About kosovaremezini

Sports writer, mostly about Albanian football players. Internship with Kosovo's football national team in 2014.

Albania celebrates its first female assistant referee acknowledged by FIFA

 

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Picture from FSHF.org.

 

Fatjona Borova, aged 23 just recently received her FIFA badge which means she’s now listed as a FIFA assistant referee. This actually means that she’s the first female one from Albania. Apart from her Albania has three male main referees acknowledged by FIFA; Lorenc Jemini, Enea Jorgji and Bardhyl Pashaj plus another six male ones as assistant referees; Rejdi Avdo, Ermal Barushi, Ridiger Cokaj, Egin Doda, Denis Rexha and Ilir Tartaraj and yet another one as a Futsal referee: Kreshnik Hakrama but amongst these names there’s only one female, Fatjona Borovoa who also is the youngest of the bunch.

Miss Borova was born in Shkodër in 1992, a city which has raised several of our Albanian football players. As a ‘Shkodrane’ of course football was played in her younger days and she even started played basketball too which she did for several years. She made it to the police academy  but can now put FIFA assistant referee in the resume as well.

She was one of the first women in Albania to referee in the domestic league, not only in women’s football but in the male department as well. A job she often shared with Krista Gjyli. And these two women became historical during the Albanian Super Cup on May 4th 2013 as they both were selected as assistant referees alongside Edvin Hoxha. And the year after this female Albanian duo once again collaborated during an U19 group stage qualification which was hosted in Albania.

I was quite emotional during the simple ceremony earlier his week when the general secretary of Albania’s Football Federation Ilir Shulku handed over the FIFA referee badge to Fatjona Borova, the first female one from Albania.

One nation, two countries and millions of emotions

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Picture taken during the Kosovo – Haiti game March 2014. Photographer: Agron Berisha for FFK.

One team is preparing for the Euro Cup while the other one has yet to even become a members of UEFA & FIFA. On Friday the 13th these two teams are going to clash and it is not just any other game. Albania will take on Kosovo at Prishtina Stadium in Kosovo’s capital, a game that has divided the Albanian people.

The word brotherly has been used instead of a friendly as Kosovo is Albania’s little brother according to some. Albania’s Herolind Shala being one of them. These are the people you will see holding one Albanian flag in one hand and Kosovo’s flag in the other. Win or loss, it is a game where both sides are winners in this giant fest.

“We are one”. Several people, even to this day, have praised Greater Albania and even if Kosovo is an independent state they wish for Kosovo to join Albania and form ‘The United States of Albania’. These are the people mocking the Kosovo flag and the ones that will either boycott the game by not showing up or will show up to show their disaffection towards Kosovo.

Then we have the neutral ones, the ones that are just up for a big event that is going to take place. I mean, how often do you get to attend a game in a stadium where everyone speaks the same language? The city of Prishtina has been filled with flags advertising the game to welcome their fellow ‘opponents’ and the game is now only a day away.

11 of the 25 names on Albania’s rooster are players who have their roots in Kosovo and will play on their well let’s call it home turf. Etrit Berisha, Arlind Ajeti, Lorik Cana, Frederic Veseli, Amir Rrahmani, Amir Abrashi, Migjen Basha, Ermir Lenjani, Shkelzen Gashi, Taulant Xhaka and Herolind Shala. Keeper Etrit Berisha has even played for Kosovo’s NT at one point before becoming Albania’s first choice.

Taking on their former team-mates. While on Kosovo’s side former Albanian NT player Samir Ujkani, who currently plays for Genoa will take on his former team-mates. Mersin’s defender Loret Sadiku & Gefle’s defender Ilir Berisha have both also represented Albania, even though it was a very brief stay.

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Keep an eye on Manchester City’s Bersant Celina! Photographer: Agron Berisha for FFK.

Albania’s team are taking the short bus trip to Kosovo with a much heavier and stable squad who managed to get their first ticket ever to a Euro Cup just last month. Then we have Kosovo, a newly founded organization and team with several young players. For example Manchester City’s Bersant Celina and FSV Frankfurt’s Besar Halimi to name a few. It is a team who can develop for the better and who are still hoping to play more than just friendlies. But now they have some tough Euro Cup participants to face like tomorrow’s antagonists, well only for the 90 minutes.

About a nation and their first Euro Cup ticket

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Picture from Shkelzen Gashi’s instagram account.

On October 11th 2015 history was written as Albania’s National Team managed to qualify for the Euro Cup that is held in France next summer. This is the first time the Red & Blacks have ever participated in a major tournament like this.

It was all down to the final game. Albania were lined up away against Armenia in the final round and needed a win in order for them to get the golden ticket. Albanians all over the world sat down in front of their TV biting their nails, and so did the Danes. Denmark needed Armenia to win since they already had the second place secured and were hoping for Albania to lose.

Captain Lorik Cana and his 10 men had the entire nation on their shoulders as they walked out to the pitch in Yerevan. 90 minutes was going to be played and it was no time for mistakes. The opponents booed Albania but the boys sang the Albanian national anthem louder than they ever had.

Nine minutes, it only took nine minutes to break the dead lock. An own goal by the Armenian defender Kamo Hovhannisyan gave Albania an early 1-0 lead and 15 minutes later Berat Xhimshiti filled in Albania’s goal sheet with a second goal. So with a 2-0 result on the scoreboard the Polish referee sent off the two teams for a much needed half time break.

The final 45 minutes. During the second half everyone were on pins and needles. Some started to call their friends so that they could meet up and start celebrating while others remained seated just waiting for the final whistle to be blown.

Substitute Armando Sadiku was sent in after an hour of play time and the FC Zürich player made sure to set the final result to 3-0 in the 76th minute. The last quarter was watched standing as everyone, from player to viewers at home, waited to scream that final scream of joy.

“ALBANIA TO THE EURO CUP!” Was said by the English commentator and every Albanian player and staff members ran on to the pitch to hug each other. Everyone had tears in their eyes and the entire arena was filled with utter euphoria, even though they were miles away from home. “We made it”. 

The Italian man who went to Albania. Even if the ingredients are Albanian we must not forget the chef who made it happen. Coach Gianni De Biasi did something no man in Albania has ever done, he got them their first ticket to the Euro Cup. A man that is now being hailed as a God in Albania and he has even been given the name ‘Gani Abazi’, the Albanian version of his name.

A nation that has struggled to attract players. Albania is rarely a first option for Albanian players and the team often struggles to attract players which has affected it’s success. Most of the players go for Switzerland and just during this week around 20 Albanian players were found representing other nations than Albania. However this time they can prove everyone wrong and show them that yes, Albania can reach a championship.

Two brothers in two different nations. This means that the two Xhaka brothers, Granit Xhaka and Taulant Xhaka will see each other in France next summer but are representing to different nations. Granit for Switzerland and Taulant for Albania. They have actually played against each other earlier since the two nations ended up in the same group last qualification and this time it is once again going to be emotional for the entire Xhaka family.

Serbia’s win against Albania. The fact that Serbia managed to beat Albania at Elbasan Arena just days ago has ended up in the shadow. Something so upsetting to many is now replaced with joy and even if Serbia won it is Albania that is going to France.

Have Albania won the Euro Cup?” People were puzzled and wondered if Albania had won due to the celebrations that were held all over the world. The view of red and black Albanian flags were shown in all major cities, the ground shaking from Albanian ‘valle’ being danced and the echo of “Xhamadani vija vija” is heard even with the windows closed.

#UneBesoj is now #UneBesova. Une besoj (translation: I believe) was the motto during the Qualification for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil but Albania failed to advance after finishing second from the bottom, this time they finished second from the top and Une besoj is being transformed to Une Besova, I believed, so now it’s off to France with a plis on everyone’s head!

Congratulations Albania! 

How Albania could’ve had a second National Team in this Euro Cup qualification 

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The Albanian National Team is one step away from getting a golden ticket to the Euro Cup in France. If they manage to beat Armenia on Sunday the Red and Blacks are writing history as this could be their first participation in a big international  tournament like this.

However they aren’t the only Albanians playing in this qualification. While looking at the other results from around Europe I came across some interesting fact. Did you know that this week we had 15 Albanians representing other nations?

  • Switzerland [5]: The Swiss NT called up five Albanians for their game against San Marino and they helped Switzerland clinch a Euro Cup spot. Blerim Dzemaili (Genoa), Granit Xhaka(Borussia Mönchengladbach), Pajtim Kasami (Olympiakos), Admir Mehmedi (Bayer Leverkusen) and Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke) where all on board Vladimir Petkovic’s rooster. Shaqiri has scored four out of Switzerland’s 23 goals while Dzemaili, Xhaka, Kasami and Mehmedi have all one goal each noted.
  • Macedonia [5]: Our Balkan neighbors also had five Albanians among their list but the Macedonians did not manage to advance after being beaten by Ukraine. Armend Alimi (Shkendija), Besart Abdurahimi (Lokeren), Agim Ibraimi (Maribor), Ferhan Hasani (Shkendija) and Leonard Zhuta (Rijeka) are the five Albanians in their squad. Ibraimi and Abdurahimi have scored one goal each in the qualification.
  • Finland [2]: Finland called up both Perparim Hetemaj (Chievo) and Berat Sadik (Krylya Sovetov) to the game against Romania that ended in a 1-1 draw. Finland are already out but will face Northern Ireland in the last game, a team which Sadik scored against last time they played.
  • Denmark [1] : The Danes where impressed by Riza Durmisi’s (Bröndby) performance against Albania so he got to play form start against Portugal on Thursday. Denmark already have a playoffspot but they could get a Euro Cup ticket instead if Armenia beat Albania.
  • Montenegro [1]: Dinamo Minsk’s Fatos Beciraj scored in Montenegro’s 2-3 loss against Austria last night. This was his second goal in the tournament. Montenegro are already out but will face Russia in the final round.
  • Germany [1]: With Shkodran Mustafi (Valencia) on the bench the current World Cup winner where beaten by Ireland. Germany only need to beat Georgia in the final round to go through as group winners.

However, this number could’ve easily have been 20. Valon Behrami (Watford) was left out of Switzerland’s squad), Adnan Januzaj (Borussia Dortmund) has chosen to represent Belgium, the Berisha brothers Valon (Salzburg) & Veton (Greuther Fürth) who will represent Norway today) and finally Arijan Ademi (Dinamo Zagreb) who well we can rule out for now. Earlier this week it was revealed that the Macedonian NT player has been tested positive for doping while playing for Zagreb.

So there you have it, we know that Albanians can be found not only in the teams at club level all over the world but also in other national teams. Specially in the two dominating national teams like Switzerland and Macedonia. And now you know that they are so many of them that they can create their own national team. Albania 2.0.

A year later, Bashkim Kadrii back in the game after his second injury

After a great season in Danish Odense BK, Bashkim Kadrii was signed by FC Copenhagen during the summer of 2014. He started well by scoring two goals in the first couple of rounds, the first goal was against his former team by the way, but his fairy tale was abruptly shattered during the fall. The 23-year-old suffered his second knee injury in one year which meant he would be out of play for a minimum of nine months.

The way back has been tough for the Danish born midfielder and he kept himself out of the public spotlights to focus on his recovery. Just days ago he made his first interview with Danisk BT.dk and it was also announced that FCK in collaboration with United made a documentary named ‘Bashkim – the way back’ about his return that will be premiered next month. But right now you can see the trailer at the top.

Today, exactly one year after his injury he finally made his comeback. It was only a few minutes though at the very end in the Danish Cup to give it a slow start but the main thing is, he’s back in action. “It’s great having him back” the FCK supporters were typing all over social media and we can all agree, let us just hope for an injury free season.

Historical first clash – Kosovo’s women facing Albania

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Kosovo has yet been granted a membership in neither UEFA nor FIFA but the process is reaching the final stop as the board members once again are called in for a meeting. Last year they allowed Kosovo’s men to play friendly games, under certain terms and they played their historical first official friendly game against Haiti in March. Now it’s time for the women of Kosovo to make headlines.

On Saturday a historical game will take place in Albania. The Albanian women’s national team will participate in a friendly against Kosovo’s women, or well I believe the we would call it a sister game instead. This is the first time Kosovo’s women ever have played a friendly against a different nation. Afërdita Fazlija was the first professional female player from Kosovo, now she’s the headcoach of Kosovo and she has 22 names lined up for the big game. One of which are Xhemile Berisha who up and till today represented Albania’s national team, now she’s facing her friend Fitore Govori amongst others.

“This is a great preparation” coach Fazlija says to Albanian media. “We need to build up a team and be all set for take off as soon as FIFA gives us the green light. Despite Albania’s NT being rather new as well they have so much more experience than us so this is great opportunity for us to learn”.

Some of the girls are not unfamiliar to the international stage. Like Qendresa Krasniqi and Blerta Kaciu for example. The girls were a part of the team that represented Kosovo this summer in a German based tournament called ‘Integration through sport’. The small team was lead by Sanije Krasniqi, onboard Kosovo’s coaching staff and they beat England 4-1 in the finale. Someone who’s also familiar to creating a winning team is Fatos Vishi, the man in charge of Kacanik Football Academy who has won tournaments in both Norway and Denmark with his youngsters.

So with big names in the coaching staff and eager players ready to start a new era the president of Kosovo’s football federation Fadil Vokrri send the girls of with a good luck as they left Kosovo and travelled to Durrës where the game is played.

New Star from Kaçanik paving way in the international football stage

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As I approach Kaçanik I am welcomed by a beautiful view of the Cliff of Kaçanik or ‘Gryka a Kaçanikut’ as the Albanians would say. ‘Kaçanik right’ the sign reads and shortly after I have entered this small city southeast of Kosovo.

Not many can put Kaçanik on Kosovo’s map and it surely is not a city that has put themselves on the sportsmap. Kaçanik has rarely been associated with any sports what so ever. The football team KF Lepenci made their Superliga debut a couple of years ago but are currently playing in the lower tiers. However now there is another group of guys making headlines in that same department.

Meet New Star, Kaçanik’s Football Academy.

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During the spring their U13 team prepared themselves for Norway Cup that was going to take place on from July 26th. Norway Cup is a huge tournament for youngsters and this is the second time the boys from Kacanik joined the competition. Last year the team, coached by Fatos Vishi, even won first place. Sponsored by the Norweigan Embassy they were so impressed that they decided to send New Star off to Norway again.

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Picture from Norwegian Embassy in Prishtina’s Facebook page.

In Norway New Star were lined up against three other Norwegian teams, apart from that they had also booked a friendly game against Vålerenga. However I can add that they were not the only team from Kosovo, KF Rahoveci were also invited. Since I was born in Kaçanik I was ever so excited about New Star’s participation so I decided to write a piece about them.

I arrived in Kaçanik mid July and made my first visit New Star’s training facility shortly after arriving, a place I spent most of my days following their preparations. When I first I sat down with coach Vishi he started telling me about their voyage. The former football player Vishi founded New Start the Football Academy back in 2008 and around five years later their success grew bigger as they were invited to take place in all types of tournaments. The team was first named Diti Sport after the arena but once they started to do well the coach came up with another name. New Star. ”Here is where the youngsters grow and become the new stars of Kosovo” he explained as he showed me their logo. ”I want to be able to add a star right under our logo and write their name underneath it knowing that this is where they came from.” Vishi has earned himself a UEFA A-license and has Abit Dema and Gojart Axhami onboard his coaching staff.

After our coffee break he showed me around the indoor pitch and stoped to point at a wall. There were pictures of them from every tournament that they have participated in outside the Kosovo border. “I’ve almost run out of place to put up more pictures” he says laughing and yet I saw the pride in his eyes as he stood their staring at the pictures.

CollageFlagganThis was confirmed by the entire city as everyone said the same thing when asking if they heard of the team. Everyone wanted to show their support but I could only choose a few images.

“Oh New Star, yes vlla (Albanian for brother), you know Fatos Vishi’s boys”. That’s right, they’re going to Norway again. ”

As I mentioned earlier I was at every practice following every step in the preparation part. I could tell that the coach valued dicipline and respect but of course without ruining the fun out of it. His coaching style was seen in the way the players acted. “I want to leave a good impression everywhere we go and I am most certain that we get invited to so many tournaments just because they think we do so.” And they sure have. Next year for example there is another big tournament waiting them as they have been invited as special guests to Germany. Some of the opponents could be Bayern München. Sporting Lissbon, Juventus or even PSV Eindhoven.

The coach introduced me to the team during the first practice and explained that I was a Kaçanik born writer from Sweden who wanted to write an article about them. I saw their eyes grow big as coach Vishi went on and mentioned that I also had worked with Kosovo’s National Team last year. It was very noticeable that these kids where not used to having someone writing about them and yet they were all humble about the attention they were getting.

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“My son came home with a huge smile on his face telling me about this writer from Sweden who wanted to write about them”. Enis Raka’s father told me. “He was jumping from joy, you know kids around here aren’t used to that kind of attention. And it means a lot to me as well seeing my boy happy“.

Just like these kids Kosovo is developing as well. The Balkan war back in 1999 shattered Kosovo into a million pieces and it is still under reconstruction. A process that might take many decades, especially for a poor country like this. And since football is a poor man sport, perhaps this might be one of the reasons why our people have been so successful in this sport. All you need is a ball and two feet to play.

“Me and my boys are thrilled to come from this small town and small country and get these opportunities where we get to travel the world. This is also a great way to keep kids off the streets.  And I think with you coming here and writing about them has a huge impact too.” He says referring to me. “If they see that they get international response from writers around the globe it might push them further towards the football instead of hanging out with the wrong people.”

Normally teams would never fear an unknown team from this small country from this even smaller town but New Star has a pretty impressive resume. Won the Norway Cup on their first try, won a tournament in Denmark and they have also participated in tournaments abroad like Turkey where they played against Chelsea’s youngsters.

Someone that has helped the team collect many trophies is captain Etnik Brruti, born in 2004. Despite being one of the youngest of the bunch 11-year-old Etnik shows signs of maturity and I can understand why the coach has chosen him to lead the team. ”I am aware of the importance of this role (as captain) and my goal is to lead my team to another victory. “ When asked which other famous captain he looks up to he answers: ”I want to be like Iniesta”. CollageDuon

Another player that stands out with his unique hairdo is Genc Berisha. ”We’re going to win!” he tells me with a confident voice. Born in 2002, this youngster who gained experience with Arsenal’s Youth Academy in Greece last year as was called up and showed them what he was capable of.

With Genc Berisha’s final words I waved off the team as they travelled to Adem Jashari’s airport. Shortly after I travelled home and eagerly followed New Star’s games from Swedem. They finished first in the group after winning against all three Norwegian teams. 4-0 in the first round, 5-1 in the second and 5-2 in the final game. They sailed through to the eight finals where their success continued as they beat their opponents with a wopping 9-1. However they failed to advance to the semifinals after losing by a narrow 2-3 to a team that scored 37 goals during the group stage while New Star scored 14.

Even though they went home with an empty trophy case New Star returned home one experience richer and we couldn’t be prouder of this group of guys. There are not many youngsters who get to travel the world and unofficially become young ambassadors of Kosovo showing the world that good football players can be produced even in the smallest corners.

Now the question is, will New Star turn out to be a future talent factory? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Oh and here is Kaçanik on the map, in case you were wondering.

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By: Kosovare Mezini, writing from Kaçanik and Sweden.

Grasshopper’s 20-year-old Albanian duo scored vital goals in the Zürich Derby 

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August began with a Zürich Derby as FC Zürich took on Grasshopper on Sunday afternoon. Hometeam FCZ put Armando Sadiku on their starting eleven together with Berat Djimsiti. GCZ on the other hand had former Wohlen captain Alban Pnishi and Shani Tarashaj from start while Florian Kamberi was put on the bench.

With the absence of Shkelzen Gashi, now in Basel, Tarashaj has had to step up and help his team and he sure did today. He gave Grasshopper an early lead eight minutes into the game. FCZ later equalized but Tarashaj made sure to take back the lead right before the halftime break. His first and second goal of the season.

After an hour of play FCZ once again equalized and the result 2-2 was shown on the scoreboard. Minute 84 Grasshopper’s coach Pierluigi Tami, Switzerland’s former U21 coach, made a switch and decided to send in 20-year-old Kamberi to the rescue. And it was the right call because Kamberi saved the day with his late goal that gave Grasshopper this cruicial 3-2 win. Kamberi’s debut goal in the Swiss Superliga I can add. Tarashaj was voted man of the match while Djimsiti, well… the worst on the pitch today.

So thanks to Grasshopper’s duo, both born in 1995, they can move up to the second place three rounds into the new season. Next up Lugano’s Albanian defenders Denis Markaj and Frederic Veseli, a former Manchester United & City player, will have to come up with a plan so that they can stop this duo from scoring again.

Sweden calls up Arber Zeneli to the Euro Cup 

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Arber Zeneli’s success in the Swedish League has not gone unnoticed. Born in 1995, the midfielder has currently scored four goals in 11 games for Elfsborgs IF and now he has been called up to Sweden’s U21 team as they will compete in the Euro Cup.

Coach Håkan Ericson presented the entire squad on Tuesday evening and Zeneli is the only player that has not participated in the qualification. There were some tough competition but the coach was really impressed by the 20-year-old Albanian.

“Arber has had a very interesting spring in Elfsborg. We have few players of his type and I am mostly referring to his speed and offence play. “ – Coach Håkan Ericson to Sweden’s website. 

Zeneli is actually one of the youngest Albanian in Sweden’s Allsvenskan but he is the one that has scored the most goals out of the Albanians we have. He started the season with a bang, found the net as soon as the season started in April and he scored all his four goals that same Month. He has to play another two rounds with Elfsborg before it’s all eyes on the Euro Cup.

The U21 Euro Cup is going to take place in Czech Republic and will kick off on June 18th. Sweden will take on Italy, England and Portugal in the first group stage. Coach Ericson’s boys men are gathered on Monday and they will play a friendly against Riza Durmisi‘ Denmark that same week as a warm up.

Kosovare Asllani and Florijana Ismaili are ready for the World Cup

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Picture from the websites of Sweden’s & Switzerland’s Football Federation.

Next Sunday the Women’s World Cup will kickoff in Canada. Albania’s women did not get a ticket to the final tournament however we do have two women with Albanian roots participating in the WC this summer.

The first one is a household name, 26-year-old Kosovare Asllani has of course been called up to Sweden’s National Team. The Swedish born Paris Saint-Germain player made her first team debut back in 2008. Sweden are lined up against Australia, Nigeria and United States in the group stage. The first game is played next Sunday evening (European time) against Nigeria. Bare in mind that PSG lost the Champions League final just recently so I bet Asllani has her mend set to lift another trophy instead.

What is a Swiss National Team without an Albanian? Switzerland have called up a rather unknown name, Florijana Ismaili, born in 1995. Playing for Young Boys in Switzerland the young midfielder has been a part of the first team since last year so this is going to be her first World Cup. Switzerland have ended up in the same group as Cameroon, Ecuador and Japan. Their first round is played against reigning champs Japan on Tuesday night.

I know you guys are wondering why Asllani’s team-mate Fatmire Alushi isn’t mentioned. She will not represent Germany this time around since she will take a year off due to her prengnancy. So will have to cheer on a duo instead of a trio this summer.

Let us all wish Kosovare Asllani and Florijana Ismaili the best of luck!