LA Football Club hosts inaugural Armenian heritage night at sold-out BMO Stadium

The Los Angeles Football Club on July 12 held its first-ever Armenian Heritage Night at BMO stadium. Organized within the framework of a match between LAFC and St. Louis City SC, the event drew more than 1,000 Armenian community members and supporters to the sold-out arena, Asbarez reports.

The inaugural event was organized by the LAFC, specifically Chief Brand Officer Rich Orosco, VP, Brand Engagement and Merchandise Patrick Aviles, and Ticket Sales Coordinator Karine Titizian, in collaboration with filmmaker and LAFC Ambassador Ara Soudjian. They also reached out to and included members of the team’s “Los Armenios” fan club, who were invited onto the field to take part in a pre-game ceremony.

“For LAFC, we want to unite the world’s city to the world’s game, and we want to reflect all of Los Angeles. The Armenian community is an important part of L.A., so it was my dream to build a strong LAFC Armenian community. Then I met Ara [Soudjian], and we’ve been kickstarting the energy. We want all Armenians in L.A. to be black and gold. That’s my commitment,” said Orosco, who grew up in Montebello surrounded by Armenian neighbors.

In attendance were notable Armenian American community members and allies, including California State Senator Anthony J. Portantino, Glendale City Councilmember Ardy Kassakhian, Detroit Pistons Assistant Coach Rex Kalamian, FOX LA morning news anchor Araksya Karapetyan, KTLA 5 news reporter Ellina Abovian, System of a Down bassist Shavo Odadjian, SOAD singer, songwriter, and guitarist Daron Malakian, Capital Cities singer and songwriter Sebu Simonian, rapper R-Mean, Soudjian, and artist Sako Shahinian.

“Nowadays, more than any other time, we need things like this to lift up our spirits as a people, and to show that we have friends and allies in all areas of business, professional sports, and politics,” Kassakhian told Asbarez at the match.

The event featured Armenian Heritage customized t-shirts adorned with LAFC and Armenian symbols, which were available for purchase at the stadium’s merchandise booths and team store. The shirts were designed by local artist Sako Shahinian, whose artwork is often featured in System of a Down’s projects. Attendees who purchased the Armenian Heritage Night ticket package received a custom-made scarf, also designed by Shahinian.

Speaking to Asbarez at the game, Shahinian said he felt “blessed” to be included in the inaugural event. “Being a part of a sport that you love, a team that you love, the city that you live in—that you love—and having the opportunity to represent your heritage that you love is just an amazing experience,” he said.

According to Soudjian, the collaborative merchandise launch marks “the first time any major sports team has done something like this.” A lifelong soccer fan, Soudjian has filmed two commercials for the LAFC and often frequents the club’s games with members of SOAD, who have performed at the stadium.

“What I love about this club is that it represents the City of Los Angeles and, if you look at the stands, you see people of all cultures. Armenians are a big fabric of the City of L.A., and we deserve a seat here at the table with our beautiful fans celebrating the game,” said Soudjian, adding that the event is about building positive bridges with other communities while shining a light on Armenian culture.

Soudjian, who hopes to, one day, see an Armenian LAFC player on the field, gave a special shoutout to “the Montebello kid”—Orosco. “It was his dream to really connect and reach out to the Armenian community and he’s done an excellent job,” he said.

Prior to the start of the match, LAFC honored members of the city’s Armenian community on the field.

Karapetyan and Abovian were invited to the field with their daughter and son, respectively, and recognized as leaders in the Los Angeles Armenian community.

“It feels great [to be recognized]. It’s an honor,” Karapetyan told Asbarez at the event. “It’s fun to see the entire community come out and support one another. Sporting is something that brings everyone together. It’s an uplifting event and it’s nice to be involved in positive energy.”

For Abovian, the event was proof of LAFC’s inclusivity. “I don’t know about being a leader, but it’s just a privilege to be in the Armenian community and to represent it. To me, tonight, seeing everyone come together, it’s such a beautiful thing. And to have my son here with me, it’s really about that. For him to be proud of his mom and to think I’m cool—that’s the best part. It’s a wonderful tradition and it just shows how inclusive they [LAFC] are as a club,” Abovian said.

SOAD’s Odadjian was also welcomed onto the field before the matchup against St. Louis to serve as the game’s Honorary Falconer. An LAFC pre-game ritual, the Honorary Falconer releases Olly, the team’s falcon, for a stadium flight. Previous Honorary Falconers include Will Ferrell, Danny Trejo, Meghan Trainor, and other notable celebrities from Los Angeles.

“I feel like Armenians need to know that there’s a new team in town and it’s THE team of Los Angeles, and this Armenian Heritage Night is only the beginning,” said Odadjian, who admitted that holding Olly “was a little nerve-wrecking, but, of course, an honor.”

Senator Portantino, who represents Senate District 25, presented LAFC and Armenian community representatives with a proclamation honoring and celebrating Armenian Heritage Night at the stadium.

“I was very excited when I heard they were doing an Armenian Heritage Night at LAFC—the best team in the country,” Portantino told Asbarez. “I had to be here with the greatest fans. Obviously, there’s such excitement within the Armenian community, within the LAFC community, and I just wanted to commemorate the moment and say, ‘On to victory. Tebi haghtanag.’”

LAFC put the spotlight on Homenetmen’s Massis Chapter during Armenian Heritage Night, recognizing the organization and its efforts in connecting more than 1,200 Armenian Americans in the San Fernando Valley through their athletics and scouting programs.

During halftime, Asbarez had the opportunity to speak to Titizian, who said that organizing an Armenian Heritage Night at the stadium had been at the top of her bucket list since she first started working for the LAFC in 2022.

According to Titizian, after pitching the idea, the club “wanted to do it at all costs and held nothing back in helping execute it.” She emphasized that the event, and the merchandise collaboration, is a great way to put Armenian heritage on display for non-Armenian community members to learn about.

“The real mission statement of the company and what I think most Armenians are known for really aligned: Hospitality. Taking care of each other. Taking care of your community. It seemed like a no brainer, a really easy fit, and I’m so happy with how it turned out,” added Titizian.

After a four-game winless streak, the LAFC scored three second-half goals, beating St. Louis 3-0. While celebrating their win, the team gifted Soudjian with a diamond encrusted MLS Cup ring from last year’s championship.

Armenian Heritage Night at BMO stadium was a significant event for not only Armenian community members, but for the LAFC as a whole. General Manager and co-founder John Thorrington and his mother Monique, who is of Armenian descent, recently discussed the importance of honoring their Armenian heritage.

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