A happy child is every parent's dream. The space, the clean air and the games are a child's greatest pleasures. Despite the fact that ahead of the 90-s Tirana lacked a multitude chocolates, chips or fruit juices (Are they really made of fruits today?), at least the people had the chance to amuse their children in small and large fields, with or without a ball, ensuring a deep sleep afterward and a satisfied spirit. The small sports grounds massacre, initiated by the profit concept, 25 years later has generated a horrible reality that now is being envisioned by the football and other sports.
Luan Sengla, youths' coach with more than 30 years experience in this sector, uses a simple language to express this radical change.
"Before the youths team played over 10 000 hours of in their districts, while today that play only 5.000 hours"
"Under 21" team coach, Redi Jupi, ex-chief of the National Teams sector in the Albanian Football Federation, and currently one of the co-founders of one among most modern soccer academies, sustains his opinion.
"This is our biggest problem" says "Dinamo" former captain. "We have a lot of problems but this a principal problem. There are no sports ground, neither in the districts, nor in the different sport-clubs."
"Partizani" Football Club complex, a wonderful space between some know districts, has been completely erased by the buildings construction. Around 8 of the 11 standard sports-ground in Tirana have been condemned to death by the buildings construction process. Currently Tirana has the lowest number of sports-grounds in comparison to the population number among the Western Balkans countries.
The right to play, known as a human right in the UN constitution, has been denied to the majority of Albanian children. We refer to the pleasure of running to catch the ball without being afraid of falling into the asphalt or being hit by a car, or feeling the pressure generated by the small space between two buildings or cafeterias. We should speak also for the health protection, for the physical activity as a moral and physical prophylaxis.
A child that plays, that engages in sportive activities, has no spare time to spent in the betting points, to sit in a nearby sidewalk with some coins, in a cafeteria table sipping his coffee while smoking or having a drink. It is very difficult to find a teenager engaged in sportive activities that may have generated a dependency from drugs, booze or have a life filled with craps.
One of the best experts in the youths' team sector, currently SK Tirana coach in the Super-League, used this explanation as a justification for the Lek 5000 fee requested in his Academy.
"Children leave the road; learn life's principles, the discipline. This should be considered an investment, despite the financial sacrifice".
Due to all the up-mentioned absences Albania has currently 13 000 active soccer players of every age in comparison to 20 000 soccer players before the '90-s.
"We should have 50 000 in different clubs, and 50 000 more playing just for fun. This fearful shrinkage, followed by the sport system in clubs and schools degeneration, has generated a higher number of imported players in the National Team. Despite the fact that they are Albanians those players were born in Switzerland of Germany" says Jupi.
15 soccer players from Kosovo are currently part of the Albanian National Team that will travel to France for the Euro 2016 finals, while their number in the national team goes up to 25 during those last years. Two goalkeepers, at least 12 defenders, 8 midfielders and some attackers, came from beyond the borders during last 10-15 years.. Furthermore, in most cases they were the best element of the national team. We may mention Etrit Berisha, Lorik Cana, Mërgim Mavraj, Migjen Basha or Shkëlzen Gashi.
A total chaos
Years ago we experienced a number of un-scrupled parents that used their dirty money as a pressure instrument against coaches urging them to transform their children into soccer players with any cost. The result, many broken dreams, a football filled with people that earned money, used fraud to build a house, but lost even the slightest respect that managed to gain.
Those last years there has been a sort of reminder "Football is magic, gives you money, gives you glory. The national team, Scanderbeg, Kukes! Europa and the entire world mentions us. But why we keep spending and obtaining a low profit? National team players earn millions playing abroad; Albanian Football Federation earns the FIFA and UEFA funds, "Scanderbeg" and "Kukes" gain profits from their participation in the Europa League, but what about us? We wish to gain profit, to feel proud, to feel revered when walking in the streets.
And all those that threw mud on the football, on the childrens dreams, those that gambled with this beautiful game, that didn't knew how to love and give pleasure to this sport, now started to think how they may attract it, similar to a woman seduction!
Talents needed! Foreign teams purchase them and we will gain Euro 100 000, 200 000 or 300 000, and later on millions. We need an academy for those talented players! And they started to think about the academies. But the result? Tirana has no more space for such things.
The attempts to build football academies in suburban areas raised the monthly costs for the parents up to Euro 60 or even more. This cost is a lot higher if we consider other expenses, the oil consumption and the time spent during this round trip.
Tirana has no dedicated lanes or public transport vehicles. A large amount of time is spent travelling from one corner of the city to another due to the heavy traffick.
A parent from Shijak claims that he spends every month an amount of Lek 30.000 for his son in a football academy. In a country where the parent minimal salary is only Lek 20.000, and the un-employment is in a very high rate, similar conditions mean that the next footballers will not be those who got talent but those whose parents got money.Brighten your day.