It’s the 105th minute of the game and everyone is at the edge of their seats. Senior Gor Kirakosyan (No. 10) takes his place at the penalty kick line as he faces Loyola Marymount University’s (LMU) goal. With the game tied at 0-0, the suspense is unbearable.
He shoots. He scores!
The crowd goes wild at LMU’s Sullivan Field as Kirakosyan runs off pointing to the heavens, a traditional commemoration to his father and his supporters. His teammates catch up with him to celebrate together and for what seems like forever, everyone is in a state of pure bliss.
His friends and family are the ones who have been continuously supportive of him and his soccer ambitions, so to Kirakosyan, it’s only fitting to recognize all of them whenever he shoots a goal.
A little over a year prior to this amazing goal, Kirakosyan had tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), which forced him to redshirt for his junior year. He did everything he could to stay on top of his game even though he was unable to play. He was rehabilitating every day and making an effort to continually stay fit throughout the summer and throughout the year. However, he recalls this time being one of the lowest points in his life because of his inability to play soccer.
“When I first got my injury, I felt hopeless. My girlfriend showed me a video on Ronaldo (a soccer player for Brazil) who also got the same injury as I did and how he didn’t give up but worked harder and became a soccer legend.”
Throughout this process, his friends, family and his girlfriend were the ones who truly made his time of loss bearable for him. Whether it was lending moral support or a helping hand, they were always there to comfort him in his time of need.
Kirakosyan was born and raised in Armenia with his two younger brothers, Gary and Erik. At the young age of six, Kirakosyan started to play recreational soccer with his siblings and his dad. At the time, his dad was a professional Armenian soccer player and Kirakosyan looked up to him.
He spend fifteen years in Armenia before moving to the States in 2007. As he entered a new country right at the peak of his high school years, he struggled with language barriers and cultural differences.
“I had a really tough time adjusting to a different lifestyle when I moved to America. Soccer was the only thing that stayed the same,” Kirakosyan said.
He especially found solace during these times by playing soccer. It was a universal language to him.
“Because of my passion for the game, it helped me overcome the obstacles that came with my move,” Kirakosyan said.
Although Kirakosyan is attending UCI and pursuing a degree in political science, he always thought his soccer career would kick off earlier and he would be playing professional soccer even before college. He realized he had to attend a university to really move on and up so when his college offers started to roll in, he thought long and hard and eventually chose UCI.
“My girlfriend was going to UCI and I knew it was a great school. It was a hard decision to pick UCI, but my family certainly helped me with the final decision,” Kirakosyan said.
UCI offered everything he wanted and more. First and foremost, it offered him a soccer scholarship. Beyond that, Kirakosyan fell in love with Irvine’s campus and also liked that it was academically ranked. The well-roundedness of UCI was what won him over and eventually the decisive factor in his decision to attend.
His favorite soccer player Zinedine Zidane, who played for Madrid and France’s National team, hugely influences Kirakosyan’s performance on the soccer field.
“The way he plays on the field is always so enjoyable to watch and he is always so humble. He is someone I would like to play like,” Kirakosyan mentioned shyly.
The humility that Kirakosyan idolizes in Zidane is exemplified in himself more so than he thinks. When making the game-winning penalty kick in last week’s game, Kirakosyan went on to mention that none of it would have been done without his team. Every ounce of praise he received, he always reflects back onto his teammates.
“Soccer is not an individual sport, but a team sport, and it’s mainly about the people around you,” Kirakosyan said.
He went on to explain that soccer goes beyond how you interact with each other during a game, but how you study together, eat together, work out together and live life together. Hard work definitely pays off on the field but also off the field. By nurturing these relationships with his teammates, he has made lifelong friends, and to him, that is more rewarding than anything.
In all his years of playing soccer, Kirakosyan has always strived to be more than just an excellent soccer player. “I want to be someone who is good on and off the field. To me, it really is not about how good you play, it’s about who you are as a person and how you respect other people. Simply being a good soccer player will not gain you respect,” Kirakosyan said.
Soccer has coached Kirakosyan in all aspects of his life. It influences him to be a better person every day, benefits him physically and mentally and motivates him to follow his passions. As he pursues a degree in political science, he definitely has a bright future ahead of him. But he has never taken a second glance at a backup, not even for a second. Soccer is what he wants to do and he is determined to reach his goals.
One day he hopes to be playing professional soccer for Major League Soccer (MLS) or Football Club (FC) in Barcelona.
As he continues to score goals and point towards the heavens in celebration and commemoration of all his loved ones and supporters, they will cheer as he runs down the field and know that they helped to make his goal possible.
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