Khoren Bayramyan: "Karpin constantly teased me that I had no goals – it hurted!"

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Khoren Bayramyan entered November without being involved in any goals and missing the first match of the month against CSKA due to injury. Having recovered, the midfielder stood out on matchday 15 and 16 of the Russian Premier Liga, scoring three goals in the games against Rubin and Dynamo to help bring Rostov six points and win the November Player of the Month award.

“The whole team considers Karpin the best coach in the league”

Teams have a tradition of congratulating distinguished players with a tunnel. How was your award celebrated?
– At Rostov there are no tunnels, and it's good that way. When there are important events - birthdays, the appearance of newcomers - the head coach just congratulates the player, and the rest of the team clap. No one has ever won the RPL Player of the Month award before, and the guys just congratulated me - some in a joking way, some in a serious way - but they were happy for me, so everything was calm.

What joke do you remember?
– From Valery Georgievich! He said I bribed everyone.

Karpin claimed the title of the best coach in November. Were the team anxious for him to win the award?
– It is always nice to take personal awards, but we don’t focus on this; it has never been discussed in our team. Everyone did their job, and I am extremely grateful to those who voted for me. As for Valery Georgievich, I can say this: the whole team considers him the best coach in the league, and always. It can't be any other way.

You had a productive November – three goals in two matches. What helped you resume the season so brightly after injury?
– First of all, thank you to the coaching staff. I always thank Karpin, but he also has a great staff, who prepared me very well physically during the two-week break as my muscle was sorted out. In psychological terms, Valery Georgievich also gave me motivational advice, teasing me at times to make me angry. So they prepared me, for which I thank them all. Thank God that everything is going so well so far, and fingers crossed it should keep going normally.

You told last year that Karpin always finds new words in training, and doesn’t let things get stale. How did he motivate you?
– If you look at my statistics, they are now more modest than last season, and before these two games with Rubin and Dynamo, I did not have any direct goal involvements at all. I was constantly ‘bullied’ by Karpin. For example, he asked me: “How many goals do you have?” I said, “Bagel, zero.” “How many assists?” "Also zero." Georgievich always jokes like that. On the one hand, it's fun, but as an attacking player, it hurt me. I wanted to prove to myself and the coach that it’s time to improve, and it worked. But this is not enough to make Karpin happy. He always wants everything to be perfect, at the highest level, and that's great.

Valery Georgievich once told reporters that he is always dissatisfied with something, regardless of the result. Was this also true after the victories over Rubin and Dynamo?
– Of course, but he is a reasonable person. First he always congratulates you on the victory, says what were the good moments, and then shows where you could have played better or something that didn’t work out. This is what Karpin is all about: he is never happy, and even if we played well, he always says that we could have played better.

Did you personally have any complaints?
– They were, are, and will be, but let it remain a secret. He has complaints, and they are on the case. I accept them and will continue to work.

“Thanks to my father's stories, I was inspired by Maradona”

You didn't celebrate your first of two goals against Rubin out of respect for your opponent; you started to play more for Rostov just after the loan in Kazan. What did a year at Rubin give your career?
– In fact, it was at Rubin that I first played consistently for a whole year. I was in the starting line-up, I played in many positions, and this gave me experience and some skill. I can only thank Kurban Berdyev for teaching me so much. Now, having returned to Rostov, I continue to learn from Karpin.

After the victory over Dynamo, you compared Denis Terentyev, who gave you an assist, to Maicon. Why him?
– Everyone remembers how Maicon at Inter ran all down the flank, scoring and passing. I sincerely wrote on Instagram that Terentyev was the best for me, although Dima Poloz scored three goals. He plowed all down his right flank, and faced with as dangerous a football player as Lesovoy. Denis blocked everything from behind, but in front he managed to earn an important penalty and gave me an assist. That's why I likened him to Maicon - I think everyone liked him in his best years.

At the peak, he had a confrontation in the Brazilian national team with Dani Alves.
– Yes, but Dani Alves is a technical defender. Terentyev is also technical, but he is also fast, and powerful, so I compared him to Maicon.

How can Denis become cooler than Maicon?
– I will be insanely happy for my friend if he becomes cooler! He's still better than Maicon to me.

You told that your father adored Diego Maradona, and your hairstyle is similar to his. Was there an idea on the day of the match with Dynamo to do something in memory of Maradona?
– I think it was too much, and there's been too much attention lately. But my father and his generation admired Maradona, and we saw how the whole world reacted to the news of his death; there were three days of mourning in Argentina. I didn't really catch Diego playing, but thanks to my father's stories, you can say that I fell in love with him and was inspired somehow. I had a lot of t-shirts with Maradona's name on them.

“Valery Georgievich understands that the hairstyle is dear to me”

After the match with Dynamo, there was a photo of you carrying Karpin on your back. What should happen to make it the other way around?
– You should probably ask him, it's emotions. But everyone sees, discusses and understands what a great atmosphere there is inside the team. If it's a good time, maybe I'll jump on Georgievich too, but I don't think it's likely. The coach can allow it, but we have to keep a little distance. If there is an emotional match and we score a 90th minute winner, perhaps we’ll jump on him.

You made several bets with Karpin. Who initiates them?
– Of course, Valery Georgievich. Last year, the bet was on my side, so I hope that I won't lose this year either.

Karpin said that if you don't score two goals before the end of the year, you will either have to shave your head or dye your hair. Is there a penalty for Valery Georgievich?
– No. I think the fact of goals is a victory for me. The argument is not about money. The coach says to me: you have to score, otherwise you do it. If I score, personally I feel good, and there are no questions.

Why is it not the first time you’ve bet on the choice of hairstyle?
– Because I haven't changed my image in eight years. It is clear that I go to the barber’s to cut my hair, but I have been wearing this hairstyle since I was 20 years old. Georgievich understands that it is dear to me, so he offers such a bet.

Have your teammates agreed to help?
– They will help, everything will be fine!

You and Karpin have been working together for more than two years with a break for your loan at Rubin. How quickly did you find a common language with him when he came to Rostov?
– At first, Valery Georgievich played according to the 5-3-2 scheme, there was more defensive football, and at that time he did not see me in this arrangement. When I came back from loan, he said at training camp that we would play 4-3-3 and there was a position for me as the left attacking midfielder. There were no problems either last year or this year, so we found a great common language. We all like this attacking and modern football, so we and the guys are now learning a lot with pleasure from Karpin.

How have you changed under him?
– I have learned a lot from Georgievich. He is quite a young coach, and knows a lot about European football having played there. Karpin tries to instill his football and tells a lot of stories. He played as a winger and as a striker – you have to look up to him. Now he has a lot of tactics and videos and you learn everything from it and develop. But I would focus on how I began to play better in this position under Karpin: I learned how to press correctly and open up in front, and from this goals began to flow.

Did he pass on his experience of playing in your position?
– He didn't tell me, but showed on video and right on the field where to run and where to open up. This helped me to be where I needed to be, and to do effective actions.

“Beginners need time, and this is normal”

During the season key players of last year's squad have left Rostov: Zaynutdinov, Chistyakov, Chernov, Ionov, Shomurodov. How did the reboot work?
– I think everyone around us and probably Karpin himself understood that we needed more time to build a new team. We still see that not everything is perfect, there are things to work on. Valery Georgievich himself recently said that when we have a training camp, then we can talk about something. Yes, key players have left, but we understand that the coach has a system by which we play, he explains it clearly. This period of the season shows we haven't gone downhill; although half of the squad has been updated, we continue to play the football that Karpin wants.

So the new players have also understood the Rostov system, and this helps the team maintain last year's level, do you agree?
– Again, as Georgich said, when you tell the newcomers every day for two months after a training camp that at one moment we press, at another we defend, and so on, people get used to it all, and it becomes much easier for them. Now we see that we are doing quite well, but again, there are things to work on. Newcomers need time, and this is normal; some are foreign, some are playing this system for the first time. The fact that Georgievich's system works shows what kind of coach he is and how he can work with players.

The team has a lot of newcomers, including foreigners. How do you help them settle in?
– Everyone helps, Valery Georgievich and his staff first of all. We can also say some things in English. There are players who are a little more fluent. Take Roma Eremenko, who speaks all languages of the world: he can explain to the Swedes in Swedish, to the Norwegians in Norwegian, no problem. When Aleesami arrived, he already found people to get on with, because Normann was already there. Two Swedes joined in and didn't get lost either. There is no such thing as someone being alone. There is always support from all sides, and in football terms, the sooner the newcomers understand everything, the better for the team. The same applies in life, so that they feel at home.

Kento Hashimoto arrived earlier and has fit best in the team, already being the top scorer. What is it good for?
– I am very happy for him. It's a pity that he is injured now. Kento is a very simple, modest, well-mannered person. We know that education and respect come first in Japan, so I can only say good things about him. The guy trains properly, follows everything, and on the field you have seen he shows results. Everyone thought that since a person came from the other side of the world he would need more time to adapt, and he quickly convinced us that he was ready for anything. Although Kento is the only Japanese in the team, I think we don't let him get bored.

You are one of the most experienced players in Rostov, along with Pesyakov, Eremenko, Mamaev and Poloz. Do you try to take on leadership responsibilities, or try to get the team going?
– All these guys are engaged in this, this comes with experience. This is not only because we have been at Rostov for a long time, but also because we are not young guys by age. This is what all teams have, and young players listen to us.

“Kalachev and Gatcan both helped and pushed me along; I am very grateful to them”

Alexandru Gatcan recalled how together with Timofey Kalachev he helped young Rostov players, including you, suggesting they could encourage if someone did not do enough. Does this experience help you now?
– I remember the period when I played with these legends: they really helped, pushed, and told something. I felt everything for myself. I took something from them, something from others, and do it my own way. I think this is normal in football when experienced players suggest this. Yes, everyone has a different approach. Some could push hard, but if you are a young and thinking football player, you need to take criticism normally and push. Now another generation is coming, so we have become more experienced and teach young people with what we were taught: we can rally, support, push where necessary. I think this happens everywhere.

Do you remember the main advice from Kalachev and Gatcan?
– I won't say any specific things, but I am very grateful to them, as well as to other experienced players. I played a lot with Kalachev and Gatcan. I was 20 years old when I started playing with them, even before the loans to the FNL. Then I already felt what an experienced football player is. They questioned me if I didn't run somewhere or made a mistake, and gave me normal advice.

Any memorable motivators?
– There were many stories and games where Kalachev shoved me. I was younger, I was lost, I was worried, but over time it goes away and you harden up. I can't remember a specific match, because there were many of them!

Rostov physio Alvaro Sayabera said about you that you create a fun atmosphere in the team. For example, last year the club posted on social networks how you danced after the victory over Spartak. How else do you defuse the situation in the dressing room?
– Thanks to Alvaro and all the people who think so, I am very pleased, but I do not have a certain way; it all happens by itself. I communicate well with everyone, I treat them kindly, so I think the guys treat me the same way. I can't say that there are any preparations. It all happens from the inside, from the heart, improvisation, you could say.

Karpin said that he does not have the task of fighting for medals or the Champions League, that the team goes from game to game. But is the team set to return to European competition next season?
– I think Georgievich speaks correctly, and we, the guys, are so determined. We'll see what happens in the end. Of course, we want to play in European competitions, which is what every player dreams of, but we all understand that we can achieve something if we focus on a specific match. Now we will play Ufa, we must prepare and play with dignity. Now there are no tasks, you need to go out and play at the maximum level every match.

You said that Rostov learned lessons from the defeat to Maccabi Haifa in the Europa League qualification. Which ones?
– If we come back and perform normally, in other words better than against Maccabi, then we can talk about it. So I can say a lot of things that we all realized that we lost because of this, the second, the third, but it would be incorrect. When the time comes, then I will answer. The team was inexperienced, many were playing in European competition for the first time, so everything turned out a little bit flat and led to the final result. I repeat: I really hope that if Rostov are in European competition again, we will play better.

“After my first goal for the national team, there was an unreal euphoria inside”

In September, you started playing for the Armenian national team, but in November, the team won their Nations League group without you. When the tournament started in September, did you think about this goal?
– Personally, I went there with such an idea. After changing the limit on foreign players, four players are now called up to the Armenian national team from the RPL; myself, Arshak Koryan, Alexander Karapetyan and Varazdat Haroyan. Other new players and a new coach also joined the team. I haven’t even mentioned Henrikh Mkhitaryan; there is also Sarkis Adamyan from Hoffenheim. When I arrived, I saw that the team consisted of skilful guys, and I realized that in our group we could beat all the opponents, and the guys also had this attitude. 

As for the November matches, I can only say that the guys did well. I was not there, Mkhitaryan also, and some other guys caught coronavirus; Kazaryan and Adamyan did not play. The guys showed character and spirit, and I am very happy for our team. It was a joy for our people in such a difficult time. We have moved up to League B, and there is a chance to play against much more serious teams to test our strength.

For example, Russian play in this division.
– Yes, I would very much like to meet them!

Spanish coach Joaquin Caparros works with the team. How did he manage to develop the national team so much in two months?
– He has a long track record having worked in a lot of places. There were some difficulties. It is not easy when the team is visited by people from different teams, as any coach there is no time to learn anything. We meet for two weeks, the coach needs to say something on tactics, what pattern of play he sees, and we carry it out. If there is a result, then it comes from doing everything correctly. Thank God it worked out for him.

You only announced your agreement to play for the Armenian national team a month before your debut. How long did you think about this option?
– The national team invited me a long time ago. I do not hide it, and everyone probably knows about it. I didn't go there because I wasn't a fully formed player here yet. In addition, under the old limit on foreigners, there were examples when a player went to the national team, automatically became a foreigner and lost his place in the squad. Everyone remembers what foreigners played before, and even now they are not weak. If you're a foreigner, you need to be a head or two stronger than the others. At that time, I knew that if I went to the national team, I would lose my place in the team. Now that I have grown stronger over the years and started to show a certain level, and that Armenians are no longer considered foreigners in Russia, the road to the Armenian national team was open, and I immediately accepted the invitation.

You played for Russia at junior and youth level. Have you ever waited for a call-up to the main team?
– Armenia is my historical homeland, I was born there, but I also consider Russia my great homeland. I have spent all 28 years of my life here. I also owe what I have become to Russia, which is not a foreign country for me. If there had been a call from the Russian team then we could have discussed something, but there was no invitation. I was called up to the Armenian national team so I decided to play for it.

In the October match against Georgia you scored your first goal for Armenia. Were the emotions stronger than from any other goal for Rostov?
– It was one of the most emotional, because Armenia was also going through a difficult time. Plus, I hadn't scored yet this season at that moment. Of course I wasn't excessively happy, I didn't show any outward emotions, but inside there was an unreal euphoria. This is definitely one of my most memorable goals. But I felt the same emotions when I scored my first goal in the RPL under Karpin in 2018 against SKA-Khabarovsk. That's when I had a direct outburst of emotions, even more.

You have already mentioned Mkhitaryan. How did he help you get used to it?
– When I arrived in September, he was not in the national team, but then I met everyone. We crossed paths in October, and you could see how he tried to joke with me more, so that I would join the team. This is the task of the captain; Henrikh feels this. All the partners felt that Mkhitaryan is a leader both on and off the field. It unites the team, and everyone listens to it.

Is the Armenian national team now ready to fight to reach their first world Cup?
– We all know that the World Cup is an unrealistic level, and it will be very difficult for a small team like Armenia to get there. But you always need to believe, and whether the team is ready or not, the results will show. I personally would like this very much and I think every one of the guys in the national team will do everything to make it happen. In addition to the qualifiers, there is a chance thanks to the Nations League. Georgia, for example, had a chance to reach the Euros for the first time when they played North Macedonia in November. Every team, including those from a small country, can make it to a major tournament, and we believe in this.

Photo: Artem Gusev/Rostov; Rubin Kazan; the Football Federation of Armenia


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