Eurobasket was able to talk to Armenian guard Rouben Vesmadian (191-G-83, college: Fresno St.) about his recent experience in Egypt.
Eurobasket: Ruben, the last time we spoke, you left to Egypt to play for Eastern Company. What has happened there to you?
Rouben Vesmadian: I was signed to play for Eastern Company, the national tobacco company co-incidentally founded in the 1950's by an Armenian.
They only paid me some hand-money in the beginning and stopped paying me since then, so I went on a strike and intended not to play until they pay me my monthly wage. It never happened so I left the team after three months without any payment.
EB: What could have been the reason for not paying you?
RV: It took me a while to find out the real reason for not being paid.
One time, Coach Sarwat told one of his players, that if he was going to play for a coach of another team, that he won't be paid as the other coach was Christian and therefore 'dirty'. Being only one of two Christian players in the league, it made me think.
I found out, that the other Christian player is having a hard time on his team and the league as well. Sarwat was quoted saying, that 'he wants no Christians on his team' and players told me, that the reason for my problems were because of my religious belief, as the coach is known for his extremist Muslim thoughts.
Also, a player in Egypt is still expected to comply with the contract or the job even though the payment is late or never arrives, so what I did was highly unusual there when I went on a strike, and they claimed I was acting out of line, and took the whole Christian thing to another level.
EB: Do you regret signing with Eastern Company and what are your plans for the near future?
RV: I try to use all my experiences as events that I can learn from... but I struggle to find any sense in this whole situation.
How can even the most extremist and hateful person behave in such a way, particularly, a married man with children?
It makes me sick, that I played for such a coach. I wish coaches have no bearing on financial matters and that it could be taken up with the manager or president of a team, but this is unfortunately not the case in Egypt.
I am a player that leaves everything out on the court for my team and my coach, but this situation has hurt me so much, that I wish, I had not played this season and had gotten my surgery done.
I would have saved a lot of time.
I am having a groin reconstruction surgery done by a specialist in Sydney on the 6th of June and will be commencing rehab for six weeks before signing with a new team for the following season.
Playing basketball overseas is such a great thing which comes with a lot of ups and downs that you cherish and learn from.
This was not the case in Egypt; it just didn't make any sense.
EB: Thanks a lot Rouben for sharing your thoughts with Eurobasket, be back healthy soon!