From Uvil Zajmi
Memorie.al / Who was the boy whose career would explode, shining from a very young age, to become a leader, captain and one of the most outstanding basketball players in Albanian basketball? A unique career that of Vaso Shaka: From the tradition with skates, to the baskets of the “Çajupi” school that would give him fame, not only in Albania, but to distant China that took his style as a model. Spectacles in the game, non-stop scorer: From 101 points in the Balkaniad, to 120 scored against “Dinamo” and 38 points scored against the giants of “Jugoplastika”. From coaches Stërmasi and Borova, to the unforgettable five from Tirana, derby challenges, coach of the girls of “17 November”, a life full of surprises and passions for art, paintings and music. What does Vaso Shaka do, a name with which an important and historical part is connected for the sporting and human values of a generation, which gave life to a very passionate sport for Albanians, educational and quite favorite, especially that of 70s and beyond?
On skates, family tradition
Born in Korça, in 1942, Vlach by origin. The Shaka family, parents, Vaso and sister moved to Tirana when he was 6 years old. He started the sport with the desire to become a football player, even highly sought after by coach Myslym Alla as a goalkeeper. Then fencing, volleyball, table tennis, athletics, skating, ready to play in all sports at the Palace of Pioneers in Tirana. But in the Shaka family, tradition is a little rare, but very aristocratic discipline such as skating, a well-liked, very favorite and frequented sport for them.
Even the passion for skating was the first, especially sister Rozeta, the wife of prof. Alfred Uçit was one of the few modern girls of the time when along Tirana Boulevard on skates, she demonstrated figure skating, under the attention and curiosity of hundreds of Tirana citizens. But, unlike tradition, Vaso Shaka would play another sport, even a very noble one, even being a leader, very spectacular and unrepeatable.
Çajupi, the name of the poet who would give him fame
Everything that is related to Vaso Shaka’s sporting beginnings starts with the start at school: From the eight-year-old “Shkola e Kuqe” a good student of hers, to continue at the “Çajupi” gymnasium. From his first coach Avni Zajmi in skating, to Ahmet Golemi in fencing, then Pëllumb Pelivani in volleyball, Elez Maha in athletics and in high school, with the Physical Education teacher and then his first coach, Abdulla Stërmasi.
It was he who pulled him away from any other sport, directing him towards basketball. There you find Bujar Shehu, Filip Guraziu, Agim Korbin, Iljaz Konjar, laying the foundations for the creation of the school team and then of “November 17”. These are the years when the rivalry between the high schools of the capital is very great and it is precisely the high school students of “Çajupi” who, for the first time, break the long dominance of “Qemalstafas”.
Feti Borova, the strategist who brings him closer to “November 17”
A career started in a modest way, played with chalkboards and blackboards, in the “Studenti” sports parks, he at the hand games at the “Elbasan Street”, to come to the “Konferenca Peza”, known with the name “Uncle Tony’s Park”, although the legendary tireless old man who maintained the fields was called Xhetan. From that open complex, basketball players, volleyball players and many other athletes have come out, who have trained for decades in that sports environment that belonged to the “17 November” Club.
The year 1959, the coach, the well-known master Feti Borova, has the professional sense and draws Vaso Shaka from the youth to the first team of “17 November”. He activates him as a center or side center, replacing Boris Bumçi and Shaka’s first match with “November 17”, is registered in Tirana against “Vllaznia” of Renato Radojë and Bujar Golem, for the First National Spartakiad. It is his first official activity in which “November 17” is declared the winner with Vaso Shaka, considered and evaluated as one of the emerging and indisputable talents of basketball.
Although very young in age, only 17 years old, but with a style of play, shooting that offered something new in national basketball. Then he went to study in Czechoslovakia and the period 1960-1961 found Vaso Shaka a student in Bratislava, where he became active with the city’s handball team. Waiting for the federation to come to him from Prague, he plays the first stage, but this will not last, as the relations with Czechoslovakia are broken and in 1961, he finally returns to Tirana.
A new and modern style of play
These are the years when the application of fast attack, aggressive defense with shots from a distance begins in basketball, to reduce the differences in height with foreign players. In particular, the role of the center player requires a different interpretation, and when basketball is in the first steps of transformation, Vaso Shaka appears, to whom nature had given him some gifts, among which, virtuosity with the ball in the role of center and side center.
With high bounce, he easily made spectacular baskets from difficult positions, even with several shooting styles such as arc, under the board, from distance, demonstrating natural reflexes and intuition. Not a power player, he was the owner of two boards, always with his right knee bandaged, Shaka has been the best player of the five, both in the individual and the collective game.
With excellent technical and tactical skills, with outstanding individuality, elegant, assistman, with a clean and full of fantasy game, he stood out for posting inside and outside the area and with an ideal orientation on the field, he scored even against tall foreign opponents. Very courageous and proactive, calm, attentive, balanced in the most difficult and decisive moments of the meeting: When the ball was addressed to the hands of Vaso Shaka, it was an extra guarantee. Spectacular player and with his original style, he demonstrated a great range and arsenal in the game, as a versatile basketball player.
Sports Palace and Balkaniad
From the first international match held in 1959 in Tirana, with the representative of the capital against the Hungarians of the BFS, after a year in the Balkaniad in Sofia, in January 1961 at the “Mediterranean Games” in Bucharest, to continue at the Helsinki Festival. The year 1963 is full of international activities: the “Mike People’s Army Games” in Beijing, then in Jakarta, North Korea and at the end of the year, there are the first two friendly international meetings, with Cuba in basketball (in volleyball in June it was held an international tournament where the Sports Palace was inaugurated), held in the “Partizani” Sports Palace: The first with wooden boards and the second with plastic, newly assembled.
However, the 1965 Balkaniad marks the peak and peak of Vaso Shaka’s career. An activity developed in the “Partizani” Sports Palace, in Tirana, also built with the voluntary contribution of athletes. Gathered with the “Partizani” team, after finishing the training, the team, leaders, trainers worked for up to an hour a day, to speed up its realization. Then the tournament: The captain of the team and its leader after three meetings, Shaka is declared the best scorer of the tournament, realizing 101 points. It is the balkaniad that marks the radical turning point of Albanian basketball: There are no more losses until defeats with large point’s differences.
High precision player
It was like that. Although he is 187 cm tall, if you refer to the press comments and the time sheets when he played, you will find that he systematically averaged about 30 points per game. Central or wing player always covered by tall players (especially in international activities), Vaso Shaka has distinguished himself for his shooting accuracy, in the area and outside it, modernizing since that time the role of the center player, coming out of the area and accuracy in realization.
With natural mobility, very elegant, the way of playing and the style he demonstrated was something special for the time, fans and specialists, constantly playing with an admirable basketball. Has the record with 120 points scored in one game: Republic Cup, at the end of the 60s, at the Park behind the Premiership, (against “Dinamos”), while the game ended 157-40, for “November 17”, Vaso Shaka scored 120 points.
Farewell match, in “Partizani” – “November 17”
With a career spanning the years 1960-1973, among the important matches and those that are not forgotten, there remain the confrontations “November 17” – “Partizani”, those of the 70s, in which he was their absolute protagonist. “Partizani” – “November 17” confrontations have been a challenge among challenges, as many factors were involved both within the sports environment and outside it.
Outstanding coaches and players of the time with high technical class and individuality; great rivalry when many meetings are determined in the last seconds, accompanied endlessly by controversy and then an extraordinary fan base, in an overflowing sports palace, not forgetting also the preferences of the politicians of the time.
Imagine when there were such players on the field, such as: Vaso Shaka, Bujar Shehu, Kujtim Kasmi, Gavrosh Lëvonja, Topalli, Avrami, Koleka, Shkurti opposite: Fagu, Pali, Zaçe, Pëllumbi, Dodan Përmeti, Kastriot Mushi, Edgar Prifti, etc. . He chose exactly one meeting, when on January 28, 1973, Vaso Shaka said goodbye, handing over the jersey to Pirro Koleka. From that meeting, he has a unique memory: He keeps the protocol of the match, which ended 86-73 for Tirana, which includes basketball players, referees, technical data, everything, a very rare interesting document.
But in his career, there are many athletes who gave life to this sport in those years: Luan Shatku, Filip Guraziu, Renato Radoja, Agim Lahi, Dhimitër Papa, Konomi, Pirro Angjeli, Niko Profkola, Nustret Reka, Luan Kalebota, Viktor Papavangjeli , Robert the Red, etc. For more than a decade, Vaso Shaka was the captain with the national team and “November 17”, until the day he left the sport, even one of the main architects of the Tirana club, together with Buajr Shehu, Kujtim Kasmi, Gosh Lëvonjë, Land Topalli , Niko Avram, Pirro Kolek, Dhimitër Papa, Nine Shkurt, Daltë, etc., creating one of the most historic fives of Albanian basketball.
China, crazy with “Joke Style”
In China, Vaso Shaka has been five times, with which he is associated with several sporting moments. First, when an athlete’s style of play is taken as a model in another country, even a large one with potential in sports, such as People’s China. In 1963, at the Institute of Physical Culture in Beijing, film clips were given to the students that demonstrated the high and special technique in shooting, as well as the style of the Albanian Vaso Shaka. Meanwhile, during a tour in China, when two menisci and two ankles were damaged at the same time, the Chinese doctors stopped him and advised him not to play as there could be consequences.
But, before the match, while going to the hospital, where he was being treated, he continued to play, although with constant pain during the match, then the return to the hospital and intensive treatment. The last international meeting with the representative team took place on October 17, 1972, in Tientsin of the People’s Republic of China. There he handed over the jersey with number 9, a number that he has never shared during his career (since at “17 November”, when they were together in the team, Renato Radoja had inherited number 7 from the youth, while Shaka preferred the number 9).
Moviola in basketball, Shaka’s idea
Vaso has been very calm, never controversies and objections or debates with referees throughout his career as a sportsman, coach, leader. He is the man who proposed and realized the application of moviola for the first time in Albania for a basketball challenge and not football. In Tirana, at the “Partizani” Sports Palace, the meeting “November 17” – “Partizani” is played, at the time of the historical rivalry: There are still a few seconds left, the Tirana team is ahead by one point in the standings and one point in the field, when the well-known referee Virgjil Karaj, shouted for violation of the sideline by Land Topalli and in the middle of the controversy, the ball passes to “Partizani”, who quickly restarts the game and Fagu scores, giving the victory to “Partizani”- t.
In the event of a tie in the standings, the final match for the title will be played. But, with a request from the club to see once again the moment of the violation of the line, Albanian Radio-Television, which broadcasted the meeting, made available the footage. A group of specialists, players and leaders of the Basketball Federation, review the moment once again, finding that Topalli had not crossed the sideline. However, after a few days, the final match took place, which was won by “November 17”, with Topalli’s basket at the end of the game, but the verification of a controversial moment on the R.T.SH screen, is the first case of the application of moviola in a sports event in Albania, which belongs to the late 1960s – ’70s, an idea that came from Vaso Shaka.
Matches against the Slavs
They are unforgettable: Against “Zadar”, in the Cup of Cups, 1970 and “Jugoplastika” a season later in the Champions League. Both clubs of the former Yugoslavia world champions with the representative, while with clubs, at the peak of their form and success, where they played very great players for the time. In particular, “Yugoplasty”. For the history of Albanian basketball, especially the one with clubs in international representation, they are among the most famous, although they have been lost, but they were and remain so even today.
It is about playing against such players as: Shollman, Prug, Petër Skans, Dvërdić, Gjergja (the best player in Europe in 1967). And the most important: Against “Jugoplastika” in Tirana, Vaso Shaka scored 38 points, which surprised the opponents. In his career, Shaka has about 100 international matches, including reinforcements, such as those with “Partizani” in an activity of Mike’s People’s Army in China (1963); again in China in 1966, with “Dinamo” in a tour of the teams of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and with “Vllaznina”, in the Balkan Cup, in the 1967 season. Not forgetting the well-known EKE basketball tournaments in Budapest 1968, Caljara 1970 and Holland 1972.
Shaka, a chemical engineer by profession
Although with an excellent career, as one of the elite basketball players on the verge of a legend, Vaso Shaka was different in his profession as well: Student at the Faculty of Natural Sciences, Chemistry-Industrial branch, in life he was a chemical engineer and for many For years he worked as a technologist-mercologist at the Meat Factory in Tirana and after the 90s in Yzberisht, at another food products factory. It is characterized by a balance and reasonableness, very loving and friendly with everyone, both athletes and managers. Not impulsive in decision-making, careful to detail.
Creating a myth as a coach, with basketball girls!
The decision to coach the girls of the “17 November” team was made in China, during a tournament where the boys and girls were represented. Since Coach Qemal Shalsi was appointed by the head of the Basketball Federation, Shaka was proposed to take over the team already left by Shalsi. Although he was still active, but in a dilemma to leave or not, this was the reason that when they returned to Tirana, after two weeks, he took the lead of the champion team with an early tradition in Albania. Then, ten years as protagonist with Bukuroshe Shtiza (Bellova), Dojaka, Beti, Ferhat, Hoxha, F. Konçi (Tikja), Dhurata Xhani, Gjetja, Gjoni, Xhaxho, V. Bega, T. Vogli, L. Çani, I. Sulollari and in the span of a few years, in the renewal of the team, Vali Myrto, the sisters Edra and Mirza Alibega, Goxhi, Shoshkiç, among the great talents of Albanian basketball, a product of Shaka’s work, when he was the coach of “17 Nëntori”- t.
Shaka’s sensational love
He fell in love and married very young. He was famous and at the peak of his form when he met his wife, Fitora, one of the most beautiful girls in Tirana. His love with the daughter of the President of the People’s Assembly (Haxhi Lleshi) was one of the main events of the pink chronicle of the time, as one of the most sensational stories of a famous athlete in Albania. He was recognized everywhere he went. “Even more than the President of the People’s Assembly, before I became a son-in-law. Never, at any moment in my family life and sports career, has this marital relationship affected”, says Shaka.
Vaso is known as a very serious, correct and proactive person to oppose and reject even party leaders, when they asked the team or the club, victory at any cost against strong opponents, when such a thing was impossible, this more in international activities.
Passion for flowers, operas and paintings
Vaso has several passions, among which movies, reading, listening to music, preferably the Italian singer Adriano Çelentano, but also attending operas, when until recently he regularly went to the shows. He does not forget the flowers that he takes care of systematically, but his primary passion is for painting. Preference born years ago, when the club was on “Conference of Peza” street, in front of it were the painters’ studios.
They were friends with many of them, as is usually the case between artists and sportsmen. From that time, this passion continues, from which it has never been separated, until today. There is a rich collection of works and works of Albanian artists in the house, about 100 of them, starting from Sali Shijaku, Zamir Mati, Thaçi, Golemi, etc. From the Balli family of sculptors, there is a bas-relief with his portrait made by them.
What is Vaso Shaka doing today?
He is the winner of over 25 championship titles and the Cup of the Republic as a player and then coach of the girls of “17 November” and the national team for a decade (1973-1983). Very polite and well-mannered on and off the field, Merited Master, N/Chairman of the B.F.S.SH. Vaso Shaka lives in an apartment near the Artificial Lake, taken when he played sports and is the parent of two daughters, Emona and Boriana, who did not inherit their father’s sports.
He follows sports activities, goes a little to the Sports Palace, likes television, football, international tournaments and remains a fan of “November 17”. Little has changed, although the years pass, he remembers everything well, he speaks calmly, calmly and very familiarly, when you see him accompanying his grandson and granddaughter to school every day, or walking in the evening in the corridors of the lake, drinking coffee with a cigarette, which is not shared. Owns an admirable culture, not only sports, still elegant as when he played and dressed, Vaso Shaka remains “A gentleman of Albanian basketball”, a true intellectual representative of the “fair play” of Albanian sports, as he has interpreted basketball that way his, being the absolute, unrepeatable protagonist. Memorie.al