Youri Djorkaeff – An Armenian Diamond in a French Frame – Football World and European Champion

Youri Djorkaeff (born March 9, 1968, in Lion) is a famous French football player, a World and European Champion, awardee of the Legion of Honour, as well as an Honorary citizen of Armenia.

“I sense a strong attachment to the Armenian history and culture. We have always worshipped the cult of the family. The head of my family was my grandfather and patriarch Garo Ohanian. In his honor, I named my son Ohan. And my eldest son has two names: Russian Sasha and Armenian Aram.

In Armenian families, women educate children. My mother and grandmother taught me simple values: to give, respect, and share. On New Year, I along with my brothers and cousins have always received the same presents.”

Having worthily protected the honor of France and having left a good memory of himself in Italy, Djorkaeff is nonetheless limitlessly devoted to Armenia. Even though the grand football success of Djorkaeff glorified another country, he is idolized in this small and distant Transcaucasian country, making his love for his homeland mutual.

Djorkaeff was born to Jean Djorkaeff and Maria Ohanian. Jean Djorkaeff, a son of Kalmyk father and Polish mother, used to be a football player as well.

Youri has always taken every misfortune happening to his country close to his heart. And the biggest tragedy of Armenia is the Armenian Genocide, a significant event for anyone in the world whose roots are located in Armenia, albeit not recognized by many countries in the world. The lack of recognition will be painful for every Armenian up until the day when things change. During his career, Djorkaeff has repeatedly attempted to draw the public’s attention towards the Armenian Genocide.

In the group stage of the 1993 – 94 UEFA Champions League, having scored a goal against the Turkish club Galatasaray, Djorkaeff said: “This is my first response to the Armenian Genocide.” In August 1998, official Ankara announced the inappropriateness of his visit to Turkey in the French national team. The inclusion of Djorkaeff in the team that would play against the Turkish national team at the 75th anniversary of the Republic of Turkey’s establishment was taken as an insult by Turkey. But Djorkaeff himself announced his reluctance to arrive in Turkey as well.

Something similar also happened in 2000 when Djorkaeff refused to participate in a friendly match between Turkey and France. The Turkish newspaper “Turkiye” wrote back in the day: “The groundless Armenian accusations of the Genocide began to spread to the big sport.”

Three months later, after the French Republic had officially recognized the Armenian Genocide, Djorkaeff along with another Armenian French footballer and World Champion Alain Boghossian expressed his gratitude to the President of France Jacques Chirac.

Djorkaeff has also been successful in the Italian football club Inter Milan. Interestingly, he chose to play in the club because his cousin Katya Ohanian was living in Milan. Apart from Inter, Barcelona has also been fighting to acquire Djorkaeff, but he made his choice in favor of the Italian club.

Youri Djorkaeff demonstrated his skill from the very first game in Inter, to the surprise of many. Back in those mediocre days for the club, Djorkaeff became the leader and the shining light of the team. His play was so impressive that a former Italian football player and manager Cesare Maldini said: “The Armenian spirit and the French expertise made Youri the best midfielder in the world.” Djorkaeff was also strongly favored by the fans of Inter who nicknamed him “Precious.”

Apart from Inter, Djorkaeff has played in many other clubs, including          Paris Saint-Germain, Kaiserslautern, and Blackburn Rovers. Interestingly, the very first thing Djorkaeff has been doing when moving to the city hosting his new club was meeting with the local Armenians. “When I moved to a new country, I grabbed the phonebook to look for Armenian surnames,” admitted Djorkaeff, “I wasn’t telling them who I was in reality, instead presenting myself as an Armenian tourist on vacation.”

Having found out about the fame of Djorkaeff as a football player, his new friends would get very surprised, and many wouldn’t even believe that they are talking to a star. But then, surprise turned into delight. However, Youri was rejoicing the most: thanks to his “habit”, he now has friends in many parts of the world.

This is how one loving heart can do miracles. It can be warming, calming, or can just be nearby. The realization of this makes one happy. But what if there are hundreds of thousands and even millions of those whom he has managed to delight? “I have always known that I occupy a special place in the hearts of Armenians, and this has been filling me with pride.”


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