Only 21, Yura Movsisyan has already played on two MLS professional soccer teams, competed with the best players in Europe, and is being sponsored by Adidas. But he did not reach his goal of becoming a professional soccer player by just wishing for it.
Movsisyan was born on July 6, 1987 in Baku, Azerbaijani SSR, Soviet Union. As a boy he learned to play soccer on the streets of his hometown and grew to love the game. Unfortunately being in Baku as an Armenian was not safe, especially during the pogroms of the late 1980s and 1990s.
Armenians generally were not respected or tolerated in Baku and, in 2000, Movsisyan and his family fled Azerbaijan to come to the United States. They were blessed enough to move to Pasadena, Calif., where they started a new life, with new hopes and dreams. This is where his dreams truly started to come true.
He quickly joined an organized soccer club called Lazio FC. When asked what drew him to join the team, he replies, “I had a lot of love for soccer ever since I was a child. I wanted to be a professional soccer player and I felt proper training was key.” He joined two more club soccer teams: Flyers FC and Arsenal.
Movsisyan explains that maintaining his Armenian identity was initially a daunting task, but he vowed he would never forget where he or his family came from. “Soccer did help me feel more comfortable to be in the United States,” he explains, “and it was a way for me to get away from the rest of the world, it made me feel really happy.” Even though Yura’s life is and was completely surrounded by soccer he didn’t forget about his roots. He maintained his culture by doing what he knew best: every year he would play Forward for the Homenetmen “Azadamard” soccer team at the Navasartian Games.
The young Movsisyan also attended Pasadena High School (PHS), playing for his school and his future mentor, Cherif Zein. He shattered the PHS goal record by seven goals, making 32 goals in 13 games. “Breaking the record in high school was nice,” recalls Movsisyan. “During the season it wasn’t the amount of goals I wanted to make, for me it was just making goals till the end and it was nice to have it on my resume.”
While living in the United States and even in Baku, Yura did not attend any Armenian Schools. “The other day, I went to Pilibos Armenian School to speak,” says Movsisyan, “and that is the only time I have ever been inside an Armenian School.” Yet, to this day, he knows how to read and write fluently in Armenian.
After high school Movsisyan moved on to college soccer. While, at first, he was not very interested in attending college, his mind was quickly changed after his mentor Cherif told him that if he played for Pasadena City College (PCC) for one season, he would guarantee that professional coaches would see him. Yura played his heart out, becoming the MVP of the Pacific League, scoring 18 goals in 19 games, and accounting for half of his team’s goals for that season. Cherif’s promise proved to be true as Yura was pronounced eligible for the MLS draft within three months of playing for PCC.
Movsisyan’s dream had finally come true. He was a professional soccer player playing for Kansas City. “It was a dream come true playing for Kansas City. It was the best feeling actually attaining my goal,” says Movsisyan. He admits, however, that, “I did feel out of place being in Kansas City, not being with my family or other Armenians.”
Since then Movsisyan has moved on to play for the MLS soccer team, Real Salt Lake. This past season he scored eight goals and assisted one goal. When asked what his goals are for the upcoming season his answer was, “to score more goals and be healthy.”
This past summer, Movsisyan was invited to play at a tournament hosted by Adidas called “Generation Adidas”—where the best in the MLS are asked to compete. For the future, Movsisyan has his sights set on one day playing for a soccer club in Europe. “Eventually I want to end up playing in Europe whether its next year or in the next five years, I really want to go,” says the ambitious Movsisyan. “Any good team in Europe is fine with me; any good team would be good.” Currently, he is also hosting a soccer camp in Arcadia, Calif., where he is teaching and training many young athletes. Movsisyan will also continue to play for Real Salt Lake this upcoming season.