Having become the first player to register a hat-trick in a UEFA Champions League match while representing an Armenian club, explosive forward Ismaël Fofana is embarking on a new chapter in his career with FK Partizan.
The 24-year-old announced his presence in FC Shirak's 3-0 first qualifying round first-leg win against SP Tre Penne last month, exhibiting a blistering turn of pace and a deadly touch in front of goal. He subsequently featured in both instalments of their away-goals defeat by Partizan and impressed enough to earn a four-year deal with the Serbian giants, thus ending a memorable 18-month stay in Gyumri.
"This city will always stay in my heart," the striker told UEFA.com. "It is a small and friendly place that recognised me as a native after I arrived from Africa. I will never forget my time in Armenia. I will always feel very welcome in this country."
Having garnered a reputation for nurturing homegrown talent, the four-time Armenian champions recently broadened their horizons by scouring the globe for future stars, giving the likes of Fofana an opportunity to realise their potential.
The Ivorian soon repaid their faith to the tune of 14 league goals as Shirak captured the 2012/13 Armenian Premier League title. "To be honest, I was quite surprised by the way I was treated and the warm welcome I received. I didn't expect everything to go so smoothly," he said.
Fofana's infectious enthusiasm and extravagant goal celebrations will forever be ingrained in the history of a club he left with a heavy heart. "I had a wonderful relationship with my team-mates and the coach from the very beginning," explained Fofana, who in an itinerant career has also had short spells in England, Norway and France and spent the first five months of 2013 on loan at Iran's Zob Ahan Isfahan FC.
"I treated my team-mates as brothers because they did the same with me. There was a time when I couldn't buy a goal, so my team-mates mimicked my dancing when they scored. They were showing their support and soon enough I started to rediscover my form.
"I will always remember my time at Shirak with great affection. It was my first permanent move from Africa to Europe and a very important one in my career," he added. His new club face FC Thun in the UEFA Europa League play-offs.
©UEFA.com 1998-2014. All rights reserved.