A man is considered complete, and entirely emancipated, only when managed to go beyond the material interest. A man is considered emancipated when he managed to turn his dream into reality. Lorik Cana is without any shadow of doubt the only one among the Albanian National Team players, and among the rare individuals in the world, that meet those criteria. More Albanian that Kosovo citizen, more national than local, he spent his entire sportive life in pursuit of a dream, fighting for a unified Albanian nation and leading the Albanian National Team toward a great international competition.
13 years ago he debuted on June 11, 2003 in the Geneva stadium against “his” Switzerland and now, thanks to a splendid coincidence Lorik will debut in the Euro 2016 finals in the same date and against “his” Switzerland”. This is a grand finale at the end of an era where he left his mark everywhere, with nearly 500 matches with the clubs and 85 matches with the Albanian National team. Odds are that he will not be able to reach the 100 figure as part of the National Team line-up but it seems that this small deficiency in his career does not generate any trouble to his career.
During those 13 years he remained faithful to his origin. Born in Pristine on July 27, 1983, only two years after the heroic and tragic demonstrations against the former Yugoslav state Loriku inherited his father Agim strong principles. He took him to see the matches in Pristina stadium since the age of 5 molding his fate forever with the football while embedding on him the love for his people.
After leaving the Kosovo in a very young age, at the eve of the armed conflicts in former-Yugoslavia, he followed the pre-designated path. He played in Switzerland for a club in Lausane with a meaningful name, “Dardania”, and was quickly spotted by Paris Saint Germaine. He took his first major steps of the sportive career in the French capital by becoming a principal player and one of the bests in this team while wining numerous trophies, the French Cup and the second place in the national league. Cana debuted with this team at the age of 19.
A visa denial forbid him of becoming part of the Arsenal line-up despite the fervent request by the coach Arsen Venger, but no visas could stop him from choosing the national team. He could choose between Switzerland and France but his father’s education firmly influenced his final choice. On June 11, 2003 he wore for the first time the Albanian National Team flannel replacing Geri Çipin while playing against that Swiss team to whom it might belong.
This was the point that marked his career contrast. On 2005 he went from Paris SG to the Olympic of Marseille, by all means the most respected French club of the Europe, and until today the only that has become the Champions League winner. He became the captain of this team, than played again in the Champions, despite the fact that did not manage to win any trophy, while by the other side reached no sucessed with the Albanian National Team. Albania was not an important name of the football. Despite the efforts of the Albanian Football Federation Armando Duka and the appointment of numerous foreign coaches like Bepe Dosena, Hans-Peter Brigel, Oto Bariç, Ari Han, and Josip Kuzhe only minor successes like the penultimate place in the Euro and World Cup play-off matches.
Despite this fact Cana never felt discouraged or ashamed. The author of the expression “It’s so good to be Albanian” remains still unknown, but even if it was not him, this popular shout should have serve as a positive push for Cana. Even after the deep defeats and very deep disappointments he never seized underlining the loftiness of playing for the Albanian National Team, especially due to his Kosovo origin.
Despite the fact of being 100% Albanians the people living in Kosovo generated a very powerful local identity, up to a point of finding it easier to say “I am from Kosovo” than “I am from Shkodra, Vlora or Korca. The Belgrade rulers tried to create a ditch between a nation, a religious, linguistic and economic division. After the democratic changes in Albania on 1991 the Albanian living in both sides of the boarder was given the chance to meet, but despite being aware of the fact that they belonged to the same nation certain disbelief was often seen in their relations.
Even after 1999, even after 2008 when NATO chased away the Serbian army and then the USA prepared the Kosovo independence, the risk of division remained still present. Kosova became a sovereign state, another strong motive, to be considered different from the Albanians in the other side of the boarder. The great powers compromise brought the different passports, different symbols, different parliaments, different executives and respective diplomatic presences.
Lorik Cana was the unifying factor amid this chaos thanks to the repeated appeal of national unification adding that a second national team was absolutely not necessary.
While being part of the Albanian National Team he exercised his influence on other players from Kosovo urging them to join him, thus giving a rare contribution to the national colors. Thanks to him today the Albanian National Team is largely composed by Kosovo origin players that grew up in Switzerland. Their great contribution enabled the successful qualification in the Euro 2016 finals.
During his sportive career he had the chance to face the most hatred adversary, the Serbian National Team, in the epochal match of Belgrade. Now, at the eve of saying farewell to the Albanian National Team flannel at age of 33 and with physical problems he will make a last attempt to be at service, despite the fact that the qualification for the European finals came at the worst moment of his career. Anyway, Cana achieved his dream, to unify the Albanian nation in a single national team and lead it in the football arena. This will be a great story for his nephews and nieces and will give him a special place in the Albanian football history. .