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! 

14-year-old-Kreshnik Krasniqi broke the Norweigan record as the youngest debutant ever

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On May 2012 Sandnes Ulf player Zymer Bytyqi, 15 at that time, became the youngest debutant ever in the Norwegian highest division after breaking the Norwegian record from 2009 (Sverre Økland, 16-years-old). The record was on April 2014 broken by the current Real Madrid youngster Martin Ødegaard. But now, a year has passed and the record has once again been broken by another Albanian. This time by a 14-year-old.

His name is Kreshnik Krasniqi, he plays on the midfield and the young teen was born on December 22nd 2000. The Hønefoss player made his debut earlier on Monday when his team went to visit Nest Sotra in the Norwegian second tier. The home team were beaten by 1-3 and Krasniqi made his debut at the very end playing for four minutes.

Krasniqi doesn’t even have professional contract since an reserve player can make three appearances as a non pro. He had to turn down their U16 team for the first team and we’re glad he did. Otherwise he wouldn’t have made his debut and become the youngest debutant in Norwegian top football history.

By the way, Martin Ødegaard later on went to sign with Real Madrid. Krasniqi on the other hand is a huge FC Barcelona supporter. See where I’m going?