Greenbrae’s Kardzair to be inducted into USF Hall of Fame

Greenbrae’s Kardzair to be inducted into USF Hall of Fame
by Geoff Lepper, IJ reporter

Marin Independent Journal (Marin, CA)
February 24, 2005 Thursday

Aram Kardzair was twice named All-Conference while starring in goal
for the University of San Francisco men’s soccer team in the early
1980s. He backstopped the Dons to an NCAA national championship
before going on to play for nearly two decades with a wide variety of
club and pro sides, and will be honored for those efforts by being
inducted into the USF Athletic Hall of Fame tomorrow evening.

Around Mill Valley, however, the 43-year-old Greenbrae resident might
still be more renowned as being the son of Karekin Kardzair, longtime
owner and proprietor of the Mill Valley Shoe Service on Miller
Avenue. In the days before the proliferation of sporting-goods stores
and Internet shopping, Southern Marin kids searching for the proper
footwear to join in the soccer boom of the 1970s and ’80s wound
inevitably end up in Kardzair’s shop.

“A lot of guys I’m friends with now, they knew my dad before they
knew me,” Aram Kardzair said. “I get that all the time. I’ll be
talking with people who will say, ‘I got my first pair of soccer
shoes there.'”

Aram Kardzair was no different. Though he grew up in the Sunset
District of San Francisco and played for Riordan High in the City,
Kardzair’s first organized league play came with the Mill Valley
76ers when he was 10 or 11 years old. He was quickly recruited to the
all-star Corte Madera Lions side, and played for both squads until he
started high school.

“A lot of those guys, I’m still pretty close with now,” Kardzair
said. “We still play a game every Thanksgiving. We’re 25 or 26 years
into it now.”

After all that time, the impression Kardzair made on his young
teammates hasn’t faded. Witness Jon Swain, who first played with
Kardzair after moving to Marin from his native Sweden.

“He was always the best kid on the field,” said Swain, who now lives
in San Rafael. “Not only that – Aram was always a nice guy. It was
good to have him as a friend when you were moving over here from
another country. He was a good role model to have.”

Matt MacPhee, who first played with Kardzair in the seventh grade,
remembers him as “a short, stocky Armenian lad.

“He was quite fast, which is one reason he became a great goalkeeper,
and he was incredibly strong for his size,” said MacPhee, who lives
“about three blocks” from Kardzair in Greenbrae.

Kardzair spent some time in goal as a youth player, but his true love
was playing in the field. During his first year at Riordan, Kardzair
tried out for the varsity soccer team as a field player.

“I didn’t make it, so I went and played with the freshmen,” Kardzair
said. “One day we had a scrimmage, and they needed a goalkeeper to
play. The varsity was training at the same time, and I stopped two
penalty kicks. The varsity coach came up and said. ‘What’s going on

It turned out to be the birth of a career. Kardzair wound up being a
high school All-American with the Crusaders, then went on to USF,
where he took over the starting job as a sophomore. That season, the
Dons won the last of their four national championships.

“I would have to say that was probably the best team I’ve ever played
on,” Kardzair said of the 1980 squad, which will be honored at
tomorrow night’s induction banquet. “There’s no high greater in the
world than winning a national championship. From start to finish, we
just dominated that whole season.”

Kardzair would leave USF with 44 victories, 210 saves and 19

“He wasn’t a tall goalkeeper, like the goalkeepers you see nowadays,”
MacPhee said. “Never in my life have I seen anybody cover so much
ground in the air as he did. He’s the quickest guy I’ve ever known,
as far as reactions go.”

Said Swain: “I’ve seen him do the most amazing things, going one way
and then almost turning in the air to make the saves.”

Currently, Kardzair still keeps his hand in the game by coaching the
Club Marin men’s team, which just moved into the premier division of
the San Francisco Soccer Football League [he’s also treasurer of the
league], and serving on the board of the Viking Youth Soccer Club in
the City.

“He’s so giving,” Swain said. “He’s one of the most selfless people I
know. He thinks more about other people than himself, so it’s nice to
see him getting some recognition.”


The Hall of Fame dinner will be held tomorrow at USF’s McLaren
Complex. Cocktails begin at 6 p.m., with dinner starting at 7.
Tickets cost $40. For more information, call 422-6431.