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Anything is possible. Nelly Stepanyan, who achieved success in women's football, tells about her path

The phrase "Football is not a game for girls" was the first that our heroine and many girls of her generation heard when they decided to take up sports created, as it seemed to many, exclusively for boys. Years later, in 2003 the first Armenian national women team was formed and it held worthy games and even achieved a historic result at Euro 2013. Then the team managed to overcome the barrier of the group stage and reach the Elite round.

Nelly Stepanyan, who was a leading player in Armenian clubs and the national team in those years, stayed in football despite everything and paved the way for many girls with her work.

On the occasion of women's holidays, the press service of our club tells you about the path taken by Nelly Stepanyan, the head coach of the teams Pyunik-2014-1 and Pyunik-2012-2.

How she came to football

It was Nelly’s father who brought her to football and who personally trained her since she was 5. She spent her whole childhood playing with boys and at 16 she was invited to Nairi women’s team. Her first professional coach serves an example for her.

“I greatly respect Coach Hunik both as a person and a specialist. He gave us his knowledge of football and we tried to take all we could.”


Recalling the difficulties that came to her way in the first period, Nelly tells that her mother and uncles were against her engagement in football and only her father supported her. It wasn’t easy to organize the trainings, either. The way from the village where Nelly lived took much time to get to the sports base due to the problems with transportation. However, this did not become an obstacle due to which she would leave classes.

Development of the career

Nelly remembers her first tournament very well. It was the Leather Ball for women’s teams, taking place in Belarus. Nelly was named the best scorer of the tournament there. “It was the first time when I was so far from home, from my country. Then it was hard for me. But it turned out very important and interesting to play with various teams in such a tournament and to get an experience. We were getting better after every match.”


After Nairi Nelly played in Kilikia and Shengavit and then moved to Kolej on the basis of which the women’s national team was formed.

“They approached to the development of women’s football very seriously there. We participated in the Champions League and played with a team from Frankfurt. Unfortunately, we conceded then. But only imagine, they were the stars of the Germany national team!”.


Nelly played for the national team led by Mher Mikaelyan and then by Samvel Adamyan. The second part of the 2010’s was a prosperity time for women’s football in Armenia. “Our national team was very strong. We managed to win, end matches in a draw and lose with a narrow score.”

The career of referee and coach

In 2009 Nelly started her education as a referee. Getting an UEFA and FIFA license she decided to focus on working as a referee and ended her career of professional player.  

Nelly refereed the matches of the Armenian championship and international tournaments till the age of 43 and then quitted the referee profession for becoming a coach. Having received a B qualification by 2017, she came to Pyunik where she became the third coach in the women’s team. However, the work with young male players has always been Nelly’s primary goal.

“I understood and learned everything in women’s football but I feel myself more comfortable when working with guys, maybe because of my tough character. I don’t rule out that someday I may train a women’s team if there are certain offers, and I will be able to pass my experience and skills effectively but I know my main alumni are boys.”

The work at the Pyunik Academy

I starting working at Pyunik during Armen Gyulbudaghyants’s times. There was a well-organized and clearly-set system then; everyone knew what and how to do. Armen gave us certain programs and we work hard and consistently. Our club stood out from others with its approach, preparation of specialists and attitude towards people. After the change of the management we continued in the same way. All the coaches have raised their qualifications during this period. I have got an A qualification and in two years I will be studying for a Pro to get more knowledge and pass it to alumni and bring them to a national team level. There is always a space for one’s own development.”


We asked Nelly what characteristics a good coach should have.

“A coach teaches children and each of them needs different amount of time to perceive. That’s why a coach should be patient and loving.”

Nelly strives to pass her alumni her skills and understanding of the game principles.

“I tell children that they must respect each other and be a family on the pitch. Only this way we can achieve results. My goal is their development.”

Nelly believes that a footballer should get a versatile education.

“It’s very important to learn languages; English, Spanish, Italian and others. In the modern world we need them everywhere.” Nelly speaks Russian and English.


Discussing the difficulties women face on the way to football

Nelly thinks that as a woman coach she hasn’t faced any underestimation in the men’s football from the colleagues and the parents of alumni.

“I’ve been in football for 33 years. I suppose that half of coaches in Armenia and most parents know me.”

However, Nelly thinks that the women’s football still faces difficulties with its perception. “Maybe, because of the mentality most of parents don’t realize that a girl can play well and succeed on the pitch. They don’t know how all this system works and don’t even try”.


In this regard, we asked Nellye what she would say to girls facing difficulties in football. "I went through a lot on my way, but I continued training, showed a good play and got into the national team. All is possible! Just try!”

"A woman in football should be aggressive and strong, not afraid of anything. Our Armenian character possesses dignity and firmness, which must be shown on the pitch. Looking at the playing girls, I see that they are ready to work hard and often approach football with more love than boys."

At the end of the interview, we asked Nellye to share her wishes for herself and all women.

"I look at life positively; I believe in the best. I want people in Armenia to be happy, develop and achieve success in various spheres. Let there be no war, and we can live in peace and joy."

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