January 17
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By Vera Martirosyan

French football legend, World and European champion Youri Djorkaeff speaks about his family, love towards Armenia and his dream to lead Armenia's national squad in an interview with Armenian

Youri, last fall you said that you are planning to visit Armenia for the 100th anniversary of Genocide. Will you be here on 24 of April?

I just try to organize my traveling. I am not sure yet, but I will do my best to be in Yerevan on 24.

You often speak about your nationality and your love for Armenia, but you are only half Armenian. How did it happen that you are such a patriot?

It is in my blood. My parents were born in France, but my grandparents are from Armenia. I grow up in Lyon. There is a big Armenian community there. We grow up in Armenian atmosphere and Armenian philosophy. We were very happy. I think it is why I feel very comfortable to talk about my origins. I am always very proud of my Armenian origin and that I was born in France.

Did you observe some Armenian traditions in your family?

Yes, I was married in Armenian way, in Armenian church. My children were baptized in Armenian church. My try to keep original traditions of our country. Armenian philosophy gave me power to do great things in my life. It is very important.

Once I read, that you use Armenian words and expressions in your family. Can you say what kind of expressions?

When my grandparent passed away, we tried to have some discussion in Armenian. My mother spoke Armenian very well. The sound of Armenian language takes me to my childhood, when I was 12 and lived with my grandparent. I understand Armenian. If you speak slowly, I can get it, if you speak fast, then I do not.

You came to Armenia first in 1999 with national team of France and then in 2011 with Nicolas Sarkozy. What was your impression about Armenia?

It was crazy, because when I arrived in Armenia, people were so friendly with me. Everybody was talking that I am a legend. It was so emotional. I felt energy of Armenian people. I had such a great time in Armenia. When I was walking in Yerevan, they came and hug me, kissed me and told me that they appreciated what I do in my career and what I do for Armenia. I will never forget this.

Do you have ties to Armenian communities in France and U.S.?

Yes, both in France and in New York where I live. My kids go to the Armenian camp in France. They do the things what I was doing in childhood. This is very important. They grow up way. I always have a look what Armenian diaspora does. We want to share our history with everybody.

This year is 100th anniversary of Armenian Genocide. What do you think will something change after this date, or everything will continue in the same way?

Last week the Vatican and Pope talked about Genocide using this word, this was a strong message. Now we have a lot of documents proving the fact of genocide. Now a lot of people now recognize and know what happened with Armenians in the beginning of the last century in Turkey. It will take time for Turkey to recognize Armenian Genocide. But what is most important that the other world already knows and they will recognize Genocide because it is important for civilization.

Six years ago Armenia was very close to open the borders with Turkey, but instead of it Turkey demands that we must forget about Genocide and go to compromise about Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. What do you think how can Armenia go ahead having close borders and weak economy?

Twenty years ago nobody in Turkey spoke about Genocide. Now new generation started to speak about it. Intelligentsia speaks about the things that had happened in their country. If they want to be a strong nation they have to accept the mistakes were made by their people before you. I am sure Turkey will recognize Armenian Genocide one day.

I am sure economical situation of Armenia will become better. This anniversary is a strong way for everybody to show, that we are standing near by Armenia

It is not time for political discussion. First it is time for memory, we celebrate very sad anniversary. To be together it is very important. This is power for the future. So that’s why it very important that every country and government could be next to Armenia.

They say sport must be out of politics. You were the first you showed your attitude to Turkey when first in 1994 you scored against Galatasaray and told it was your answer to Armenian Genocide and then in 2000 you did not want to take place in a friendly match in Turkey. So can we say, sport has a strong power?

Sport is the best way to unite the people. If there was a match Armenia vs. Turkey, it would be only two hours without any conflict, except for football conflicts in the pitch. I think we need to think more about sport. Armenian national team is a strong ambassador. When they have success in Denmark, or played in Italy or Portugal, people start to think about what country it is, what religion they have. Only sport can help people think about Armenia in every part of the world.

My protest to play against Turkey was my decision. I wanted not only me think about what happened in Turkey, but all other people, too. How can we change thinking of people? Each and every Armenian can do some useful things for this.

If you come to Armenia, will you be accompanied by your family?

No, unfortunately. My elder son has been to Armenia. He went to a camp there. I visited Nagorno- Karabakh. He returned very happy and felt with Armenian atmosphere.

The question that is the most important for Armenian fans. It is not secret, that every Armenian fan dreams that you became a national team coach. What conditions must be that you agree to come?

I also dream to be a coach of Armenia national squad one day, but it is not in my hands. If tomorrow I get suggestions, I will strongly think about it.

In US you are busy with developing kids soccer. Are you planning to get coach license?

Yes, I do.

Are you following for Armenian national squad's matches. Who do you know from the squad?

Yes, I watch the games. I know Yura, we met in U.S. I know Hnerikh Mkhitaryan. We have good players. Its a strong generation. But we cannot always have this kind of generation, because Armenia is a small country so we don't have to loose any chance to take part in world and European championship.

Who is the best football player of our times ?

I have to choose between Messi and Ronaldo. One day I think it's Messi, the other day, that it is Ronaldo.

Your wishes to the Armenian nation.

I love Armenian people very much. And proud to be a part of it. I want to say, that Armenia will never be alone. I will always stand nearby. It is what I did, I do and what I will always do.

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