Shahan Petrossian: An Interview
This interview is a new development for the 1888 Letter, and I hope the first of many. In the course of my research for this blog over the last 18 months, I kept finding useful links to the site Soccer Nostalgia, and videos posted on YouTube by ‘sp1873’. The site contained a wealth of detail and facts, interviews and photos from magazines I’d never come across, and the video footage covered many obscure games from a variety of countries. I discovered that all of these were the work of Shahan Petrossian. I later contacted him when I was gathering material for the feature on British footballers in France, and he kindly sent some helpful information from his archive. He also interviewed me, so as a fellow enthusiast he seemed like the best choice to kick off interviews on my blog!
I started by asking Shahan to give some background about himself, his interests and collection.
Just to give you a brief background, I am an Armenian (born in Iran, 1973) and living in USA since 1985. The 1982 World Cup made me a football fan (I was nine years old). The game just got in my blood and never left me. As the months passed I became more interested and discovered the game at the club level as well. That’s when I started not only just watch the game but also started reading local specialized sports magazines on a weekly basis and intensively followed standings/scores/etc. Luckily, I could read in French and this allowed me access to read Onze and Mondial (though they were difficult to get hold of). It was around this time that I also started getting interested in writing down the scores along with goalscorers/line-ups for club but especially for International matches. This passion only intensified when we moved to France for one year (and I discovered the wonderful France Football magazine) and later settling permanently in USA (I started reading Soccer America, but after a few years, World Soccer would be imported). I just enjoyed keeping records of matches with as much detail as possible.
What are your first football memories?
My earliest memory of watching Football was in fact the 1982 World Cup. As far as club Football (apart from the local League) it would be the 1982/83 season. I have memories of watching highlights of the English League, Bundesliga, Serie A, French and Dutch Leagues as well as International matches and European Cup matches. Sometimes full matches (or extended highlights) would be broadcast maybe once a week. (Of course the matches were never live, but a few weeks after).
Did you have a favourite team or player growing up?
I support different clubs in different Nations. In the first of my Serie A section (“When Calcio Ruled the Football World”), I specified that I was a Juventus fan, but in general I do not disclose my preferences as I want the page to be about the Game in general and not a partisan page.
I believe everyone’s favorite era is the time when they first became a fan. For me, I grew up in the era of Maradona/Platini/Rummenigge/Zico and later Gullit/van Basten era of the great AC Milan. It was an era where Serie A and Calcio were dominant. (My sections on Maradona/Platini and “When Calcio Ruled the Football World” are a testament to that). Despite all their later flaws, the memory of these players takes us back to the happy memories of our childhood when we became fans. I do also admire the 70s of Cruyff/Beckenbauer as well. We were conscious of that relatively recent past and it was part of the ambience.
This is not to say that I don’t like current Football, as I follow Football from all eras, but those years are special due to sentimental reasons as they made me a lifelong supporter.
I think we have a shared interest in the great Brazil team of the 1982 World Cup – what are your memories of watching their games (and where were you at the time)?
Since the 1982 World Cup turned me into a fan, it would be an understatement to say that the Brazil 82 squad played a significant part in it. I was nine years old living still in Iran, and not a fan of the sport by any means when the World Cup started. That event changed my existence and that Brazil squad was the best part of it. From that moment on seeing yellow jerseys only brings wonderful memories and the first memory is always that Brazil side of Zico, Socrates, Eder, Falcao (one could name all). During this World Cup their names became household names in every corner of the globe and not just my neighborhood. At the time, it felt like such an injustice when they lost to Italy as most of us then felt they were going all the way.
There are so many memories to pick from: the two long range efforts vs. USSR (please do not forget Falcao’s dummy for Eder’s goal) Zico’s overhead kick vs. New Zealand. Junior’s dancing after scoring against Argentina, Eder’s powerful free kick (cleaned up by Zico) vs. Argentina, etc, etc, etc. Despite not winning, their memory will live on longer than some that have actually won. They exemplified an era of Football, as well as my childhood as a new football fan. Those of us who lived the matches in that era will always reference this team as the finest that they saw.
Do you (or did you) play football – to what level?
I am a fan but no unfortunately I did not play at any organized level.
Do you go to games or watch on TV – how much football do you watch?
Living in the USA I am forced to watch matches on Television. As extensively as I have followed the sport (and continue to do so), it is a great source of regret that I did not get the chance to grow up like most Football fans, who get the chance to attend and travel to matches on a regular basis from generation to generation. On a given weekend, I watch perhaps 3-4 matches, sometimes two simultaneously going back and forth. The English Premier League matches are broadcast early in the mornings (Los Angeles time) along with Bundesliga matches. I also try to watch the Barcelona/Real Madrid matches of the week. I also try to watch Serie A matches, though they are not available every season (all depending on TV Station rights).
You developed an interest in football statistics at an early age, and compiled team line-ups etc – have you kept your childhood material?
I have some but not all of my childhood material, I nevertheless have a lot of old books/magazines that are in excess of thousands from the last five decades.As the years passed I started buying many Historical Football books including many dealing with histories of National teams. I had started collecting magazines from a young age and as the years progressed I had a large collection. I also started getting older issues of magazines that I had missed. My preferences were World Soccer, France Football, Onze, Mondial (eventually merged into Onze-Mondial), but also others such as Guerin Sportivo, El Grafico, Don Balon, Goal , etc.
How much is in your football collection?
I have not kept an inventory but books/magazines should be in the thousands. I have managed to collect every issue of World Soccer, Onze, and Mondial. A few years back, I started scanning the magazines one by one. It’s a slow process, but I have managed to scan a significant bulk. I also know some fellow collectors, with whom I exchange and they have graciously provided me with scanned magazines over the years. As far as videos, I had been recording match highlights and goals from Television on VHS for decades. About a decade ago I started converting the VHS tapes into DVD and was able to edit the goals/highlights of matches that I saved on my PC hard drive. Afterwards, I started collecting DVDs of matches, intensively and in a few years after exchanging with many collectors from all over the world I had in excess of 27,000 DVDs.
What made you decide to set up your site, Soccer Nostalgia?
In 2011, a friend of mine told me of his blog on music. This gave me the idea of having a soccer related blog of my own. After some thought I decided to start a blog where I would discuss International matches. The idea was to pick a match and write about it as much as possible. This meant not only full line-ups, shirt numbers, etc but also any stories/anecdotes related to the particular match. I would include as many photographs as possible and also include match reports/articles related to the match. Finally, I would link the match highlights from videos of my own collection. This is when I also started to upload the highlights that I already had on my PC on YouTube. I also started to edit and prepare match highlights from my DVD collection. It became a passion project to upload these International match highlights (and later European Cup matches) on YouTube. At my most active period on YouTube (2011-2013), I would upload several match highlights every day. I have now uploaded more than 18,400 videos on YouTube (plus 2,000 or more on Dailymotion). I still upload matches periodically.
Getting back to the blog, after a few months my blog evolved and I started adding new sections as ideas would pop up. The sections were varied but all dealt with historical aspects of the game (for example section for photographs, anecdotes, European cup matches, quarrels, failed transfers, etc.). As of today, there have been more than 70 different sections and topics on the blog. The blog just took a life of its own and became something more than I had originally conceived. I also started writing essay-like articles on topics related to the history of the game.
Due to the YouTube Channel and the blog, I was approached and got in contact with many like-minded Football fans and the experience has been overwhelming. I have since also expanded and created an accompanying Facebook page to the blog, as well as my twitter page. I have also created two more Facebook pages. One dealing with Retro Soccer Magazines and another dealing with the history of the World Cup. The use of Facebook/twitter allowed me to reach a wider audience. In addition to the blog uploads, I have quiz/trivia sections every week that I simultaneously upload on the Facebook page(s) and twitter. I also upload interesting photographs and Football-related advertisements from the past. On a daily basis I upload soccer diary sections from World Soccer magazine’s diary sections and also upload on Facebook and re-tweet on twitter match highlights of matches that I have already uploaded on YouTube/Dailymotion for the particular date in question.
What are your ambitions for the site in the future?
I am hoping to be more interactive with readers and the use of Facebook / twitter for the blog has helped in some way. I am constantly thinking of coming up with new ideas on sections. I also would like to interview more, I have managed a few interviews in the last year and would like to continue to do more with authors, bloggers and any interested parties. I also would like to become more collaborative with other bloggers from different Nations. In addition, with time permitting, I also want to write more essays about the historical aspects of the game.
Have you considered writing more about your football experiences?
In fact, I have recently thought about writing about events and tournaments but from a personal perspective. My first “When Calcio Ruled the Football World” sections were in that vein but they soon became more analytical and looking back I somewhat miss those early articles. For example, writing about personal experiences from a given World Cup and comparing and contrasting with others’ insight of the same era could be interesting.
Many thanks to Shahan for taking the time to provide such full and informative answers to my questions.