Sunday,22 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1224, (4 - 10 December 2014)
Sunday,22 July, 2018
Issue 1224, (4 - 10 December 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Rise and raise

One hundred years have passed since the birth of Egypt’s second oldest Armenian sporting club. Nora Koloyan-Keuhnelian reports on a century of community service

Al-Ahram Weekly

Last week, the Armenian community in Egypt celebrated the centennial of the founding of its second oldest Armenian sporting club in the country -- Homenetmen Ararat.

On the occasion, the club committee organised a two-day basketball tournament during which men and women basketball teams were invited from Lebanon, including Homenetmen Antelias, to take part in the celebrations. Also invited were representatives from the Homenetmen Central Executive Committee based in Beirut, along with its chairman Karnig Meguerditchian and Homenetmen Gamk Alexandria Club’s men’s basketball team.

The opening ceremony took place in the club’s basketball stadium in the presence of key community figures, including primate of the Armenian Diocese in Egypt and the ambassador of Armenia to Egypt.

The celebrations opened with a parade by the club’s male and female scouts and their leaders who saluted both the Egyptian and Armenian flags as well as that of the Homenetmen Organisation. That day, 60 scouts pledged an oath and received their badges and ties after completing an educational manual and passing their exams.

During the two-day ceremony, basketball matches took place between the participating junior and senior men and women’s teams and the club’s basketball squads. There was also a ceremony honouring and awarding medals to scout leaders who served the scouting division of the club during the past 50 years, and all those who served on the club’s board, was a scout or a sportsman or sportswoman in the past.   

Ararat Armenian Sporting Club was first established in 1914 in Cairo before it was affiliated to the worldwide Homenetmen Organisation. It all began in the Kalousdian Armenian School’s playground on Galaa Street, when Stepan Amirayan and dozens of sportive youth laid the foundation stone of Ararat Club. They organised several sports events to be able to save some money for their future plans. Tennis, football and athletics were the first games played in the club. Basketball became the club’s number one sport in 1930.

The club’s first board was elected in 1934. Among the board members at that time was Vartan Kazandjian whose grandchildren Vartan and Harry are still active members in the club today, Vartan as head of the present board.

In the first years of its establishment, the club rented a piece of land on Ramses Street to practise. When Egypt started to receive a large number of Armenians who fled the Ottoman massacres, the club’s members increased and consequently it moved to Garabedian Stadium in Shubra in 1928 where they stayed until 1936, after which they then moved to downtown Cairo. In 1962, Homenetmen Ararat Club finally moved to the suburb of Heliopolis, on Beirut Street.

Homenetmen, or as its acronym at times, HMEM, and translated into the Armenian language – Armenian General Union of Body Culture – is a pan-Armenian diaspora organisation devoted to sports and scouting. The motto of the organisation is ‘Rise and Raise, elevate yourself and elevate others with you’.

The organisation was founded in November 1918 in Constantinople by Shavarsh Krissian, Hovhanness Hintilian and Krikor Hagopian. Krissian came up with the idea of scouting before 1918. Since its establishment, Homenetmen’s main aim has been to find a haven for Armenian children and youths living in orphanages, as well as those who were saved from the genocide committed by Ottoman Turks in 1915, and give them moral support.

After its founding, several of Homenetmen chapters were established in the Armenian Diaspora, in many cities in the Middle East, Europe, the United States, Canada, South America and Australia.  

Homenetmen’s mission has been, since its establishment, to prepare physically strong Armenian citizens with the highest intellectual and spiritual virtues by teaching endurance and courage, nationalism and patriotism, obedience to the law, developing awareness of duty and responsibility, feeling of honour, nurturing a spirit of harmony and cooperation and satisfying the heart and mind with the noblest of sporting spirit.

Homenetmen Organisation is affiliated with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) and is considered the sports and scouting wing of the party.

In Egypt, Homenetmen Gamk Alexandria, previously known as Gamk, was the first Armenian sports club, established in 1912 by Stepan Khanjian and Parsegh Ohanian. Both Gamk Alex and Ararat Cairo Armenian clubs were affiliated to Homenetmen Organisation in the 1920s.

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