YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Two soccer players of Armenian origin playing for France have been given "special status" Armenian residency permits during their first-ever visit to Yerevan for a crucial European championship qualifier against Armenia.
President Robert Kocharian handed the residency passports to World champions Youri Djorkaeff and Alain Boghossian following the France’s dramatic 3-2 win over Armenia on Wednesday.
"Armenia is your country," Kocharian’s press service quoted him as telling Djorkaeff at a reception on Thursday.
Djorkaeff (Boghossian did not play because of an injury) was given a warm by the crowd at Yerevan’s Hrazdan stadium. The former Inter Milan midfielder’s equalizer on the last minute of the first half helped the French side regain confidence after an early goal by the Armenia’s. Striker Karapet Mikaelian took the French by surprise when he found himself alone with goalkeeper Fabien Barthez and flicked the ball into the net six minutes into the game–sending 30,000 spectators into jubilation.
"We were ‘world champions’ for 39 minutes," the newspaper "Aravot" joked in a headline.
France’s superiority materialized into two goals midway through the second half–first by playmaker Zinedine Zidane–the world’s best player for 1998–and then Girondins Bordeaux striker Lilian Laslandes. A last-minute penalty kick left the Armenia’s with an honorable score.
With only eight points from nine matches–Armenia are only second from the bottom of the group four Euro 2000 qualifiers–well behind the heavyweights like France–Ukraine and Russia.