Markos, a Brazilian accent in Armenian soccer: “I feel at home in Armenia”

Markos, a Brazilian accent in Armenian soccer: “I feel at home in Armenia”

Markos Pizzelli and his wife Nathalia at their place in Yerevan

Markos likes everything about living in Armenia except winter cold

The Brazilian striker of the Yerevan soccer club Pyunik and the national team of Armenia Markos Pineiro Pizzelli has long been held as an idol of local soccer fans.

Brazilians have long been a “soccer brand” of leading European clubs, such as Kaka in the Spanish championship, Ronaldinho, Dida, Fabiano in the Italian league, Robert Carlos in Turkey, and others.

Markos, 25, has lived in Armenia since last summer along with his young wife Nathalia (Nathalia Donadel Siqueira) in a small but comfortable one-bedroom apartment in a high-rise in Yerevan, situated next to the Armenian Football Federation’s building in Khanjyan Street.

His wife is a veterinarian by profession, but she does not work in Armenia. Markos and Nathalia got married a year ago. For now, as Markos says, they want to live “for themselves” and are not in a hurry to parent a child. “But if God gives us a child now, we won’t mind it at all,” adds Markos.

Markos, a native of Sao Paulo, is not the first international to play in an Armenian soccer club (but the first Brazilian); he first appeared in FC Ararat in 2006 at the invitation of that club.

When Markos’s contract with Ararat expired, he took the invitation of another Yerevan-based club, Pyunik, as a free agent, and in summer 2008 signed a long-term contract with the perennial champion of the country.

Markos says he so much liked his stay in Armenia that he did not refuse to try on the national team’s jersey when he was approached on that matter.

On October 10 this year Markos was on the Armenia team playing a World Cup 2010 qualifier against the continent’s champions Spain, and four days later also represented Armenia in a politically sensitive qualifier in Bursa against Turkey.

Markos, however, says that he, just like all the rest players of the Armenian team, did not think about the political component of the match when they stepped onto the pitch at Ataturk Stadium.

“On the pitch we did not have the Armenian-Turkish protocols [on establishing diplomatic ties and developing bilateral relations] on our minds. I say this firmly not only on my behalf, but also on behalf of all the guys. Our job is to play soccer,” explains the naturalized Brazilian.

Markos was the closest to finding the back of the Turkish goal in that game, but the Turkish goalkeeper Vokan Demirel made a brilliant save after the Markos shot (cementing Turkey’s 2-0 victory).

Markos says he likes very much playing for Pyunik and living in Armenia. He says he likes the long hot summer and warm autumn in his adopted home country, but when winter comes, he takes a plane to his first base in Brazil that then enjoys the southern hemisphere’s summer. Though, he has to come back to Armenia in the middle of the Armenian winter, in January, for training assemblies with Pyunik.

“I don’t like winter and freezing temperatures. And it is cold in Yerevan in January, and this is the only thing that I dislike about Armenia,” says Markos.

The warm October weather notwithstanding, the soccer player’s Yerevan apartment is always well heated.

“We like it as hot as in Brazil, we’re used to it,” explains Nathalia.

Markos says he has a lot of friends in Armenia and his closest friend is fellow Pyunik striker Vahagn Minasyan that he plays a tandem with in the club and in the national team.

“We spend a lot of time together and often go to the countryside for a barbecue. I’d say that in Brazil we make barbecue differently, not only with another recipe but also using different sorts of meat. Generally, I take the Armenian cuisine calmly. Best of all I like [Ukrainian] borsch, which I tried for the first time in my life in Armenia, but it doesn’t seem to be an Armenian soup at all.”

When Markos is free from training sessions and assemblies he and his wife like taking a walk around Yerevan (they particularly like Republic Square, the fountains, Tsitsernakaberd Park, from where “there is a terrific sight of Yerevan and biblical Mount Ararat”).

“When I was younger I liked going to discotheques and night clubs, but now I don’t feel like going there, I like walking around the city, going to other people’s homes and receiving guests at my home,” says Markos.

The Brazilian sees his future in Pyunik and the Armenian national team. But he says that “if Pyunik opens a window for me to join some leading European club, I won’t mind it.”

“But for now I live in Armenia, I get wonderful treatment here and I feel at home. I only miss my parents and my in-laws who are in Brazil,” says Markos.

During an interview Markos’s wife Nathalia would obstinately refuse to get photographed along with her husband: “I feel embarrassed. You’d better take only Markos’s photos, he is used to his photos being taken.” The young woman agreed only after long entreaties. “Don’t pay attention to her embarrassment, she is a provincial girl, because Sao Paulo is so far away from Yerevan,” said Markos jokingly.