A brief history of football in Artsakh
Again the name Parsadanov appears in this context, wich is inextricably linked to the first days of Armenian football. The Parsadanov brothers were the builders of the first football team in Shushi & organized the first official matches in the town wich was called „little Armenian Paris“ at that time. Parsadanovs visit to the native land in the summer of 1913 was marked by the holding of an inter-city tournament, which was attended by three teams: a team from Baku, Tbilisi and the team of Shushi. Baku, led by Paruyr Parsadanovym outplayed Shushi (8:0), Tbilisi (3-0) and won the first football tournament held in eastern Armenia! The value of this tournament is difficult to overestimate. As many viewers who watched the games have become advocates of the new game, returning after a summer vacation home (Shushi was a tourist destination in the south caucasus).
Many fine players who played in teams of Baku and Yerevan, were born in Artsakh, however Artsakh could never produce a high class football club itself, but sometimes teams from Artsakh managed to excel in national competitions. So, in 1939 as „Spartak“ from Stepanakert made it to the semi-finals of the Azeri SSR cup-tournament.
In 1946 „Spartak“ from Stepanakert had reached the cup final of the Azeri SSR when their opponent turned to be Baku’s "Spartak, headed by the famous Venik Sarkisov. The match was held in Baku at the "Dynamo" stadium. Long before the match started the visiting fans from Stepanakert (who were accompanied & supported by residents from Baku’s „Armenikent“ district) filled the whole south stand of stadium. Five minutes before the end of regular time the score was still 0-0 and the team from Karabakh received a chance to score from the penalty spot. For unknown reasons the central defender (the only non-Armenian in the team) of Stepanakert decided to take the penalty and missed pitifully. His shot went over the bar and the ball flew outside the stadium. However Baku’s team achieved to score in the very last minute of the dubious game and won the trophy.
The next time the Artsakh team made it to the cup final was in 1953 and again they lost to a team from Baku (it was „Dynamo“ this time) just one step away from taking the cup home with them. Stepanakert was coached by the legendary Artem Markarov and the team roster was the following: Albert Baghdasaryan, Gregory Tovmasyan Vazgen Hanandyan Suren Dzhabiyan, Sergei Arutyunov, Gregory Hakobyan, Beniamian Apkarian, Nikolai Petrosyan, Suren Harutunyan, Suren Badalyan, Gurgen Terterjan, Levon Harutyunyan, Carlos Adamian, Robert Ovanesov, Robert Petrosyan, Jacob Hovyan, Benik Arzumanyan.
First time that a club from Stepanakert took part in the USSR cup was in 1950. It was „Dynamo“ (Lernayin Artsakh FC) who lost in the first round of the cup against „Pishevik“ from Odessa 0-2. It took them another 37 years to gain a participation in the USSR cup again. This time they lost to Karpaty Lviv, but only after the penalty shoot-out 2:4 (regular time ended 1:1).
Debut of Stepanakerts "Karabakh" (Lernayin Artsakh FC) in the championship of the Soviet Union took place in 1969. In 1977, the "Karabakh" became the champion of the Azeri SSR and again won the right to play in the second league of the championship of the USSR. Back then many interesting players were part of the team, among which are the legendary Araratsi Hovhannes Zanazanyan and Suren Martirosyan.
In 1979, the "Karabakh" has achieved the best result in the history of performances in the USSR championships (2nd league) - third place, which they were able to replicate in the last championship of the Union in 1991. In 1989, „Karabakh“ changed their name and began performing in the USSR championships as "Artsakh". In December of the same year „Artsakh“ could hold first matches outside of the USSR, with the assistance of the Catholicos of All Armenians Vazgen I. In Syria „Artsakh“ played against teams "Assad" (1:0, 0:0), „Homenmen" (0:0), „Homenetmen" (1:0) and the country's U-21 team (1:2).
In 1990 Mali’s FA send an invitation to the Soviet embassy in Mali (ambassador was Ashot Tsarievich Melik-Shahnazaryan) to organize friendly matches against „Artsakh“ in Bamako. But the government of the Azeri SSR made a fuss and the Foreign Ministry of the USSR send a telegram to the Soviet Embassy in Bamako to cancel the plans of a tour in Africa, as the functionaries believed that "Artsakh" would fail to adequately represent the Soviet football abroad.
However Melik-Shahnazaryan had the support of the USSR’s Football Federation president Vyacheslav Koloskov and they replied to the Foreign Ministry that it wouldn’t be possible to cancel the tour as the tickets were already sold out. So Artsakh went to Mali and won both matches, against Mali’s champion (editor's note: Djoliba Athletic Club) 3-1 and against the national team of Mali 1-0. Soviet ambassador Shahnazaryan replied with the following telegram to Moscow: "The game and the results of „Artsakh“ confirmed the high level of domestic football."
With the start of the war many players had to take up arms instead of a leather ball to protect their homeland and this footballers fell for the independence of Artsakh: Varuzhan Babayan (missing person), Vladimir Hairyan, Gregory Aghajanian, Ashot Adamian, Loris Grigoryan, Suren Hakobyan. RIP our heroes
Some facts about Lernayin Artsakh FC:
Lernayin Artsakh FC is a football club based in Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. The club was founded in 1927.
1992-1995 dissolved due to war
1995-2002 "Karabakh" Yerevan
2002-2007 "Lernayin Artsakh" Yerevan
from 2008 "Lernayin Artsakh" Stepanakert
Soviet 2nd League, 3rd place: 1979, 1991
Armenian Premier League, runner-up: 2000, 2004, 2006
NKR premier league, champion: 2009
"Torpedo Togliattio" - "Karabakh", 1971