Armenian activist | Eskandarian strikes blow against an athletic cliché

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Alecko Eskandarian. Link to post.Washington | “A 23-year-old professional athlete with a social conscience. What gives?” So asks Mike Wise of the Washington Post in his profile of D.C. United forward Alecko Eskandarian. The statement troubles both for what it says about the inner lives of athletes as well as about the assumptions of sports writers, who often lack time or inclination to get beneath the surface.

We learn that Eskandarian cherishes his Armenian roots, enough to take part in the annual April 24 protest at the Turkish Embassy in Washington. This year he joined more than 1,000 Armenian-Americans asking the Turkish government to recognize the genocide of some 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1920, undertaken during the declining years of Ottoman rule.

Wise characterizes Eskandarian’s commitment as part of a family heritage. His father, Andranik, played football for Iran at the 1978 World Cup finals and for Cosmos of New York. Eskandarian went to an Armenian school until eighth grade and attended an Armenian Christian church. He forged a relationship with his paternal grandfather, Galoost, whose parents died during the genocide. His grandmother was orphaned at 5. The family fled to Iran (Persia). Galoost Eskandarian, before he died, passed on such history during backgammon games with grandson Alecko, and the family plans a sort of pilgrimage to Armenia in the near future.

“It’s not a nice story I tell you,” says Andranik Eskandarian.

About the Author

John Turnbull founded The Global Game in 2003. He was lead editor for The Global Game: Writers on Soccer (University of Nebraska Press, 2008) and has also written on soccer for Afriche e Orienti (Bologna, Italy), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the New York Times Goal blog, Soccer and Society, So Foot (Paris) and When Saturday Comes. His essay "Alone in the Woods: The Literary Landscape of Soccer's 'Last Defender' " in World Literature Today was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Also for World Literature Today he edited a special section on women's soccer, "World Cup/World Lit 2011," before the Women's World Cup in Germany. The section appeared in the May-June issue. His next project is a book on soccer and faith.

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