🇦🇱 ALBANIA 🇦🇱
The Albanian championship, known as the Albanian Super League, was established in 1930. A championship quickly dominated by the clubs of Tirana, starting with KF Tirana, the most successful club in the country, KS Dinamo Tirana and finally FK Partizani Tirana. However, since 2012 it is another thief that has made a place for itself at the top of the bill, the Skënderbeu Korçë.
The ten best teams meet 4 times in the Albanian championship. At the end of the 36 matches, the 1st is crowned champion and qualifies for the Champions League. The 2nd, 3rd and winner of the Albanian Cup go to the Europa League. The last two are relegated to the second division. To try to hold on, the 8th will play in the play-offs.
Football first appeared in Albania at the beginning of the 20th century when students from a Christian mission astonished the inhabitants of Shkoder, a town in the north of the country, by playing a strange game. The sport became increasingly popular in a country then under the rule of the Ottoman Empire.
Shkoder truly became the birthplace of Albanian football in 1913 when a team representing the town, Independence, played a team of Austro-Hungarian soldiers. According to reports, the match lasted 45 minutes each half, in accordance with the laws of the game. Moreover, no other official match took place until 1921. Then the Vllaznia club from Shkoder, formed in February 1919, met opponents created a year later, Agimi. Vllaznia won.
Due to the growing popularity of football, the Albanian Football Federation (AFHF) was established on 6 June 1930. The federation became a member of FIFA, the world football governing body, in 1932, and eventually joined UEFA, the new European governing body, in 1954.
Despite the spread of the sport throughout this period, the country’s difficult economic situation hampered efforts to create a viable infrastructure for new clubs. Nevertheless, Albania managed to produce a number of talented players who went abroad to continue their careers. Among them were Riza Lushta, Loro Boriçi and Naim Kryeziu, who played in Italy for Juventus, S.S. Lazio and AS Roma respectively between 1940 and 1944.
At the national level, an Albanian championship was established in 1930, with six teams: KS Skënderbeu, KS Bashkimi Shkodran, KS Teuta, KS Urani Elbasan, SK Vlora and SK Tirana, now KF Tirana. The first match resulted in a 3-2 victory for Tirana over Bashkimi. SK Tirana won the first edition of the Albanian championship and continues to dominate Albanian football today, along with teams such as KS Dinamo Tirana, KS Vllaznia and FK Partizani.
In the years following the Second World War, a new political order was established with the introduction of a communist system which had a positive impact on football. The game was popularised and its infrastructure grew as the sport was organised and developed in state enterprises, schools, villages and towns.
The Albanian national team made its debut on 22 September 1946 with a 5-0 triumph over Montenegro. A few weeks later, between 7 and 13 October, the Balkan Nations Cup was held in Tirana, with the host country winning the four-team tournament. Albania beat Romania 1-0 in the final. The Albanians also drew 1-1 at home to George Best and Pat Jennings’ Northern Ireland in November 1965, a draw that ended Northern Ireland’s hopes of qualifying for the FIFA World Cup. Albania suffered a similar fate against West Germany after a 0-0 draw in a UEFA European Championship qualifier in December 1967.
From 1991 onwards, crucial political and economic changes had a significant impact on the nation as the centralised political and economic system came to an end. The country’s footballers were able to try their luck in foreign countries. Sulejman Demollari left for FC Dinamo Bucureşti in Romania, Rudi Vata for Enosis Neon Paralimni FC in Cyprus and then the Scots from Celtic FC. Greece and the neighbouring Balkan states are also popular destinations for players talented enough to play abroad.
At club level, Skënderbeu, winners of the Super League, or Kategoria Superiore, between 2011 and 2014, became the first club in the Albanian league to win six consecutive titles. In 2015, the club reached the UEFA Champions League play-offs, a first for an Albanian team, but was eliminated by Dinamo Zagreb. They still became the first Albanian club to play in the group stage of the UEFA Europa League.
The national team qualified for its first ever finals at UEFA EURO 2016 in France. Albania finished second in their qualifying group after a final 3-0 victory over Armenia. The Albanians won 1-0 in Portugal and drew 1-1 with Denmark. They did not qualify for the last 16 but won their final Group A match against Romania thanks to Armando Sadiku, the first Albanian player to score at a major tournament.
The official website: www.fshf.org