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Showing posts from August, 2006

EURO 2008

With a new coach, Otto Baric, in place Albania begin their campaign to qualify for Euro 2008 on 2 September with an away game against Belarus. The first home game kicks-off four days later against Romania. After a dispute between the management of the Qemal Stafa stadium and the Albanian Football Federation over money - what else - the game will definitely go ahead in the Qemal Stafa.

The team got off to a good start in a friendly game earlier this month, winning 3-0 away from home. Though the opposition for that game was San Marino - not exactly a strong test - the result should at least give the Albanian team a boost.

Albania has recently climbed to 62 in the - somewhat dubious - FIFA world rankings. That puts them ahead of Belarus (69) but well behind Romania (26). For comparison, San Marino are ranked 191.

Baric has brought in a number of new players including Hamdi Salihi of KF Tirana. Salihi has already played for the under 21 squad and was last season's top scorer in the local…

Kruja Website

Sabina left a comment on the previous post directing me to an excellent website that she has put together on Kruja, available in both English and Albanian. You will find information about the history of the city and what to see, with opening hours, telephone numbers and entrance charges. There are also a lot more photographs. Thanks Sabina.

Kruja - Ethnographic Museum

Erratum

Thanks to one commentator on the previous post who drew my attention to a statement from the Prime Minister's office denying that Mr Danaj is or ever was his political advisor. As far as I understand the claim was made by the Italian news agency that carried the story and then repeated by the Serbian Foreign Minister. Where the news agency got the information is unclear.

As my commentator notes, Mr Danaj was a political advisor to a former Albanian Prime Minister, Ilir Meta, who was at the time leader of the Socialist Party.

Natural Albania

In a recent interview with a Kosova based newspaper Koco Danaj, a political advisor to the Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha, advocated the creation of a Greater Albania by 2013.

The idea of a Greater Albania goes back to the League of Prizren, established in 1878 to campaign for autonomy for Albanian territories within the Ottoman Empire. These territories had previously been divided up by the Great Powers at the Congress of Berlin the same year.

Danaj himself did not use the term 'Greater Albania' speaking instead of a 'natural Albania'. The idea of a Greater Albania has generally been used by its opponents rather than by Albanians themselves. However expressed, the older aspiration became tainted as a result of its advocates supporting Italian and German occupiers during WW II in the hope that these powers would help them realise their goals.

In more recent years, the war and chaos that followed the pursuit of a Greater Serbia and, to a lesser extent, a Greater Croa…

Albanian Rhapsody

Remarkably, the Scotsman followed its recent story on Ismail Kadare with a second article on Albania this Sunday by Raymond Travers who recently visited Saranda:
The town's esplanade is crammed with lively bars and restaurants, and its proximity to some historical sites of international renown make it an ideal base for the first-time visitor to a nation rapidly reawakening after decades of communist slumber.Tony Wheeler, co-founder of Lonely Planet, has also been visiting Albania and you can read his impressions in the Houston Chronicle.
The bright lights of Tirana might have been a colorful revelation, but it was only the first in a string of surprises that Albania would trot out throughout the next week.

We're All Right With This

Yesterday's New York Times carried a long article on the five Uighur men who were transferred from Guantanamo and granted asylum in Albania. According to the Times,
Although the Uighurs feel marooned in Albania, they are grateful to the government there. “Given that no other country is taking us, we’re all right with this,” said Mr. Abu Bakker Qassim, a 37-year-old father of four who acts as the group’s spokesman.

Albania Bridge

Rachele, who visited Albania with Oxfam, is trying to raise money for a project to rebuild a bridge in the village of Ure e Shtrentje. Appropriately enough the project is called albaniabridge.

Right now Rachele is trying to get 30 people to sign up on Pledgebank. I've just signed up and now she only needs eight more. So if you can spare £10, have a look at the project web page and then consider signing up at the Pledgebank page.

Eyes of Tirana

It's hard to take a good picture of Skenderbeg Square. Even professionals struggle to give it any depth or vitality. There are parts of the Square that are photogenic - the Skenderbeg statue, the Et'hem Bey mosque - but taken as a whole it lacks definition.

Empty on the West side, scarred by two communist era monstrosities to the North and East, only the view to the South pleases - with the combination of the mosque, the statue and the government buildings.

It's no surprise that politicians, architects and urban planners have tried to come up with a redevelopment scheme for the Square. Following an international competition in 2003 commissioned by the Municipality of Tirana the plan drawn up by Architectural Studio - a French company - was chosen as the basis for Tirana's long term development.

It's an ambitious plan envisaging the redevelopment of a huge section of the city, with the Square at the centre. You can get an idea of the scale and amibition of the plan fro…

Some Bitter Taste

Magdalen Nabb is an English crime writer whose novels are set in Florence and feature Marshal Guarnaccia of the Carabinieri. In Some Bitter Taste, first published in 2003, a number of Albanians play central roles in the story.

Dori is a prostitute: "She was a fabulously good-looking girl...She could surely have been a successful model if she'd had the luck to be born somewhere other that Albania."

Ilir is her protector. His money "paid the exorbitant fee that brought her across to Puglia, wet and starved on a rubber dinghy."

Ilir has been arrested so Dori and Ilir's other girls are now working for his cousin Lek. Lek's main business, though, is his building firm which he runs from a local apartment:
At any given time there might be up to eight Albanian immigrants living there. Lek Pictri's scam was to take these men in and register them with the police as employees in his building firm, which existed only on paper. As fully employed, though illegal immi…