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Saturday 18th February 2023 ko 13:00

Kategorie e Dytë Grp A

VORA FK 7 (Shani 4 Raboshta 12 25 Vrapi 24 71 Bashaj 45 Prengar 82)


Att c1,000

Free Entry

We met Ditmar at the roundabout near to Tirana’s New Bazaar. It’s the place you head to if you want a souvenir, fruit and veg or anything you’d find at a flea market; there’s also a fish market next door too! You can also change your currency, buy a cheap meal or have a leisurely coffee. As a result, it’s a hub for much of what makes Tirana tick, away from the tourists, the 4 of us seemed to be the only foreigners there.

The cars were double, and triple parked as people got lifts or took goods to the market, and even stopped for a coffee. That’s the culture here, and the car is definitely king here. That I suspect was not entirely unrelated to private ownership of the car being in effect banned under communism. You want a status symbol in this part of the world? Go and buy a Mercedes. Ditmar managed to find a spot to grab a coffee and pick us up and we started to pick our way through downtown Tirana. 

That was no easy task given there’s no metro or railway here. In fact, as we reached the main SH2 highway in the northern suburbs we passed the site of Tirana’s sole former railway station. It was notorious for having no luggage storage and was closed in 2013 with the new road obliterating the site. The railway was cut back to Vorë some 13 km west and later reinstated to Kashar. That was still 8km out of Albania’s capital but eventually due to years of neglect the whole line was shut. 

We’d met Ditmar on my Stag Weekend back in 2019 when we didn’t realise he was playing for Mirdita  because his father and our driver Zaja spoke not a word of English. The next day he proved to be mighty handy as an interpreter and being an intelligent and engaging chap darned good company. Sadly, a mixture of injury and the lack of money in the Albanian leagues saw him quit playing but a measure of the 23-year-old is he’s now Assistant Coach to Partizani Tirana’s U23 side. He’ll go a long way, believe me!

That SH2 road roughly traces the route of the former railway line, so looking back I’m a little surprised that getting to Vora FK was an issue. I should explain that Vora and Vorë are the same thing; in the Albanian language the Vora spelling is used when used a subject, such as The Vora football club. The same principal applies to Tiranë and Tirana and plenty more. 

Other than being where trains to Tirana used to terminate, Vorë is a well-known military base and sadly was the site of a major tragedy in 2008 when in nearby Gerdec a munitions dump exploded with 26 killed and two villages completely destroyed. But leaving the SH2 we faced a problem. It was that there was a gap between the slip road, and the town itself.

The gap was in the form of what we thought was the gravel base of a new motorway, but in fact it was the base of what will be in the reinstated railway from Durrës to Tirana with a spur line up to Mother Teresa Airport. The new line is being built with Italian investment, and certainly being able to take the train from the airport to central Tirana will be more than useful. 

The old railway had a level crossing and until that is rebuilt you too can experience driving a car on the railway, albeit one without rails… yet! I must admit I did wonder whether what we were doing was strictly legal, but we checked with what must have been a station cafe on one side and there were the police on the other directing traffic up to the ground. If it was good enough for them, it must be good enough for us!

There was a straightforward reason why we were at the Fusha Sportiv Vorë, the match delegate was our friend Endi and he made a point of coming to see us, and even gently chided us for not sitting in prime position right in the centre of the stand. Even without his presence it was a good game to have picked, the ground has just been extensively revamped. The re-opening was sufficiently recent for this fixture to be reversed on the Albanian FA’s website. Ever the source of accurate information Endi explained that the away fixture 60 km south of the border with Montenegro had already been played, the fixtures switched to allow Vora more time to get the stadium ready.

And it was well worth the wait, even down to the Hoxha- era bunker in the background. Not that anyone should be remotely surprised at seeing one, the communists built over 170,000 of them- one for every 11th Albanian. Think about that for a second, but no metro, tram, or main station for the capital…. Elsewhere it’s a fine facility for the town, complete with a spectacular view of the Kodra e Gjatë hills and a mighty handy little beer stall in one corner. Beer for lunch? Oh go on then! 

We watched a side newly relegated from the second tier Kategoria e Pare make a strong case for a quick return there with as a complete a demolition of their visitors as you’ll see anywhere. As I write this, promotion looks likely, Vora are top win only one loss all season. Their fans celebrated with gusto and then held what looked to be a debrief amongst themselves, as we picked our way back to the car. 

We made our way back to Tirana, and for Ditmar, the game he had invested the most in. For us, it was at a stadium that hadn’t even been built when we were last in Albania.