From Uvil Zajmi
The first part
Memorie.al / The story of the orphan who became a star in the 70s and 80s and recorded how often he was sick. The bomber that Boriçi didn’t want in the national team because he was short. “Kovaçi gol”, a unique book by Vlash Pambuku about the goleador, the legend who scored 43 goals during his career. The whole city, from children in kindergartens, students in schools, enterprises, adults, women and men, lived with his goals. From an orphaned childhood, then the family, illnesses, spectacular moments and goals, derby encounters with “Naftëtar”, a career converted into a flat, a room and a kitchen, as well as an “Obodin” refrigerator, the only things he received in his 20-year career as a football player. He was serving in the military as a liaison officer, when he was declared the best Albanian goal scorer. What is the former mechanic of water, the symbol of Berat, the “Panther” of “Tomorri”, whose strike has punished every team, doing today? A rare story of a footballer who never played with the Albanian national team…?!
Little orphan, a difficult childhood!
A life started without a mother. Orphaned at the age of 3, with a very difficult family economy, Rim Kovaçi was the penultimate child of four brothers and three sisters. No tradition family for sports, even more so for football. The one who stood by him was his older brother, Fatmir, even in the carpentry where he worked, he took him and with the opportunities he had, gave him lunch every day.
With his elderly father as his mother and father, this was his childhood where the whole family, especially his sisters-in-law, endlessly washed sports clothes and was busy helping him. Without knowing that he would become one of the most prominent footballers not only for Berat but for all of Albania, fame that accompanies him even today.
Beginnings like everyone else at “Pionieri”
The beginnings, like all children in Albania, in Berat are connected to the “Pioneer House” of the city. When he was 8 years old, he played on the field near the old stadium, then matches with schools, neighborhood meetings between the buildings, a goal with a shot on the field near the “Thimi Nika” school hospital, where the coaches of the ages, Zoji Konomi and Filip Leci, discovered his talent. In front of the youth, in Gjirokastër, coaches Guxim Mukli and Agim Matrapazi activate him as a starter, confirming him as the future of Berata football, and after three years he spends with the youth team, a protagonist in several friendly meetings, where they stand out against Kosovar teams.
In 1973, coach Mon Xhamo of “Tomor” took him with the first team that plays in the second category. There you will also find teammates such as: Teli Zaho, Luke Hodo, Ajet Hoxha, Aleksandër Monka, Tajar Spaho, Petrit Cilingir, Agim Matrapazi, Ylli Karkanjozin, Suvorov Seferaj, Gëzim Spahiu, Hektor Buza, Hysen Mala, Milto Monka and Nasho Kule. Then with those who made history: Robert and Arben Kokalari, Roland Halili, Theollori and Arben Arbëri, Bardhyl Kadëna, Leonard Bakalli, Adriatik Firaj, Fatos Ciringiri, Kristaq Mile, Demokrat Zinxhiria, Ismail Zinxhiria, Arben Hysi, Arjan Bakiri, Vasil Marakashi, Maksim Tole, Jovan Lala, etc., with whom he will play for several years.
What characterized it?
Not very tall, even short, robust, Rim Kovaci is only 1.68, with a foot count of 39, so not with ideal characteristics to be a typical, “heavy” scorer. Striker, always worrying for the defenses, agile, brave, sniffer, sacrificial and high cedar, physically prepared, fast, rain, terrain, bad weather, field factor have not been a problem for him.
He played with both feet, typical zone players, unpredictable, brave, he put his head in the opponent’s leg, but even in the game at height, no one has stopped him from being strong there, even many of the goals with headers, has marked them by jumping over Safet Berisha, Kujtim Çoçoli, Kastriot Hysin, Mujo Targaj, etc., considered the “giants” of the air.
Fast, 12 seconds in 100 m. and 3.9 seconds accomplished the time in 30 meters. Impulsive, worked long even after training. He considers Guxim Muklin not only a smart, hardworking and very tactical coach, but also the man who gave him fame, enabled him to have a long and sensational career with which Kovaci’s life is inseparable.
How did the whole city live with his goals?!
The whole city, the surrounding areas in two decades, have lived with his goals, which are an infinity, marking all the teams and there are 43 goalkeepers who have experienced the bitter taste of taking the ball out of the net, after Kovac’s goal. He is one of the best scorers in the country, and the best of “Tomor”. “Take care of Kovacin”, was the advice of the coaches of the opposing teams, when they played against “Tomor”. He scored the first goal (even two goals) in Delvina, in the 4-2 victory of “Tomor” against “Bistrica”.
While in Berat, in the old field, the “home team” scored the first goal in the first half against a strong team like “Dajti”, and the whole challenge ended 1-0. Referring to the book “Kovaçi Goal” and “Sports Encyclopedia of my City”, very valuable publications of Vlash Pambuku, about 85 goals are recorded in official activities, such as championships. But, he has also performed in the Cup, friendlies, the second category, in the matches received reinforcements, etc. So it’s hard to count his goals during the twenty years he’s been playing.
What are the memorable goals?
The most beautiful goal, double in terms of values, was scored by Rim Kovaçi against “Besëlidje”, at the end of the 1976-’77 season, in the final of the Second Category: Berat, referee Ramiz Pregja, the old field with spectators arriving from the entire area, the return match: Kovaci has possessed a ball with his chest, avoids three defenders and with a backhand, he scores a spectacular goal in the first half. The result is 1-0, like the 90th minutes in Lezha and we have extra time, which is accompanied by two more goals scored by Bakalli e Buza and 3-0.
“Tomori” secures participation in the First Category. Then the two goals against “AEK” of Athens in Greece in the Balkan Cup, with the shirt of “Flamurtar”, the goals at the “Qemal Stafa” Stadium against Ilir Luaras of “Dinamo”, Bujar Sharra of “17 Nndor”, Jani Kaç of “Skenderbeu”, Vladimir Ajazi of “Lokomotiva”, Perlat Musta of “Partizan” and Bujar Gogunja of “Labinot”, when the latter was at the peak of his form.
The handball and the “revenge” of Vlonia…!
The old stadium in Berat is played against “Flamurtar”, a trio with referees from Tirana, the score 0-0 after the first half. While the second started, Kovaci, located in the area, deflected the ball with his hand and net from the city gate. No one has seen it, only the goalkeeper Berberi, who has protested, but there is no change in the referee’s decision and finally: 1-0 for “Tomor”, the meeting ends. The second leg of the return match in Vlorë, during the entire game, they insulted him with typical expressions from Vlorë.
But the end was different. A goal scored by him has also changed the direction of the fans: They have all returned with him. While in Shkodër, there is another unforgettable moment: As soon as the game has started, there is a corner kick from the southern gate, Kici Mile, has crossed the area, Kovaci, sitting on his knees, has hit the net with his head. The goal silenced the entire stadium, leaving the Shkodra fans amazed, very passionate.
Only ten minutes to score a goal!
In Vlora, a point was needed to save the team. Rim Kovaçi was sick all week, he didn’t even participate in training, but he traveled with the team. Coach Mukli does not include him in the lineup and after the first half, the numbers are 1-0 for the local Reds and Blacks.
When there were 10 minutes of the game left, Vice-coach Andera Xheblati asked Mukli to activate Kovac. “He’s not kidding because he’s sick” was the answer. “Tell him once”? “Do what you want” – Mukli closes the debate. “Undress if you want to play,” Xheblati addresses Kovaç. 3 more minutes of play, corner kick: Kovac’s goal, 1-1, result that saves “Tomor”.
Goal against the goalkeeper of Yugoslavia, Enver Maric!
This is also a very special moment for Kovaci’s career. But, it is the Volonts who have it thought about it. All of a sudden, they announced and invited him that he will play with “Flamurtar” in the Balkan Cup, season 1981-’82, in a group with “Velezh” from Mostar (Yugoslavia) and “AEK” from Athens. What has remained deep in his memory is a great personal sports fact: he scored a goal against the legend, the idol of the Albanians at the time, the famous goalkeeper of Yugoslavia at that time, the Albanian Enver Maric, even in Mostar, where the Voluntari lost 1-4.
Then also against “AEK” of Athens in Vlora, in the 2-1 victory of “Flamurtar”, with goals from Spiro Çuri and Kovac. At that time, “Flamurtari” was an affirmed team with protagonists where Spiro and Leonidha Çuri, Kreshnik Çipi, Rrapo Taho, Uran Xhafa, etc. played. Together with them, Rim Kovaçi has a small part in the glorious history of the Vlonia club, at least for the Balkan participation.
In Uznovo, soldier, scorer and lover
With the interest of the Sports Club and the District Party Committee, in order to be close to the “Tomor” team, and to avoid any departure to the clubs of the capital interested in him, they appointed him to perform military service in Uznovo (at the exit of Berat), in a liaison department. We are in the 1979-80 season, when Kovaçi is at the peak of his sports form, he scores in almost every match and in that championship, he was declared the best scorer of the First Category, with 21 goals, being both a footballer and a soldier with liaison duty.
He even fell in love with the woman he has today in Uznovo. She worked in the kitchen of the battery department, first a friendship, then something more, and in 1987 comes marriage. Another detail is connected with Uznova: An Italian, who arrived in 1991, as administrator of the ‘Battery Department’, was informed by the fans about him, and from that moment he went to the stadium to follow every match of Tomori, even though Kovaci it was at the end of his career. He also brought a pair of soccer shoes, which Kovaci gave to a young soccer player.
With the number 10 on the jersey, but never a captain?!
Throughout his career, he has played with the number 10 shirt, although at the beginning, he used it with 14, when he was a reserve (These are the years when, after a decision of the AFL, the teams must activate an 18-year-old even as a substitute his was done with a footballer of this age). The traditional and favorite number 10 was worn by the well-known Nevruz Hodo. “This will be the future of Berat and number 10 belongs to him” – everyone said about him.
But what stands out in Rim Kovac’s long career is a very interesting fact: He has never been the captain of the team, a task that he modestly did not accept, as it was enough for him to score. And it has been systematic in every edition, always in the elite of Albanian goal scorers: After starting with 8 goals in 1975-’76, when “Tomori” plays in the second, he follows with 5 goals after Hektor Buza, with 8 goals in the championship when “Tomori” climbed to the first. Then 9 goals, after Agim Murat of “Partizan” with 12, and Medin Zhega of “Vllaznia” with 11 goals.
In the 1978-’79 edition, Kovaçi scores 7 goals and is ranked after Petri Dibra of “17 November” and Agim Murat of “Partizan” in terms of 14 goals, Ferdinand Lleshi of “Labinot” with 13, Ilir Pernaska of “Dinamo” with 12, of Vladimir Skuros of “Naftëtari” with 11 goals. The climax comes in the championship that follows: Although the team escapes relegation to the second category, ranking 12th, Kovaci is declared the best scorer of the championship: 18 goals followed by Luan Seiti of “Luftar” with 16 goals and Dashnor Bajaziti i Besa” with 14.
In the next edition Dashnor Bajaziti with 12, Kovaci 6. In the 1981-’82 season, Kovaci scores 6 goals, again 6 goals in the 1982-’83 season won by Bajaziti with 16 goals, to reach the 1984-’85 championship, with Arben Mingën of Tirana and Faslli Fakjen of “Vllazni” are in the lead, with 13 goals and for the first time, two Beratas behind them: Arben Arbëri with 7 and Kovaçi with 6 goals.
In the 1985-’86 seasons, Kujtim Majaci of “Apollonia” of Fier explodes with 20 goals, while Kovaçi scores 12. The 1986-’87 season ends with 3 goals from Kovaçi and the team falls to the Second Category. These are the years when the promising young man Arben Arbëri, who scores 14 and 12 goals, followed by Kovaci with 5 and 9 goals and the team returns to the first category. It is the 1989-’90 seasons.
“Rim Kovaci speaks on the field”!
In a small meeting before the meeting with “Lokomotiva” of Durrës, where the Chairman of the Executive Committee and the First Secretary of the district are also present, at the end of it, he turns to Kovač: “O Kovaç, why don’t you speak, tells us something “?! But, instead of him, it was Coach Guxim Mukli, who answered: “He has work on the field”! And Kovaci was the author of the first goal of the meeting that was won 2-0 by “Tomori”.
Score a goal for the waitress!
The team of “Tomor” has its next match for the championship in Vlora. Before leaving for the stadium, while waiting for the waitress to order lunch, she approaches him and says: “Kovač, what are you going to get? After giving him the order, he asked in surprise: “How did this person recognize us?” After eating and getting ready to pay, he put his hand in his pocket, but she approached him to say: “You have paid for it from me”! “Why aren’t you from Vlora”, Kovaci replied? “No, I’m a girl from Berati and I’m the daughter of Ali Mesa, the man who distributes yogurt and milk in the city”, she explains.
While Kovaci was stunned, she continued: “I have one more request. Please, will you score a goal for my sister, because I can’t stand them, the Vlonjats drowned me here in Vlora”?! While leaving the restaurant, Kovaçi hears a knock on the bus window: “Don’t forget”. And he shook his head. After the 90th minute, the final result is: Flamurtari 1 and Tomori 1. The Beratas equalized exactly with a goal by Kovac.
In Fier, when Pali surprised Miska
The 1977-’78 championship is played in Fier, a rivalry match between “Apolonia” and “Tomor”, which has just been promoted to the First Category. The Fierak club has a coach, Zihni Gjinalin, and has great support from Pali Miska, First Secretary of the District Party Committee, who keeps and treats the team “in the palm of his hand”. This was the third match for Rim Kovačin, who had also scored two goals in the first meetings, while he was little known in sports circles, he is young, he has just started to stand out. That day he scores two goals and “Tomori” wins 2-0.
It was a big surprise, which forces Pali Miska to hold an urgent meeting the next day with the team. “There is no greater shame” – he addresses the players and then coach Gjinali: “What is going on like this, Zihni”?! The answer was: “I’m opening my mouth about Kavaja, it’s a team full of talented athletes, I’m opening my mouth about Berat, it was Kovaçi, while I’m opening my mouth about Fier, and we have nothing, as we only have oil and greenhouses.” “Well, well” Pali Miska concluded: “We sell oil and we find sportsmen”! After this debate, the meeting ended with humor. Memorie.al
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