“It was a Sunday thing like people go to church, we’d go to soccer,” Alex Hekimian said. “It’s no joke. There was nothing else to do. It was life. Soccer was life. That’s what came first in the family.”

Each team – such as Fresno Oro, Mexico, Fresno Internationals, Académica from Hanford and more – had its own rich history.

Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

In 1935 a football team was established in Yerevan by Spartak sports society. The first time the team participated in the competitions of the national level. The first trophy of the club was the Armenian SSR Cup in 1940. In the next 4 years soccer was not played because of World War II.

“It helped me make the transition from high school youth into adult soccer that eventually propelled me into the kind of soccer player I became. It was very competitive,” Ramirez said.

In August 2016, Arkady Andreasyan was appointed as the clubs manager.[14]

Brandon De La Fuente is from California but plays on the Armenian team. He says seeing the monument brings his experience abroad full circle.

From 1915-1923 Armenians were treated as second-class-citizens and targeted by the Ottoman Turkish Empire.

“I got to go to the monument they have in Armenia and it’s incredible pretty much the whole country goes there and brings flowers,” said Brandon De La Fuente, Player.

National benefitOf Vardan Minasyan's latest crop of youngsters, Henrik Mkhitaryan, Karlen Mkrtchyan, Artur Yedigaryan, Gevorg Ghazaryan and Grigor Meliksetyan have all become senior internationals, with the coach explaining: "We have almost 400 young players at the Pyunik academy who can make Armenian football better. We have pinned our future hopes on young players and have been proved right."

The club headquarters are located on Agatangeghos street 2, Yerevan.[13]The club's Dzoraghbyur Training Centre is located in the Dzoraghbyur village of Kotayk Province, at the eastern outskirts of Yerevan.

The pillars represent Armenian villages touched by the tragedy.

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“I chose the name because (Ararat Yerevan) was a good team, a very good team. Other villages and cities had clubs but none stronger than them,” Hekimian said.

“It laid a foundation of soccer in this community,” he said. “It was the golden era of soccer in the San Joaquin Valley. It was a beginning point that, in an amateur way, professionalized the sport in the area.”

Hekimian’s son, Alex, 42, remembers vividly those afternoons at Romain Playground, where he would order a pita bread sandwich from one of the many food trucks and sit on the grass to watch his father play.

The team began their trip with prayer. Afterward they placed a flower around each pillar of the monument.

For Ernest Hekimian, 69, it’s a heartwarming salute and reminder of his days with the Fresno Ararat Soccer Club.

Barlow Dermugrdechian is the coordinator of the Armenian studies program at Fresno State. He talked to the team about the impact the monument has on the community.

It’s been more than 40 years since Ararat Yerevan FC last visited Fresno. In 1974, the club played an exhibition against Mexican side Jalisco in front of a sellout crowd at Ratcliffe Stadium. It was part of a three-stop California tour for Ararat Yerevan FC, which was celebrating its 1973 Soviet Cup championship.

“It was packed,” Ernest Hekimian recalled. “There was no place to walk.”

In total the team participated in 33 Soviet Top League seasons, playing 1,026 matches, of which they won 352, drew 280, lost 394, scored 1,150 goals and conceded 1,306. By 1975 the team participated in the lottery three European Cups. In the last USSR Championship in 1991, the team was finished in seventh place.

“It’s very sad for us to see this,”  said Tigran Gharabaghtsyan through a translator, Assistant Coach. “But the memory from what our grandparents have told us it was very sad and very unfortunate for the people that went through that.”

Brazilian importsPyunik's intentions are undoubtedly noble, but theirs is not the only way. Ararat's youth academy is yet to become as successful as Pyunik's, so in their attempt to win a first title since 1993, Varuzhan Sukiasyan returned for a second spell at the helm at the start of the season and set about importing talent – with Brazilians providing much of their strength.

Your Central Valley – April of 1915 is nearly 101 years away, but to the players on the Armenian soccer team the monument bridges the gap of time.

“I loved him like an older brother,” Hekimian said. “He helped a lot. We had practices in the rain, and even though he was sick, he was always out there.”

Fresno State Armenian monument gives strength to FC Ararat Yerevan soccer team

Fresno Ararat rose through the ranks of the San Joaquin Valley Soccer League’s senior division until the club’s end in 1989.

Holmes and Romain playgrounds were the hot spots of amateur soccer in Fresno and the sidelines would fill with hundreds of spectators – mostly the friends and families of the coaches and players.

Ararat

But as much as the personal growth, he remembers the impact the SJVSL clubs had in the region.

“This means a lot to us for our Armenian culture and for Fresno to invite us here and to make this monument for us so that the whole world knows we really appreciate this,” said Tigran Gharabaghtsyan.

In 1960–63, 1966–91 the team participated in the Soviet Top League. In 1973 "Ararat" won the Soviet Cup. In 1971 1976 (Spring) years became a silver medalist championship, and in 1975 again won the USSR Cup.

“Soccer,” Hekimian added, “it made Fresno home.”

Jaime Ramirez, the Fresno Pacific men’s soccer coach who also was the Fuego’s first coach from 2003-07, remembers playing with Fresno Ararat on Sundays and the impact it had on him as a 19-year-old freshly graduated from Clovis High.

“I was asking some Armenian guys if they had a soccer team,” Hekimian said. “They had a league, they said, but they didn’t have an Armenian soccer team.”

It wasn’t always about results. It was about an atmosphere created every Sunday on the soccer fields in Fresno, Tulare, Hanford and other cities around the Valley.

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So Hekimian made one and named it after his favorite club from the motherland: Ararat Yerevan FC.

Ararat eventually fell to Juventus Soccer Club of the Peninsula League in San Francisco.

The government put forth plan killing 1.5 million men, women, and children.