End of an era – Fatmire Alushi announces her retirement

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Early Tuesday morning Fatmire Alushi announced that she has decided to call it quits. The former Paris Saint-Germain player turned to her official Facebook and Instagram to make her announcement. End of an era for the 28-year-old German international.

Mrs. Alushi, formerly miss Bajramaj, has been on maternity leave after giving birth to her baby boy Arian late 2015. At first, she stated that she should be returning but she now explains a retirement is the only option for her to focus on her family. Since married to Enis Alushi, a football player and Kosovo representative, they struggled to find teams close to each other and they didn’t want to miss out on their son’s upbringing. Therefore, a difficult decision was made and she is hanging up her football shoes.

Did you know? During the fall of 2012, before they got married, the couple both suffered injuries only a few days apart.

The Kosovo born midfielder has collected an impressive resume. As a German international she has won the World Cup, Euro Cup and an Olympic bronze medal. At club level, she also holds double Champions League gold medals playing for Potsdam and Duisburg. Individually she was nominated for a Ballon d’Or back in 2010 but came in third. However, a year after the Germans awarded her with the “German female footballer of the year” award. And these are only a hand few of her awards. So when EA Sports finally introduced women to the FIFA games she was no new name to the football world.

From refugee Kosovo to world champion is not only her autobiography, it is also a message to people out there that anything is possible. She has become a pioneer and role model to many refugees and young girls.  Hopefully she will keep inspiring us, just not on the pitch.

Kosovo debuting in IBWM 100 list

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Kosovo vs Haiti, March 2014. Photo by Agron Berisha, FFK.

Every year, late December the football blog “In Bed With Maradona” picks 100 young top talents which they follow throughout the following year and later grade them on their performance. Big names like Xherdan Shaqiri for example, representing Switzerland made it to the list and also Albania’s Elseid Hysaj. However for the class of 2017 we have for the first time ever a Kosovo representative. Which player is it?

Arber Zeneli. 

The Swedish born striker grew big while playing for the Swedish team IF Elfsborg. During the season of 2015 he scored 10 goals, the most amount of goals than any other Albanian in that league. On top of that he represented Sweden’s U21 team and also was able to collect a U21 Euro gold medal that summer. 2016 he moved to Dutch team Heerenveen where he plays even to this day. Earlier this fall he announced that he had decided to represent newly acknowledged nation Kosovo. And now the 21-year-old made it to the IBWM 100 list.

This means all eyes on Kosovo. 

Furthermore Valon Berisha is worth mentioning as well. He represents Kosovo too and made the list for 2012, 2013 and 2014 class but bear in mind that he represented Norway back then.

Other players that have made the list before:

2016: Donis Avdijaj (Germany), Elseid Hysaj (Albania) & Shani Tarashaj (Switzerland)

2015: Ergys Kace (Albania)

2014: Adnan Januzaj (Belgium) & Valon Berisha (Norway)

2013: Valon Berisha (Norway) & Xherdan Shaqiri (Switzerland)

2012: Granit Xhaka (Switerland), Pajtim Kasami (Switzerland), Valon Berisha (Norway) & Xherdan Shaqiri (Switzerland)

2011: Xherdan Shaqiri (Switzerland)

Sweden’s next Kosovare Asllani ready for the U20 World Cup

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Next month young girls from all over the world will travel to Papua New Guinea to participate in the U20 World Cup. Sweden being one of the nations will send around 20 players, one of which is Loreta Kullashi.

The age range in the Swedish squad varies from 1996 and younger. The youngest is born 1999 and it happens to be miss Kullashi. The Swedish team will take on Brazil, North Korea and hosters Papua New Guinea in group A.

17-year-old  Kullashi, who was actually born in Finland, is no new name to the Swedish national teams. During the U17 Euro last year she scored a total of six goals and helped Sweden advance to the Elite Round. A 13-0 win against Romania resulted in four goals from Kullashi and in the final round they beat Russia 2-0. Guess who scored both goals? Loreta Kullashi of course.

Apart from the blue and yellow jersey she also holds the black and yellow one belonging to the AIK women’s team. This year they’ve played in the Swedish second division, Elitettan and  Kullashi’s resume on the goal scoring chart? 14 goals in 19 rounds! No wonder several Swedish articles has listed her as a talent to keep an eye on.

With Kosovare Asllani as a pioneer introducing Albanian women to Swedish football, Loreta Kullashi is following her lead. This is Sweden’s new rising star!

The women of Hajvali introducing Kosovo teams to European football

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On August 23rd 2016 history will be written as Hajvalia’s women will play in the UEFA Women’s Champions League. They won the double last season earning both the Kosovo League and Cup. However things got even better for the ladies, with Kosovo’s entrance in UEFA this May it granted them a ticket to WCL as well.

Captain Qendresa Krasniqi won the ”Best female player of the year” last season and also represents Albania’s women. Now the 21-year old will lead her team as they become first team from Kosovo to ever participate in an major international tournament. Please note that on the men’s side neither league winners Feronikeli nor cup winners FC Prishtina were given any Champions League and European League ticket since they failed to meet UEFA’s requirements so Hajvalia’s women are paving way for them all.

It has been quite a summer for Kosovo’s women. Just recently Kosovo born Majlinda Kelmendi became the first person to ever collect a Olympics medal for Kosovo. During the Rio 2016 the judoka won gold in the -52 kg klass.

Hajvalia’s first opponents in the qualifying round will be against Greek side PAOK. Apollon Limassol, Cyprus, and Icelandic team KI are listed among the other ones in Hajvalia’s group (group 1). Furthermore Albania’s Vllaznia Shkodër and their women will also take place in this tourmanet. Lined up in group five alongside Pomurje (Slovenia, Slovan Bratislava (Slovakia) and Zürich (Switzerland).

 

Make sure to watch Hajvalia’s game tonight at 20.00 (CET) as they become historical.

Albanians in Brazil, here are the ones participating in the 2016 Olympic Games

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As we just finished the football fiesta in France it is time to focus on yet another big sporting event. This time in Brazil as we welcome the 2016 Olympic Games. Around 206 countries have together sent more than 11 000 athletes to Brazil and 20 of them are Albanians. Want to know more about them? Well keep reading then!

Albania  (6) 
Starting of with Albania of course. For this Olympics the Albanians have brought six athletes competing in three different sports. They are not new at this as they made their first appearance at the 1972 Olympics in München where they only had a group of five. Nikol Merizaj, aged 17, is the youngest of this year’s bunch but the oldest one Luiza Gega is the one to watch out for. Miss Gega collected Albania’s first medal (silver) at the European Championships in Amsterdam just last month but has won several medals. She will be the one caring the Albanian flag during the Opening Ceremony.

  • Evagjelia Veli – Weightlifting women 53 & 63 kg
    (Aug. 7th & 9th event starts around 17.30 or 20.30)
  • Briken Calja – Weightlifting men 69 kg
    (Aug. 9th event starts around 15.00 or 10th 00.00)
  • Nikol Merizaj – Swimming women 100 m freestyle
    (Aug. 10th, event starts around 18.00).
  • Sidni Hoxha  – Swimming men 50 m freestyle
    (Aug. 11th, event starts around 18.00)
  • Izmir Smajlaj – Athletics men long jump
    (Aug. 13th, event starts around 02.20)
  • Luiza Gega – Athletics women 1 500 m & 3 000 m steeplechase
    (Aug. 13th, event starts 01.30 & 15.00)

 

Kosovo (8)
Kosovo on the other hand are making their debut this summer. Eight athletes in five different sports. A country that just recently became member of the International Olympic Committee. The one to watch out for is of course the queen herself, judo world champion Majlinda Kelmendi. She on the other hand made her Olympic debut for the London 2012 under Albania’s flag now her birth country Kosovo is her only choice. Miss Kelmendi will be Kosovo’s flag bearer.

  • Lum Zhaveli – Swimming men 50 m freestyle
    (Aug. 11th event starts around 18.00)
  • Majlinda Kelmendi – Judo women  -52 kg
    (Aug. 7th around 16.24, 1/8-final. Awaits opponent from 1/16-final)
  • Musa Hajdari  – Athletics men 800 m
    (Aug. 12th, event starts around 15.10)
  • Nora Gjakova – Judo women -57 kg
    (Aug. 8th around 15.07, 1/16-final vs Yadinys Amaris from Colombia)
  • Qendrim Guri – Cycling men road race
    (Aug. 6th, event starts around 14.30)
  • Rita Zeqiri – Swimming women 100 m backstroke
    (Aug. 7th event starts around 18.00.
  • Urata Rama – Shooting women 10 m air rifle
    (Aug. 6th event starts around 13.30)
  • Vijona Kryeziu  – Athletics women 400 m
    (Aug. 13th event starts around 16.00)

 

 

Australia (1/429)

Back in 2008 Sahit Prizreni was the flag bearer for Albania during the Beijing Olympics now he has moved to Australia and will represent them this summer. The 33-year-old is competing in wrestling (men’s freestyle 65 kg) and we’ll have to wait until Aug. 21st to see him.

Finland (1/53)
Representing Finland is Nooralotta Neziri whose father is Albanian. She is competing in athletics, 100 m hurdles and the 23-year-old currently holds the Finnish record for women in the same event she’s competing in. On August 16th at around 16.00 the first round  will take place.

 

Macedonia (1/6)
For the first time ever there is an Albanian rooted athlete representing Macedonia. Drita Islami just turned 20 years old this earlier this week and will participate in the 400 m hurdles. One couldn’t ask for a better birthday gift right? On August 16th at around 02.30 she will make her Olympic Games debut.

Sweden (3/163)
Three Albanians, all three competing in football are a part of Sweden’s big 163 Olympic group sent to Brazil. Manchester City starlet Kosovare Asllani representing the Swedish women’s team whereas Astrit Ajdarevic captains the men’s team. Alongside him Valmir Berisha is playing as well, the golden boot winner of the U17 World Cup in 2013 where Sweden came in third. The football phase has already started and captain Ajdarevic noted one goal in the opening game against Colombia.  Sweden’s men played 2-2 against Colombia and will take on Nigeria in round two of the group stage on Tuesday midnight. ‘Kosse’ and the girls beat South Africa (1-0) and hosting nation Brazil awaits them on Sunday night at around 03.00.

A Euro Cup poem for Albania

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In June 1930, on a hot summer’s day.

The football world welcomed Albania to play.

Against Yugoslavia, shortly after the Second World War heat.

At Qemal Stafa Stadium the first game ended in a narrow 3-2 defeat.

 

Another loss haunted us, 1950 was the year.

Who would’ve known that it was Hungary we should fear?

A humiliating defeat,  12-0 was the number.

All those goals scored, they sure had a big hunger.

 

France 1960, the premiere of the Euro Cup.

Albania failed to advance, oh but cheer up!

Lined up against Greece in 1962 but stop, “a walk over” they shouted.

Albania sailed through despite that people doubted.

 

Final 16 against Denmark but the journey ended quick.

4-0 away but at home 1-0 thanks to Pano’s kick.

Panajot Pano, an Albanian legend with scorings a lot.

He began as a goalkeeper, in case you forgot.

 

Year -67 another failure but the party was ruined for another nation.

0-0 against West Germany which for them meant no -68 Euro Cup participation.

A decade went by and our neighbors Yugoslavia the party arranged.

But our team was put on hold due to politics, how deranged!

 

The 80s began its era and time for Albania to return.

It was also now when captain Lorik Cana was born.

But the following years where anything but bright.

Our results gave every coach we had a bit of a fright.

 

Years following we spent looking for a four-leaf clover.

Some had given up, thinking it was over.

December -11 a tournament ticket we still wished to see.

A new head coach appointed, enter Italian Gianni De Biasi.

 

Shortly before that two big wins we could add.

6-1 against Cyprus for one, the biggest we’ve had!

By then ranked 96 a big low for the Red and Blacks.

But no fear was shown as we stood tall and fought back.

 

Qualification World Cup -14 the slogan “Une besoj” was used.

But the results left us nothing but hurt and severely bruised.

Scars and losses as we finished second from the bottom

Summer we watched but work awaited us in the autumn.

 

We fell from the horse but made sure to pick us up.

“Me plis per Paris” aiming for the 2016 Euro Cup.

Games to remember, games we bare in our minds.

Fights, love and hatred. Yes there were all kinds.

 

Hey Ronaldo remember that game we won against you?

Bekim Balaj with a loner, just like Pano who started as a goalie too!

Protecting the flag, “Autochthonous” among others.

Fighting against your blood, against your own brothers.

 

As the plot thickens the show was still going.

A game against Armenia, this was the final showing.

A win for Albania was crucial to finally go through.

We won 3-0 thanks to an own goal, Djimsiti and Sadiku!

 

Parlez vouz Francais? A new language to teach.

One plis for you, one for me. We all had one each.

At Tirana a party, for once we all could celebrate.

Smile, laugh and cry, the atmosphere so great.

 

Thousands of people. A red and black crowd.

Skënderbeu look how we have made you proud.

Praising the men such as Cana, Xhaka and Gashi.

All of the others too and of course, Grazie De Biasi!

 

86 years later, the hot sun is rising on another summer’s day.

We prepare for a competition we’ve waited for since the earlier age.

Euro Cup 2016, we believed, “Une besova” and see here we are.

Gather up. Franca po na pret. O sa mirë me qenë Shqiptar!

Fatmir Seremeti lost most his eyesight at the age of 14, now he’s representing Sweden in Rio again

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One of the reasons why I started writing about Albanian athletes, well mostly football players, was to introduce them to both Albanians but also non-Albanians. I have followed the career paths and written about thousands of them. One guy that really inspired me I had the honor to meet for an actual interview. What makes him stand out from the rest of the crowd? As a young teenager he started losing his eyesight but that did not stop him and now Fatmir Seremeti is off to Rio for the second time to represent Sweden in a sport called goalball.

We met up at FIFH Malmö’s facility which stands for the association of sport and disability. As I walked through the long hallways while looking at the trophy cabinets I heard voices. Laughing. Felt the joy surrounding me as I approached the reception. I could not help but to feel the kindness while I was waiting for Fatmir. Even though the people there was not aware of who I was they treated me like a family remember right away while striking a conversation over a cup of coffee.

Fatmir showed up shortly after and I was quickly greeted by his curious dog Gibson. This
was the third time I encountered Fatmir. I remember the previous time very vividly, telling the group of students about his background. He was born in Kosovo just outside the city of Vushtrri, a city which has raised several Albanian football players but moved to Sweden at when he was nine. He was just like any other active kid. Played football, judo and so on. At the age of 14 he started losing his eyesight and within two years he had lost 80 % of his vision. It was a huge readjustment for him and his family.fifhtavla

“We fight, win and lose together”.

Why goalball? “They forced me to participate in a camp in Stockholm which I reluctantly tagged along to“ he explained. ”I tried many sports and immediately got hooked on goalball. It was action filled and since I’ve always been good with almost every ball sport this came naturally to me. The best part about goalball is the fact that it is a team sport.

Fatmir was only 19 when he first won a medal, a golden one. This was the World Champion title back in 2002 which was played in Rio de Janeiro. Back then he had a slightly better vision so while there he got to fulfill another of his dream, to see football in Brazil. He got to witness the cross-town derby between Flamengo and Fluminense but also meet the players.  Now he’s off to Rio once again. From September 7th he will represent Sweden’s goalball team in the 2016 Paralympics and what’s different from last time he was in Brazil? “Now it’s more focus on the game. Back then I was so mesmerized by the atmosphere and everything going on that it was hard to concentrate on the game but now I know what to expect”.

Fatmir has won:

  • The domestic league 12 times
  • 5 Europe Cup gold medals
  • 3 European Championship bronze medals
  • 1 World Championship gold medal
  • 1 Paralympic bronze medal

Most of us will never get the opportunity to win a medal or receive an award. What is it like? “It’s hard to explain that feeling. Standing on top of the podium, knowing you’re the world’s greatest. Hearing the national anthem and people cheering. You fell calm, peaceful but happy too at the same time knowing that all the hard work, it was all worth it”.

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Here, at FIFH’s facility in Malmö Fatmir has spend thousands of hours practicing.

One thing that I, and a lot of his fans, admire a lot about Fatmir is his drive and motivation. “I love winning and has always been very competitive”. This one time he and his siblings had a huge fight during a Monopoly game which ended with a trip to the hospital. He is certain that you must be very competitive to succeed within elite sports. Despite not having full vision he is always active. He comes across as a person that easily can climb over any obstacle. “Anything is possible, it just takes planning” he said referring to the fact that he for example can’t go out for a run without planning carefully because he needs someone with him.

“Don’t give up. Life goes on”.

His drive is what has taken him to where he is today and made him a role model to a lot of people. He recently came back from a knee injury and his fighting spirits does not go unnoticed. I asked him what he would’ve said to a younger teen with a similar situation like Fatmir encountered. He stated that people should encourage them to reach out. “Find a hobby or something that makes them want to get up in the morning. Sport was my rescue”.

Throughout the years goalball and any other sport for people with disabilities has caught more of media’s attention. The reason has been their success but also the fact that they are more active on social media. Fatmir admits that Kosovo still has a long way to go on that aspect. “The main difference between Swedes and Albanians in Kosovo is how they view us. I’m independent and can take care of myself whereas the people in Kosovo would grab me by the arm and guide me”. He also adds that they slowly are getting there. Just last month when Malmö arranged Malmö Open KG Peja’s goalball team, from Kosovo, was there to participate. In 2008, right after winning the Paralympics bronze, his brother Florim took over as the head coach of Sweden’s team. The two brothers gathered some friends and traveled to Kosovo. They had seminaries to inform people in Kosovo about sports for people with disabilities but also introduced them to goalball.

How is it played? You play in team of three, one center and two wingers, on a surface which equals the size of a volleyball pitch. The mission is to get the ball over the goal line. The lines are marked extra high for the players to feel the lines. Players must wear blinds folds/glasses but also knee and elbow pads to decrease injuries. The ball has a bell built in it so players can hear it.

When discussing football he lists the local team Malmö FF as his favorite one alongside Premier League side Arsenal. Albania’s chances in the Euro Cup this summer? “It’s not going to be easy”. Being a huge fan of football, as he played it in his younger age, he is thrilled to have his two sons play the sport whereas his daughter is active in judo.

Favorite Albanian player: “Arber Zeneli (Hereenveen) – he’s my cousin!”

The thought of him ending the goal ball career has crossed his mind. The World Cup is played two years from now and Fatmir expresses his desire to have Sweden as a hosting nation “it would mean a lot to win at home turf. Not to mention the fact that it would raise more awareness and attract more spectators at our games“. Before leaving I asked him if he had room for more medals. “There’s always room for more medals” he said laughing.
/ Kosovare Mezini writing from Malmö, Sweden.

 

You can follow Fatmir on Instagram and Twitter but also FIFH’s Facebook page.