From Uvil Zajmi
Memorie.al / As the beginning of the 1965-1966 season is being prepared, with the hope of his definitive placement in the “Partizani” team at the end of his military service, after having scored 15 goals in the 1965-’66 championship, it explodes The Chinese Proletarian Cultural Revolution’, the consequences of which also included Enver Hoxha’s communist Albania. Thus began a cleansing campaign, which hits sportsmen and artists, among them some of the “Partizans” led by Mexhit Haxhiu, that despite the efforts of the major military, generals Beqir Balluku and Petri Dume, the two main heads of the Ministry of the People’s Defense, his admirers, were great, they could not stop him from leaving the capital…!
However, at a farewell banquet in September 1966, Lieutenant General Petrit Dume and his daughter Besa thanked him for his contribution to this Club. The next day, Rustem Peçi, a senior soldier of the Ministry of Defense, escorted him to the train and told him sadly: “You will go to Vlora, try to send your mother and sister to your relatives, while you will not play football…” !
How difficult is the return to Vlora?!
Mexhit Haxhiu returns to Vlora, while the team of his hometown escapes relegation. It is about the 1965-1966 season. There was a lot of interest in Haxhiu from the fans, the team and the coaches. But the restart was difficult. The match against “Labinot” of Elbasan was the one that started the 1966-1967 championship, when before the match, they suddenly told him that he would not play, and even the next day, they did not even allow him to practice and he received the notification from the stadium employee, leaving the ball to head into the locker room in front of the fans…! They don’t even allow him to be active in the local championship with the enterprises or as they were known at that time, the “Working class football championships”, sending him to the village of Shashicë to mash potatoes.
The State Security with his men had spread the alibi that: he (Mexhiti), had met his father in West Germany, (while he had never been there) and that Mexhit Haxhiu’s father (left Albania in 1944 ), is an agent, speaks at “Voice of America”, that’s why they don’t take their son abroad. And the order for him was: “Not to play with any capital club and any military club; not to play in international matches, or to play only in Albania”! After a year outside the football fields, with great difficulty, Mexhit had met the Minister of Defense, Beqir Balluku, who, informed about his situation, asked for the return of Mexhit Haxhiu to football, but without the right to play with the national team.
The championship begins in March 1968, the team of “Flamurtari” has Coach Stavri Lubonjen who is replaced by Hasan Luçi, conducts several friendlies, plays in the Cup of the Republic with Haxhiu as the protagonist, together with Zila, Thomai, Seferaj, Xhaferri, Saraçi etc. Scores goals in the game, with penalties, from free kicks, etc. “Flamurtari” plays the first two meetings with “17 November” of Tirana in Vlora and with “Dinamo” in Tirana, but Haxhiu’s goals are not enough to avoid losses. Then the victories with “Labinoti” of Elbasan defeat with “Partizani”, victory with “Luftëtari” of Gjirokastra, which return calm to the team and all the ardent fans of the coastal city!
The unforgettable June of ’68
It was June 1968 and on the eve of the meeting with “Tractor” of Lushnja in Vlora, Mezhit Haxhiu was hit by three disasters: in the space of a few days, he lost his grandmother who raised him, his sister-in-law and Zeqiri, his close friend in the team. An hour separated the funeral of their friend from the match, which, according to party orders, had to take place anyway…! Sad and seeing his aggravated condition, the coach does not activate him in the game. But in the second half, he asked him to play and within a few minutes, after a header from the corner, he scored the first goal, dedicating it to Gëzim Zeqir.
While that month would reserve another happy moment for Haxhiu: on June 16, he married Bardhë, a former volleyball player and swimmer of the “Flamurtari” team, but on that very Sunday, the match against “Tomorri” of Berat in Vlora. Another goal, a 2-0 victory and with the fans in the stadium, quickly then straight to the wedding dinner.
Mexhit remembers that as a groom, he wore a suit donated by Petrit Dumja, (Chief of the General Staff of the Army at the Ministry of Defense), which he loved immensely. Then the honeymoon in the beautiful lake town of Pogradec, the match against “Red Star”, a 1-0 victory with a goal by V. Gjoka and the end of the championship, which gives “Flamurtari” 6th place, where Haxhiu’s performance stands out, as always a systematic protagonist, author of 16 goals in total.
No goal against “Dinamo”…!
An internal voice has always advised Merxhit Haxhiu to “not score against “Dinamo” and “Partizani”, otherwise the generals and officers will revolt”. The pressure on the teams of the Ministries, especially on “Dinamo” when they played in Vlora, was very threatening. Before such a challenge, an investigator, an officer of the city’s Internal Affairs Department, enters the dressing room, with a stern and commanding voice, tells him not to engage against “Dinamo”. “My shock was noticed by Coach Petrit Arapi, who complained to the Head of the Internal Affairs Department, who forced the person in question to apologize to me. ”But they had been at my house before, threatening my wife so that I wouldn’t play,” Haxhiu recalls.
Gathering with “17 Nëntori” in Tirana
Although they did not allow him to go to Kosovo either, on the eve of the meeting “November 17” – Standaar-Liège in Belgium in the fall of 1969, Rexhep Doda, senior sports manager, asked for his service to the Tirana team. After that, he gathers at the “Donika” hotel, but a few hours later, coach Lym Alla, informs him that a member of the Political Bureau of the APS Central Committee has rejected his activation on “November 17”.
The same situation in the meeting “Besa” – “Hibernians” of Scotland, played in Durrës in 1972, for the Cup of European Cups, when the club takes kavajas for reinforcement. He was active only in the second half, giving the assist pass to Bujar Pagrin, which equalized the result. “It was the order of Rita Markos, who was present at the stadium, that I should be active”, Mexhiti confesses about that match.
Leaving football, without ceremony…!
Although with a rich career, scorer of 166 goals with the shirts of “Flamurtari”, “Partizani” champion in the 1963-1964 season, second place in 1964-’65 and ’65-’66, player of the national team, in 1976, he parted with the football he played for 16 years (1960-1976), after an injury and 33 years old, but no farewell ceremony and it is a hostage even today that he did not hand over the jersey to a young person, or never to kick the ball from the center in a championship start.
Then his career as a coach, devoting himself to the preparation of new talents at “Flamurtari”, coach of the U-16 National Team, Chief Selector of the National Age Teams, coach with “Flamurtari” and “Bylis”, Technical Director in the Albanian Football Federation, lecturer of UEFA courses, graduate of ILKF, (Higher Institute of Physical Culture “Vojo Kushi”), lecturer at “Skënderbeg” Military University, teacher of Physical Education at “Dijetari” school, “Deserved Master of Sports”, “Grand Master”, and many other honorary titles. From his systematic work, many footballers, talents, protagonists and headliners of the “Flamurtari” of the National Team have emerged.
What is Mexhit Haxhiu doing today?
He is retired and after ten years of moving, he lives in Vlora, his Ithaca, as he considered the city where he was born and spent most of his life. He has lived and lives a regular life, very family-oriented, never abuses smoking or drinking. Not politically active, he walks by the sea, then at home with his grandchildren, in the stadium when there is a match and in the study room, where he continues to read and study. Last year he published the autobiographical book “Kartoni i Quq…”
Just a few months ago, exactly on January 3, he celebrated his birthday, that of 1943, since in the Civil Status offices it appears that he was born in December 1945. It is one of the few that the children, the two sons (Sajmir and Gerdi) followed the tradition, even with the clubs that he himself was the protagonist of as a player and coach, from “Flamurtari”, “Partizani”, “Bylis” and “Apolonia”, where Mexhit as Technical Director, with Gerdi as coach. He remembers all those who supported him and did not abandon him, including officers, generals, football players, coaches, etc., never forgetting Rustem Peçi, whom he considers as a big brother.
Football players and leaders of “Partizani”, Robert Jasharin, with whom he slept in the room, Miço Ndinin, Lin Shllaku, Rrem Karriqin, Rragami, Mikel Janku, Saba Bizin, Panajot Panon, all without exception. Then the coaches, Loro Boriçi, Xhep Spahiu, Isuf Pelingu, Zyber Konçi, Bejkush Birçen and Refik Resmen, especially when he told him in a delicate moment of his life: “I depend on you in the middle of Tirana”, remembers Mexhiti. But also Agim Fagun, Dodan Përmet, Besnik Pëllumbin, when he played basketball with them.
And the people of Vlorë, his “Flamurtari”, from the coaches Miço Ndini, Isuf Pelinku, Petrit Arapi, Hasan Luçi, M. Ferkon, S. Gjoka, to the footballers he played with, the support of the fans from the Skelë neighborhood, friends Saqe and Musa, when they forcefully asked the party-state, his activation in “Flamurtari” or the students from Vlonia at the “Qemal Stafa” Stadium, came out with the banner ” Mexhit, Pele i white”, without forgetting Zybi, the barber, the shoemaker Dhori and the officer Sabri, who gave him football boots at the end of the championship. Along with the friendly clubs of the cities, where Shkodra stands out, Ramazan friends Rragami and Sabah Bizi, although rivals, have always welcomed him.
Never controversial, very kind and polite in the game, especially in relations with the referees. He had a passion for music and liked the singer Sherif Merdani, the Tirana footballer Skënder Halili, he appreciates his friendships with Fatmir Frashër, sportsmen Fatmir Telegrafi, V. Xhindolin, Adem Samblin, Muharrem Karriqin, Teodor Vason, volleyball player Zhan Bonati, etc. He carefully preserves everything, in particular the photos, as the only evidence and memories of the sports life he has in his archive, the number 10 jersey of “Flamurtari” and the number 9 jersey of “Partizani”.
He remembers the thermos with hot tea, the bag with the material base where he did not miss two pairs of shoes, the paint box, brushes, from two pairs of socks, tights, shorts, flannel, towel to heel clippers, morning runs still before dawn in the field of aviation and from Cold Water to the Labor Camp. He remembers the long hours in training and the straw bed of his house, where he lay after training…!
The story with his father, how he met him after 47 years
Mezhit Haxhiu considers his life as the adventures of Odyssey, on the way back to Ithaca. From childhood, great economic difficulties, to the worries and life of the exiled father (Dalip), whom he did not meet for many decades. “I grew up and got longer, but the shadow of my father’s parallel biography still got longer and covered me all over. I had the chance and met him after forty-seven years, when he lived alone, forgotten, sick, and old. Asylum life somewhere in France, that’s all I knew about it before I saw it for the first time after the 90s, with the collapse of the communist regime…”.
Although with tradition and great contribution to the national history not only of Vlora, but also of Albania, the name of the patriot Osman Haxhiu, chairman of the National Defense Committee of the Vlora War in 1920, would not serve the family in life Pilgrim. From the day that his father, Dalip, escaped in the last days of 1944 from Shkodra to Montenegro, with his uncle, brother and relatives as anti-communists and representatives of Legality, with the hope that the system that was being installed in Albania would not to last long, Dalip Haxhiu’s life would be permeated by sacrifice, suffering, longing of a refugee in solitude, as he never married again and for more than half a century, he did not even see his family. When he left, he left his wife and three children in Vlora, 2-year-old Pëllumbesha, 1-year-old Mexhit and a few months old Napoleon, who would be systematically hit by the fierce class struggle throughout the period of the communist regime of Enver Hoxha and his successor, Ramiz Ali. .
From Reggio-Emilia, to Istanbul…!
After staying the first four years in Reggio Emilia-Italy, an important part of his emigration, Mexhit Haxhiu’s father, Dalipi, spent it in Turkey, moving there also because of the religious background of his relatives left, living for many years in Ankara. The former student of the Artistic Lyceum of Korça, French-speaking and with Western (pro-French) preferences and convictions, has a difficult beginning: He works at the French embassy, where he served as a translator, but also as the ambassador’s driver, since At the end of his term, he takes him with him to France and after ten years in Ankara, Dalipi moves to Paris, where he begins another life, while there is no communication with his family, children, with anyone in Albania…!
In Paris until the 70s as a driver, no political activity as they had lost all hopes. With the interest of his brother, who prepared the documents with the help of some Volonts, he leaves for America, where he lives in Philadelphia, but without any correspondence with Albania. The same situation, no attempt by family members to contact him, not even knowing where he was, as he had lost track of him for many decades.
“Regarding our situation, my father learned when he was in the political asylum camp in Reggio-Emilia, from some Italians who were repatriated. They sewed the letters to the linings of the suits so that they wouldn’t find out, then a short contact, to finally break up, after such a relationship was censored”, Mexhit confesses. Only in 1959, the Haxhiu family received the first letter and a package of help from “relatives” in Kurbetlinj. Around the 70s, there was an announcement that some money had arrived for the Haxhiu family, but that it could not be received, since those who sent it were political fugitives, but at the request of the mother due to the economic situation, the given a few, it was about $50.
Until the end of the 80s, no communication. “The first information about his whereabouts was triggered by a relative of ours who had corresponded with her relatives living in Canada, who told her about the father, who was also her uncle. Father had been staying in Canada for 2-3 years, sick with his friends. Then, a telephone conversation from the mail booth, we were able to communicate”, says Mexhiti. We are at the end of the 80s, when there is no longer the wild censorship of the past three decades.
The missed meeting…!
In the last days of March 1991, included in the management staff with the national team, Mexhit Haxhiu travels to Paris for the France-Albania meeting (EURO 1992). It is the match that is also remembered for the great exodus of footballers, first from Ibro, Kaçaçi and Leskaj, to continue with Sukaj, Kepajn, Vata and Gjergji, immediately after the challenge. At the “Charles de Gaulle” airport in Paris, Mexhit ‘s father came to meet him.
“But the plane that left one day late from Geneva did not arrive on time and after waiting until midnight, the sick person was forced to leave”, Viktor Synet, the editor-in-chief of “L’ Equipe” who accompanied the Albanian team, explained to Mexhit . “While everyone was on their minds and focused on the match that was about to start in a few hours at the ‘Park de Prince’, I was fixated on a meeting, the one with my father. Great emotions, as I would meet him for the first time in my life, after 47 years. He came, we met, and I went with him to Versailles, as he had left Canada and was living in an asylum. We stayed a week together. He spoke Albanian very well, he had an extraordinary desire. Then we broke up”, remembers Mexhiti.
Family reunion, but lives a short time
In Albania, his father did not come immediately, as he was hesitant and did not believe in system changes. But, after he was assured after the meeting with Mexhit, the ongoing communications, after a year he decided to come. As a French citizen, he came to Rinas in September 1992, where he was received by the Haxhiu family, settling in Mexhit’s house. But he did not live long, only 14 months after his return, he passed away in December 1993, at the age of 73. Memorie.al