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!