Gibrahayer – Nicosia – April 30 – The Cyprus HMEM regional Games, parallel to the sports duals on the basketball and football field will probably be remembered more for the commotion they created in the Armenian community of Nicosia, rather than the scores between the teams.
From the very first get-together on Friday evening when the guests teams and athletes started arriving in Nicosia up to Sunday evening, the teams from Damascus, Beirut, Jerusalem, Kuwait and Cyprus lived a memorable weekend that had it all.
Host team Cyprus and neighbouring Lebanon fought off the competition to make both the basketball and football finals.
The newly formed HMEM-AYMA Cyprus basketball team – under player/coach Markrid Kazandjian – defeated Kuwait, while HMEM Lebanon defeated neighbours Damascus in the semi-finals.
In football Cyprus and Lebanon met in the final after winning their semi-final encounters. Cyprus defeated Jerusalem 5-2 after a spirited resistance from the Holy Land that saw the Jerusalem team equalise from 0-2 down and ten men, after receiving a red card early on.
In the second half the Cyprus team showed its teeth and sealed victory to gain a finals spot against Lebanese giants who had their share of fighting to do when they defeated Kuwait 2-0 (half time 0-0).
After the semi final basketball matches at “Evangelos Florakis” Stadium, the finals moved to Lefkotheon where the six-week old basketball team of HMEM-AYMA challenged the first division runner-ups of the Lebanese Women's Championship, who clinched first prize by running out winners 58-48.
The 4:30pm Football Finals at Makarion Stadium – was equally a challenge. HMEM Lebanon – playing in Lebanese Football Division Two – would settle for nothing less than a joyride against AYMA-HMEM, which plays in the second division of the island's Amateur League. However our Lebanese brothers were caught on a surprise, specially when the Cyprus team went ahead with 1-0 by a goal by defender Krikor Mahdessian.
A much stronger Lebanese team however, after regrouping after the initial shock slowly turned the screws and half way through the second half equalised and ran off as eventual winners at the 90 minute mark with a narrow 2-1 score.
After a day of sports, the “rivals” on the courts were soon to bring their commotion at Yitonia ton Asmaton, in an evening of dancing and KEF, interchanged by Armenian and Greek music and dancing to the sounds of Hrach Gaydzagian and Shakeh Baghdassarian.
After the short speeches by HMEM-AYMA president Dr. Antranik Ashdjian & HMEM World Committee President Karnig Meguerditchian, the trophies were presented by KOA vice-President Rikkos Theocharides, Armenian Representative Vartkes Mahdessian and HMEM chief Karnig Meguerditchian.
Also decorated were AYMA – HMEM coach Vazken Bodigian for his services to AYMA's football team spanning over three decades and AYMA past President Garo Terzian during whose presidency AYMA rejoined HMEM's big family.
Moments later, the awards ceremony to the winning teams sent both Lebanese basketball and football teams to joyous celebrations which subsided as soon as the band started playing haygagan kochari.
After the first musical note from the keyboard of Seto Baghdassarian, the games were forgotten and all the teams were singing and dancing as part of the same team of fourth generation Armenians who were making a statement of survival a few days after commemorating the 92nd anniversary of the genocide of their forefathers.
We have survived!
Source: Gibrahayer e-magazine, 02 May 2007