This interview originally appeared in the Sardarabad Spanish-language newspaper of Argentina (April 2, 2008). Translation courtesy D. Dosch. It has been edited for clarity.
In a recent interview, Adriàn Carlos Kapelian, a well-known AGBU soccer player in Buenos Aires, speaks to us about the evolution of soccer within the local AGBU Chapter, the inauguration of the Haig Emirian Gymnasium, what participating in the South American, World and Pan-Armenian Games meant to him, as well as his experience as Head Coach of the AGBU soccer team.
Tell us when you joined AGBU?
I started in 1979, in the building where they now have the gymnasium, which then was under construction. I was 10 years old. We used to go there on Saturdays at 9:00 in the morning to play soccer in the field on which the Institute (Marie Manoogian) is located –Niceto Vega and Gurruchaga– which did not even have a roof at the time. We enjoyed going to the field, and even rain never stopped us.
During the week, in the afternoons, we took the key from Don Osvaldo, who was the security guard, and we would play a few games—with boys 10-14 yrs old.
By 1986, the soccer field, which is now part of the present gymnasium, was ready, and we began playing there.
How was your first South American Games?
We played in São Paulo in 1987. We were a very young team, the majority being between 16-20 years old. We lost the final to the São Paulo team. I had already participated in several prior Olympics as a player, so I wasn’t very nervous.
What was it like to participate in the Pan-Armenian Games?
I was lucky to have had the opportunity to participate in the soccer games twice – first in 2001 when we came in fourth place, and again in 2003 when I was both goalie and coach. It was an intense time; you lived together with different delegations from the diaspora for 10 days.
What is the difference you feel between the South American, the World Games, and the Pan-Armenian games?
The South American Games are very exciting because of the competition and the closeness of the four AGBU Chapters. We give it our all in the game. And at the end of the competitions, the feeling of camaraderie is amazing, followed by discussions on where to go out, and group parties.
In the World Games, the climate is very similar to the South American Games, but quieter since it has more delegations.
With the Pan-Armenian Games, the difference from the other two is that it takes place in Armenia. And it’s a mix of the Armenian communities from every country and every sport. The feeling of playing in the motherland is special. The people are more affectionate and warmer to the participating delegates.
Which Olympic or World Games stands out for you? And why?
Los Angeles 1992. The Buenos Aires delegation consisted of 90 people. We were the attraction of the games. We had a spectacular group, all friends, college buddies and from previous Olympics; there was cheers from bleachers…we were considered locals. The organization of the games was unique, we were booked in the Marriott Hotel and the farewell party was held in the Milton.
We were very young, we drove the lead delegate, who is now the President of the Buenos Aires Chapter, Ruben Kechichian, crazy.
What expectations do you have for the next World Games taking place in Montevideo?
The best. I am looking forward to meeting up my friends that I knew years ago. As far as the game is concerned, we will try to get the Soccer cup, keep the delegate team spirit going like we did last year in São Paulo.
Is there a particularly special game that you remember (not just the Olympics)?
There are some games that stand out…one in particular, playing for AGBU as goalie in the 1989 Buenos Aires World Games. The semi-finals we had to play Buenos Aires 1, against Buenos Aires 2. The second team won 4 to 2.
The Haig Emirian Gymnasium was ready to explode because it was so packed with people. The following day the champions were announced, beating São Paulo 7 to 3. It was an unforgettable game.
Another game to remember was when I was coaching the first soccer team at AGBU. In this game we won at Pinocho 7 to 5 in the last AFA Soccer championship meet. With this victory moved us up to the “A” division. This game we had to face an undefeated team who had already been qualified at a higher level earlier on, playing in front of more than 1,500 Pinocho fans. Our team was 10 young male players, from a lower division, with Mardo and Polado in the bleachers.
How do you prepare for the pre-season?
Very well, we work out intensively for 40 days with Professor Rosana.
What expectations do you have for the local tournament?
I hope we qualify for the second part of the year and compete for the “A” division.
You are a considered legend in the club…how do you see the sports movement within the Chapter at the present moment?
At present, they are playing 100%. The managers, players, coaches of the different sports, and in a friendly atmosphere.
The idea is to organize specific categories for the different sports so they can compete locally and at the July World Games in Montevideo. And for the little ones, the idea is to start up a small sports facility/school.
Anything special to highlight?
During all these years, I have met some fabulous people who understood me, and who were there for me during my personal good and bad times.
Any constructive criticism?
I can’t criticize an organization that gave me so much.
What do you feel for AGBU?
A mixture of many feelings and emotions. I was lucky to be in the first graduation class of both Primary and Secondary classes at the Marie Manoogian Institute.
I personally experienced the earlier inauguration of the building where they built the gymnasium. I feel very privileged to have been at AGBU since childhood. I feel very proud to have been part of AGBU’s “Parekordzagan” (Benevolent) family.