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Glendale | Community News File

Remembering Triumph of an Armenian Hero

September 25, 1997

Levon Ishtoyan never considered himself to be anything more than a professional athlete.

But Armenian immigrants remember him as the man who led the Armenian national soccer team to an improbable victory over the powerful Russian team and, in the process, helped galvanize a nation under Soviet occupation, stirring feelings of independence that later became a reality.

Ishtoyan, 49, said he finds it hard to believe that his athletic triumphs of 24 years ago were the first kicks of a nascent Armenian independence movement or that his game-winning goal in the 1973 Soviet Union Cup had anything to do with Armenian Independence Day celebrated by millions around the world on Tuesday.

"I just played soccer," he said.

Other Armenians describe Ishtoyan less as a soccer hero and more as a national hero.

"You give his name to any Armenian--even a lot of Russians--and they'll know him," said Aram Alajajian, a Glendale architect who arrived in the U.S. from Armenia in 1979.

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