.
Daron Bedrosyan says he’s grateful for the opportunity to represent Dikranagerd. “To have the chance to represent my family’s hometown 100 years after losing it is definitely a special opportunity that I’m grateful for. My teammates feel the same way. It will be even more special being able to share the experience with them… Our ancestors who lived together would all be proud of us.”
The Pan-Armenian Games will run from Aug. 2 to 13. The opening ceremony will be held at Yerevan’s Hrazdan Stadium and over 6,200 athletes from 36 countries will be participating.