Manchester United: Henrikh Mkhitaryan writes emotional piece on how his father's death inspired his career

Mkhitaryan was six when his father died of a brain tumour, aged 33, and he explains how he struggled to understand where he had gone before learning to use his passing as inspiration

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The Independent Football

Henrikh Mkhitaryan has offered a remarkable insight into his determination to succeed as a footballer that is driven by the early death of his father due to a brain tumour, which inspired the current Manchester United winger to follow in his footsteps and become a professional footballer.

Hamlet Mkhitaryan was a professional footballer who played in the Soviet Union during the 1980s, and made two appearances for Armenia during a 15-year professional career, making over 300 club appearances for the likes of Ararat Yerevan, Kotayk Abovian and ASOA Valence.

He was sadly diagnosed with a brain tumour in 1995 that ended his professional career and, knowing he was dying, moved back to Yerevan in Armenia where he had three operations in the space of year before passing away at the young age of 33.

The loss of his father had a mixed impact on Mkhitaryan, who was six at the time, as even though he couldn’t understand where he had gone, he soon learnt to use his absence to drive his own career in football.

Writing an incredibly moving piece in the Players’ Tribune, Mkhitaryan said: “My time with my father would be very meaningful, but also very short. When I was six years old, my parents told me that we were moving back home to Armenia. I didn’t really understand what was happening. My father had stopped playing football, and he was at home all the time.

“I didn’t know it, but my father had a brain tumour. Everything happened very fast. Within a year, he was gone. Because I was so young, I didn’t completely understand the concept of death.

“I remember seeing my mother and older sister always crying, and I would ask them, ‘Where is my father?’ No one could explain what was going on.”

Mkhitaryan has struggled to put his imprint on United this season after completing a £26m move from Borussia Dortmund in the summer, but his manager, Jose Mourinho, praised his performance in Wednesday’s 4-1 win over West ham and looks ready to make him a mainstay of his first-team after also impressing against the Hammers last weekend.

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Mkhitaryan was only six years old when his father died (Getty)

The 27-year-old took longer than others to adjust to the rigours of English football, but he explained that his determination to make himself the best he can possibly be is behind his improvement and also his reputation as one of the best wingers currently plying their trade in Europe.

“The year after my father died, I started football training,” adds Mkhitartyan. “He was the drive for me, he was my idol. I said to myself, I have to run just like him. I have to shoot just like him.

“By the time I was 10 years old, my entire life was football. Training, reading, watching, even playing football on PlayStation. I was totally focused on it. I especially loved the creative players — the maestros. I always wanted to play like Zidane, Kaka and Hamlet. (Pretty good company for my father).

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Mkhitaryan enjoyed three successful years at Dortmund before joining United (Getty)

“When you walk on to the pitch at Old Trafford, it is not just a pitch, it is a stage. If my father could see me on that stage, I think he would be very proud. I was always kind of chasing him, and I think even though he’s not here, he helped me to get to this place.”

 

The piece is a wonderful insight into the mind and history of a professional footballer, which is rarely afforded these days given the protection that surrounds players from their clubs, and Mkhitaryan should be applauded for writing so openly about his childhood and his late father who has evidently had a huge impact on his career despite passing away before it started.

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