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And Now Sport...

'It's a far cry from small boys in the park, jumpers for goalposts. Isn't it? Mmmmm. Marvellous.' Ron Manager
Things are a little tighter among the chasing teams at the top of the Albanian Premiership after this weekend's games. Leaders Elbasan drew with third place Dinamo, second place team Partisan lost to mid-table Besa, while fourth place Tirana beat lowly Shkumbini. As a result Elbasan increased their lead by 1 point to 4 points, but the three Tirana teams now hold the next three positions with only three points separating them.
I watched the Dinamo - Elbasan game from the relative comfort of a VIP box at the Qemal Stafa National Stadium, courtesy of a friend of a friend. Someone told us it was the box that had been used by former Prime Minister, Fatos Nano. I'm not sure if we were supposed to be impressed.
The game began with one minute's silence in memory of Ibrahim Rugova, leader of the Kosovar Albanians who died that morning. It was loosely observed, but none of the fans around us appeared to be too interested in Kosovar politics.
The game itself wasn't bad. Elbasan appeared to have the more skilful players, but the game was even for the first twenty minutes. At that point Elbasan took control and eventually scored the opening goal after thirty minutes. The rest of the first-half was one way traffic, not helped by Dinamo's lack of ideas up front. Their only tactic seemed to be hoofing the ball up to their big number ten, El Hadji Goudjabi.
The Dinamo coach earned his money at half-time. Dinamo came out and dominated the first half, playing the ball into the feet of El Hadji Goudjabi and giving him more support. After a period of sustained pressure Dinamo equalised through their substitute Ablaye Papa Diop - another Senegalese player - after 74 minutes. At that point the game faded away. Elbasan played for the draw and Dinamo seemed to lose focus.
The Qemal Stafa stadium holds 12,500 people but it was far from full. Below us, most of the fans seemed to be Elbasan supporters. On the other side of the stadium was a noisier group of Elbasan supporters separated from the Dinamo supporters by a fence and an empty section of seating. During lulls in the game these two groups of fans chanted and sang at each other. I tried to understand the words but couldn't. This is probably just as well since I imagine they were not very nice.
At one point some Dinamo fans approached the Elbasan fans for a more personal exchange of abuse before being ushered away by the police. Then a small detachment of riot police appeared which seemed to have a calming effect. As the game drew to a close they took up positions alongside the Elbasan fans. There was no serious crowd trouble - this was more a piece of theatre like that described by Tim Parks in his wonderful book A Season with Verona. Generally, the crowd was vociferous but good-humoured.
As well as the Sengalese contingent, Dinamo also have a number of Argentine players. I did see one defender with long hair held back by a headband who launched a couple of two footed tackles from behind on unsuspecting Elbasan players. This is the classic Argentine style - personal and footballing.
Next week it's Dinamo v. Partisan and I'll be there. I might even remember to bring my camera.

Comments

vloraboy said…
Thanks for the updates on the Albanian football scene. I am a huge Flamurtari (Vlora) fan, so the last two years I have had a hard time even following the "Liga Superiore". Flamurtari is leading the second league and it looks like they will be back next year. You should also know that some of the best players playing for the "big" teams are a product of Flamurtari....Muka, Xhafa, Abilaliaj...

Keep those photos coming!
Hi Alywn,

Sorry but I'm not much of a soccer fan.

In America, the only ones who play soccer are the girls really; and they are pretty good, even won a gold medal at the Olympics.

In America, we're too busy with Basketball and the real American Football (sort of like Rugby).

Even our baseball has taken a nose dive lately.

Basketball eventually will overtake Soccer (I hope) as the world sport.

By the way, did you hear that Kobe Bryant scored 81 points yesterday, and now second only to Wilt Chamberlains 100 points in a game.

Is B-Ball big in Albania?
Anonymous said…
scruffy american - I am not going to start a discussion on what is the biggest sport in the world. I live in America and I am HUGE fan of soccer. I also play and watch basketball (both college and NBA), and yes, I saw Kobe sink 81 points to the Raptors.

What annoys me with you americans, is that you have no desire to see (let alone admit) that soccer is the BIGGEST sport in the world. I love sports, and I will watch anything...sometimes even american football, but it is so frustrating to hear again and again americans talking bad about soccer. I played college bball here, and I guarantee you that hell will freeze before basketball overtakes soccer.

You don't even know that the US men's team made it to the top 8 in the last world cup. That is better than superpowers like France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Argentina... So when you say that soccer is big with women only, please think again. I wish things were different here, but they are not. As an Albanian living in Chicago, there has been one big problem I have had to deal with since I left home...the lack of soccer fans.

Two more things... 1. Let me know if you want to talk basketball and 2. I am married to an American, so I have nothing personal against Americans per say.
Hi Anon,

No problem. I'm married to a Greek but have many Albanian friends so we're cool too. And, I really like Tirana Beer and Norga so-so.

Good luck in Chicago, and I really enjoy watching B-Ball, but I just can't get into Soccer.

NO offense like you said though.

Oh, by the way, you said the men's team won a World Cup for being the top 8. What's a "World Cup". Is that some prize for being good at soccer? I didn't understand that?

Anyways, I'm glad America helped you. We love Albanians as you know because we have many such as yourself going to the states and becoming Americans and making our country even greater.

That's what America is all about. Take the best of the best and assimilating them. Just like the Borg on Star Trek... Resistance is futile, we will make you Americans...

But, hey I'm rambling now.

P.S. Hows about getting a name on the blog so we know who you are.
ourmanintirana said…
You can read some of my earlier musings on American sports and football at http://lioneatslamb.blogspot.com/2005/03/washington-posts-10.html and http://lioneatslamb.blogspot.com/2005/05/21-take-me-out-to-ball-game-no-thanks.html. I think there are many reasons why no other sport will supplant football but two of the most important have to do with the simplicity of the game and the accessibility of the game to everyone. It is simple because anyone with a ball and a couple of coats, bags, lines on a wall, convenient trees etc. can play football. Many other sports require a huge investment in order to play - think of American football or ice-hockey. Basketball shares some of this simplicity with football - a ball and a hoop will suffice. But basketball loses out on accessibility. Any kid anywhere can aspire to play football at the highest professional level if he has the talent and a bit of luck. Basketball, like American football and increasingly rugby, will only ever be open to a very small minority of people at the highest level, since only a very small minority of people will ever have the physical characteristics to succeed at that level. What is the height of the average pro basketball player? What is the weight of the average American football player? Of course only a tiny minority of people will ever play at the professional level whatever the sport, but kids dream. Kids all over the world playing football dream of playing in front of 60000 fans for their favourite team. And even if they are a bit skinny and a bit short, if they have the skill they can still make it.
Damn Alywyn, I just was moved by your speech on Soccer. I just want to go out and kick a ball somewhere. I also have a dream!

But, seriously, I played soccer at as a kid in the US years ago, and got kicked in the shin really hard and never played again. That really rattled me, and so I moved onto Baseball, and got beaned in the head by the ball.

Finally, I settled for jogging where although I may get hit by a car, or have a heart attack one day, I've been fortunate so far.

I'll check out your other links you suggested.

Cheers from Athens...

P.S. I have a blog too if you want to take a gander..
ourmanintirana said…
That's what happens when you play soccer with girls - they're ruthless.

I've already found your blog and been reading it. How about an exchange of links?
Yes, some of our women players are as good as men if not better. But, for me it was as an 8 year old little kid when I got shinned by another...

I'll add your blog to my blog roll later today...
vloraboy said…
hey scruffy american,

first things first... "World Cup" is the biggest sporting event in the planet. Teams from all over the globe compete every 4 years to become world champions...and that means world champions as supposed to the NBA, NFL and MLB winning teams calling themselves world champions (by the way, this has always annoyed me)

I am glad I live in America. I have been accepted here and I have assimilitated pretty well. One thing has not changed though... my heart is still in Albania, and I can't wait until the day I get back. I really hope that is soon. By the way, I lived in Athens for 18 months before I came here, in fact that is where I met my wife. Life there was tough and I don't think I ever adjusted well. I have to tell you though, I loved the langugage and the music.

It looks like the US will have a solid national basketball team as most of the best players are agreeing to play. It's about time they started dominating again. They are DUE.

Alwyn - sorrry if I am rambling about football and stuff. What are you doing in Albania?
ourmanintirana said…
No problem. Rambling about football was all I was doing too.

I'm here because my wife's employer sent her here for two years to work.

I'm not working - though I would like to be - so I have time to wander around and write stuff for this blog.
Vloraboy: Mirmejes..

Sorry to hear bout your life in Greece before. Yeah, the Greeks can kind of wig out on the Albanians. In fact, as a joke, whenever Albanians get in trouble and make the news in Greece, I always kid my Albanian friend by saying, "Hey you guys take the heat off of us Americans for awhile". Remember, Americans are still on the list of people the Greeks don't care for at times, although usually for political reasons... (US Foreign policy)

Regarding World Cup. I was sort of kidding about World Cup. Although I'm sure that there are some Americans who may not know what it is, I'm not one of them.

In fact, in 1998, I was in Los Angeles for a few months during world cup and I really tried to follow it since it was in the States.

However, most of the sports stations didn't give it much play if any. I even called and complained to the sports director of KFI AM 640 Radio (Los Angeles) and their answer to me was "Hey, it people don't want to hear about Soccer, why is it our fault". I think Mexico got pisssed because it's like our team beat them and we didn't give a crap really.

I have to admit, I think there is some bigger force at work then the average American not wanting soccer. Additionally, I've heard some ethnic comments from some Americans regarding Soccer being an immigrant sport. Now, I don't agree with that either. But, what can one American do. I truly am not a soccer fan, but for the World Cup I always try to see who's in the running.
vloraboy said…
scruffy american - sorry for not getting your sense of humor right away. You pushed a couple of "hot" buttons with the soccer issue, and I apologize if I overreacted.

Alwyn - Looking at your links makes me wonder if you go to a church in Albania.
ITS said…
Partizani, Partizani,
Partizani, tungjatjeta,
Theve, theve, shtylla,
Cave, cave, rrjeta...

E ngjyre e kuqe
E ngjyre dashnie
E partizonit
C'i paska hije

Argh... I remember the glory days. We called them the red bulls, red devils, red anything. The color of love. The color of rage.

Dinamo is going down, Alwyn!

-----

On an American note, Go Steelers! Motor city here we come!

------

Funny thing about sports. You adapt to your environment. I grew up loving "European Football", or soccer for the purpose of this comment. I loved soccer. I played it, I talked about it. I knew every player of Albanian and Italian league, who they were married to, and who they were screwing on the side. I could spit out statistics like crazy.

We would spend 2 hours after school arguing pointlessly whether Juventus was better than AC Milan.

When I moved to the states at the tender age of 16, nobody cared about Soccer. I had nobody to impress with my useless knowledge. It's true that it was mostly girls playing it in High School.

I didn't understand Football, or Baseball for the first few years. I didn't want to understand them. Slowly you begin to realize that if you want to fit in the society the quote "when in Rome, do as the Romans do" is right on target.

So I started getting interested on Baseball, and Football. It's like learning to walk all over again. You have to understand a ton of rules, while you keep repeating to yourself how stupid those rules are.

Then are moments when you learn to fall in love with new sport. In baseball for example it was just over a year ago, when the Boston Red Sox came back from 0-3 to win the playoff series over the Yankees 4-3 and end up winning the World series altogether. That was an amazing season. The energy, the challenge, the enthusiasm of the whole country swept by the moment. Truly beautiful.

Anyway... enough of my daily ramble. Enjoy the game Partizani - Dinamo. I can't wait for the Superbowl!
ourmanintirana said…
Hi Vloraboy - sorry for the late repsonse to your comment. I must have missed it on the first read through.

You are right about the links - the church listed is my home church in Belfast and the organisation listed is the NGO I worked with for ten years.

Here, I have been to a small Baptist type church where one of the leaders comes from Northern Ireland - he's the only other person I know from my part of the world living here. Since the members are Albnian everything is done in Albanian which I don't understand well enough to make sense of.

So I have also been going to an international church here where they are bilingual. Still doesn't feel like home though.

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Whimper

And now the end is near
and so i face nanananana...

Never did like that crappy song.

But it's true nevertheless.

Tomorrow in the wee hours of the morning we will be heading for the airport for the last time. I suppose it was too much to expect that I could have kept this going while getting ready to leave. So apologies for the lack of postings over the last weeks. This is post number 380 something so I suppose one post every two days is not a bad average.

There were probably 380 more in my head or scribbled down on scraps of paper, but many of them are perhaps best left there.

I suppose I should be penning - or typing - my final thoughts and reflections on two years in Tirana, but right now I don't have any. Maybe in a month or two though I might come back with something.

Thanks to all of you who have read this blog - especially those of you who have become regulars. Thanks also for linking and thanks to all who left comments.

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