A Soccer Comeback for a Long-Struggling Country


Soccer became Alfredo’s means for escaping his apparent destiny. He was good, too: ambidextrous, with a fearsome aerial presence. He took his team’s penalty kicks, and says he scored every one. “Even now, if I’m playing,” he told me, “I won’t miss.” In 1953, at the age of fifteen, Alfredo was scouted by local giants KF 17 Nëntori Tirana. (Hoxha had renamed the team in honor of November 17th, the date that Hitler’s men were forced out of the capital.) He made his début soon after, scoring in a 3–1 victory in Elbasan, an hour’s drive away. But Hoxha controlled every aspect of Albanian life, including sport. The following year, he ordered that the best players be sent to play for his newly founded clubs, Dinamo and Partizani Tirana. A friend of Alfredo’s brother, who served as party secretary at a local souvenir factory, grew worried. “Tell Fredi not to play football,” he warned. “I didn’t believe him,” Alfredo told me. “I was young.” Alfredo was a gifted goal scorer, but he was a marked man. Teammates would speak about the Sigurimi in the dressing room. Some even suggested he should join. He would always demure, thinking back to his father’s ordeal. In 1959, after he’d been playing for Dinamo for three years, a member of the coaching staff approached him. “Don’t come here any more,” Alfredo recalls being told. “The Party of Labor doesn’t want you to play again.”

Origen: A Soccer Comeback for a Long-Struggling Country – The New Yorker


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