Three points won't come easy for Irish warns Armenian hitman Movsisyan

Aidan Fitzmaurice

PORTUGAL, SERBIA, Belgium and Poland have all come to the frenetic city of Yerevan and gone home again without a win in recent campaigns.

And as the Euro 2012 campaign kicks off in Armenia tomorrow night, one man who is making his competitive debut for the Armenian side in the game says that if Ireland are to start the qualifiers with a win, then they will be made to work very, very hard for those three points.

Keane, Given, Dunne and O'Shea are well known here but not revered -- all the bootleg posters and sticker books on sale extol the virtues of Ronaldo, Kaka and Messi. It's safe to assume then that the locals here in this city of one million-plus will not be camping out overnight to get the autographs of Kevin Foley or Shane Long.

Some big nations have failed to win here and the newest recruit to the Armenian cause, the Danish-based and American-raised forward Yura Movsisyan, says that his side are desperate to avoid defeat in front of their own fans.

"At the start of every campaign you always want to begin well. For us, having the first game at home to Ireland -- one of the group favourites -- we want to start well and get a result tomorrow," Movsisyan told the Herald today.

"I'm not going to say we'll win 3-0. I won't even say that we'll win the game, but we will try and get a good result. I don't want us to aim for a draw, I am an optimist as a person and a professional so I want a win if we can, I don't like losing. Ireland have great players and a draw could be seen as a good result, but we're going for a win.

"We need to score goals I know. We have lacked that in the past with Armenia so we all have to be sharp here in Yerevan.

"I am always optimistic in every game I play so I hope we can do well. We're at home and I feel that in every home match you have to try and protect your home and at least avoid defeat. We will respect Ireland but we'll also respect ourselves, our ability, our team, our people and our country," added Movsisyan, who plays for Danish side Randers.

The striker has a very coloured background, in essence a mini-history of the Armenian diaspora and the traumas of that nation since independence in 1991.

"I had some interesting times on the way here, I saw a lot and lived through a lot. I was born in Azerbaijan but my family are Armenian. We moved around a bit when I was a kid, we lived here and there. We lived in Russia for a while," he explains in a broad American accent.

"We moved to the US when I was about 11 and most of my memories of childhood are from the States. That's when I started playing organised soccer for the first time, in the US. A few years later I turned pro at 18. I played in Kansas City and Salt Lake, won a championship at Salt Lake and then moved to Europe, and now I am getting my feet wet in Europe, as we say here."

The Armenian FA made a big deal of his debut against Iran last month as he was a rare recruit from the ex-pat community -- Armenia tend to shun players who might qualify through the granny rule and generally pick home-grown and home-based players, and there was even speculation that Movsisyan, a handy striker, would delay declaring for Armenia in the hope of a call-up from the US.

"Armenia seemed to make a big deal of me coming to play for them," he says. "International football is very, very important to this country. I haven't been part of it until now but I am really looking forward to facing big nations like Ireland.

"Ireland have some great players and the manager, Trapattoni, is known around the world. Ireland have good players, you have a great coach so it will be an honour for me to play against those great players," he added, holding out hope of becoming the first Armenian to play in England's top flight.