BY ALEXANDER AZIZIAN
YEREVAN—Emil is one of our top fencers here in Armenia. He comes to practice everyday (except Sundays) along with the other handful of students at the Albert Grigoryan Fencing School – one of the seven fencing schools in Armenia. Conditions at the Armenian schools are, however, far below what would be considered a minimum standard for fencing practice.
As I am also a fencer in America, I have seen first-hand how schools there usually have 8 to 16 fencing strips (where as, in Armenia, we have only one). Air conditioning is also missing here (only half of the windows at our school open fully). The fencing schools in The USA all have fully-lit rooms, while just a few of the electrical circuits in our ceiling work here. American fencing schools also have fully working equipment which is always available to all students – both old and new. Here, at our Armenian school, we need to take turns using the same equipment every few minutes.
The fencing equipment that our school in Armenia currently owns is of the worst quality, which is also the most dangerous to have. The poor quality is the result of shortcuts that were made to cut down on material and labor expenses. The wood floors of our school actually have nails sticking out from them. We’ve memorized where the nails are so that we can try to avoid stepping on them when we practice.
Despite all of this, our boys are still motivated to train as hard as the current fencing Olympians in other countries. When Armenia was part of The USSR, the Armenian fencers on the Soviet team always did extremely well. The championships were won then, however, for the Soviet Union and not for the Republic of Armenia. Now we have the opportunity to represent the Republic of Armenia as fencing champions, but due to a lack of funding, Armenia does not have even a small fighting chance to prove its valor. Armenians possess the historical record of being able to win in many sports, and now is the time for us to win for our own country, not for others.
The importance of sports to Armenian culture and society is crucial. The morale and spirits of our citizens, our soldiers, and the seven million Armenians living abroad were raised higher when it was seen that Armenia had won the latest sport competition. Sadly, winning a championship is something that is rarely seen nowadays, and after living for more than half a year in Armenia, I understand why.
Due to the blockade, the war, and mass migration, we have been denied a fighting chance to prove to the world that we are just as powerful in sports as the bigger nations.
Sports politics play a major role in all of our lives. Armenians can easily recall the Armenia vs. Azerbaijan wrestling match during the last Olympics; after our boy won, remember how relieved we all felt? We felt the same relief as we would have felt winning a war! Two people were fighting to win, with different citizenships – one person was victorious, but without the price of death.
I have been to the front-lines of Karabakh where I had the opportunity to talk to the soldiers to see what kind of a mindset they have about the current situation. They told me that when the Azeri’s violate the ceasefire and kill one of our soldiers, we retaliate and take 5 of theirs. I came away from that thinking how different it is in sports. High tensions can be released and rivalries resolved in a friendly and respectful sports match without people dying. Imagine fighting to win – imagine an undisputed victory – without the need for someone to die!
I have no control over or the ability to change the political system. Neither can I run to the front-line and take over Baku or convince the millions living abroad to return to Armenia. But I do have the conviction that Armenia can and will be victorious in the many sports competitions to come.
We are now in a position to boost the spirits and raise the morale of the Armenian people all over the world – just from sports competitions. This is what I am devoting my life to training Armenian fencing students to achieve that most noble goal – and I am asking for others to join me in doing so.
The Republic of Armenia is only 20 years old; if we do not take good care of our country, it will slowly disappear – culturally, spiritually, and politically. There are over 6,000 ethnic languages spoken by different people across the globe, but there are only about 200 countries in the entire world. The Armenian people cannot be one of those people without a country. Our “ace up our sleeve” is our passion for sports – and to unite the Armenian people, it’s time to use it.
Albert Susseramart NGO is all about our fencing students in Armenia. Our Number One Goal is to help guarantee Armenia a Gold Medal in the 2016 Olympics. Albert Grigoryan established fencing as a recognized sport in Armenia many years ago. He passed away recently, but we are now finally making his dreams come true.
Providing better equipment for the athletes, renovating the fencing schools, and recruiting more students to join the schools will make up the primary activities of the NGO. This will not come about without cost. We will also need to pay for transporting the fencing team to competitions both regionally and globally. Our NGO will need to enlist the aid of the Armenian people around the world to help us achieve our goals.
Our first goal is to raise $7,500 (USD) to purchase gear for the entire school, which will be considered safe by international standards. From there, we will be able to move on to renovating the schools and purchasing our travel tickets to the next World Competition. Once Armenia has competed in enough competitions, we will be invited to also compete in the Olympics. Ultimately, we will be hosting our own World Cup!
In order to ensure the correct, fully appropriate, and unquestionably legitimate use of all NGO funds, I will personally be taking on the responsibility of providing direct oversight and financial stewardship to guarantee that all contributions are applied in the best possible manner to fulfill our Olympic dreams.
It has been said that there is sometimes a problem concerning some organizations in Armenia and that some people misuse words such as “Charity” or “Orphanage” as a way of making a profit. This need not be the case. All that is required is that there be a small but dedicated and committed group of knowledgeable overseers on hand to make sure that all funding goes to the right place – and measurable progress will be accomplished. For all donations made to our fencing school and our team, there will be a daily tracker on our website that will show clearly the specific details of where the donations are going and how they are being used.
Please help us to bring to the Armenian people across the globe – and to the 20-year old Republic of Armenia – the honor and recognition that can be rightfully ours through the victories we can achieve in the global sports arena.
My heartfelt and most sincere thanks in advance go to all for your attention, your support, and your confidence in our athletes.
Now is the time to inspire and lift up our youth and our talented athletes so that they can make it to the Olympics and represent Armenia as champions!