There is a quote from former Cameroon star Roger Milla which says a lot about football’s ability to unite a nation: “Football is what makes small countries big.” It is through the magic of the beautiful game that a single player can catapult his homeland into the global arena.
Because they were born in ‘small countries,’ some great players never had the opportunity to play international football on the world’s greatest stages. Others made light of their country’s minnow status to help carry their national side into major tournaments. From Artjoms Rudnevs to George Weah,Football24/7 sets off on a world tour of small countries with big names.
The 2012-2013 has been a great one for Armenian players in Russia and Ukraine. Two of Armenia’s top players;striker Yura Movsisyan of Krasnodar and midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan of Shakhtar Donetsk lead the goal scoring charts in Russia and Ukraine respectively.2011-12 FC Krasnodar Player of the SeasonYura Movsisyan has scored 9 goals for his Russian side this season but it is Mkhitaryan who has caught the attention of top European teams.
The two-time Armenian footballer of the year (2009,2011) and Shakhtar’s best player of last season,Henrikh Mkhitaryan (23) has been firing from all cylinders this season. The attacking midfielder is this season’s Ukrainian League top scorer with 14 goals in 11 league games.The midfielder has bettered last season’s goal tally of 10 in 22 games.
“I definitely feel more comfortable close to the attack, even though I don’t mind playing as a holding midfielder if that’s what the team needs” – Henrik Mkhitaryan
From lows to highs
The son of ex- Armenian footballer Hamlet Mkhitaryan (who died of a brain tumour in 1996) has been instrumental in the club’s fantastic start to the season.He’s made a stunning start to the season both domestically and in the UEFA Champions League.The Donetsk side has won all its 13 league games so far.(39 points).Capped 34 times overall, he is already Armenia’s second highest scorer of all time.He’s 2 goals shy of Arthur Petrosyan’s 11 goals for Armenia to become Armenia’s all time goal scorer.
At 20, he had won four Armenian league titles with Pyunik Yerevan. Mkhitaryan signed for Metallurg Donetsk in 2009.In his only full season at Metallurg, Mkhitaryan scored 14 goals from midfield, guiding the team to the Ukrainian Cup Final, and eventually being named team captain. He was snapped up by Shakhtar the following season.
Mkhitaryan made an immediate impact at the Donbass Arena, tying down a spot in midfield despite competition for places with the Brazilian contingent. He caught the eye with a brace against Nordsjaelland in Shakhtar’s opening UEFA Champions League encounter.
Here’s a clip of his first 11 goals for Shakhtar.
Henrik Mkhitaryan was granted title of honorary residents of Yerevan by the Yerevan Council of Elders for the success he has achieved in football.
Mkhitaryan is not the only one doing it big.His mother and sister are also very famous in Armenia.Mkhitaryan is the son of Marina Tashchian,head of the national teams department in the Armenian Football Federation while his sister, Monica Mkhitaryan, works at UEFA’s headquarters.
She was Michel Platini’s translator at the EURO 2012 press briefing when the UEFA President visited all four of Ukraine’s host cities during a two-day tour.
Mkhitaryan will not have a problem settling in Europe’s bigger leagues because he’s multilingual. He speaks five languages: Armenian, Russian, English, French and Portuguese.
The Pitmen’s Brazilian magicians
Mkhitaryan has also made headlines with his national side by scoring six goals for Armenia in Euro 2012 qualifying Group B.He was the top goalscorer in that group as Armenia beat Slovakia twice, including a 4-0 stunner in Bratislava.
Armenia have been handed a tough draw with Malta, Italy, Denmark, Czech Republic and Bulgaria in the World Cup 2014 qualifiers.Mkhitaryan beat Buffon to make it 1-1 for Armenia before the Italians beat them 3-1 but the Azzurri were made aware of his impressive potential. With 10 of his Shakhtar teammates being Brazilian,the midfielder would love to represent his country in the next World Cup.
But perhaps we’ve forgotten some names? Do you know of other hidden treasures? Leave us your thoughts by adding a comment.