From Uvil Zajmi
Memorie.al/ From a military career to another sports celebrity. From a helicopter pilot over the Volga and Don, to a prominent Albanian football goalkeeper. From Ismet Bellova who discovered it, the break with the Russians, to Beckenbauer, the goals of Myler, Best, the tour of Hanoi, Boriçi, Pano, and Maliqati…! All in one rare story…! What did Mikel Janku do after the 90s, the aviator, national goalkeeper, champion and cup winner with “Partizan”, columnist, journalist, elder brother of the family, all protagonists with a single club.
Only 17 years old, in the Soviet Union
He was an excellent student in the third year, when he was selected to be in the aviation course at “Skënderbej” School. Only once in the sky from the aviation field in Shijak, with “Jak 18”, a fast aircraft, Russian production of the Second World War and the instructor Flamuar Micka. Although the wheels did not open during the descent, they forced him to stay in the air for 45 minutes. It was the year 1958, the month of July, and when he was not yet 17 years old, he boarded the “Bjelloostrov” steamer to Odesa.
Escorted by his family, with the desire to go and study for three years at the famous flight school in the Soviet Union, first in Pugachev, then in Batac in Rostov, where he specialized as a pilot for transport helicopters. Flights in the area of the Volga, in the areas above the Don, skydiving, while practicing sports and speaking Russian well. He is active with the school as a goalkeeper, but also basketball, gymnastics, skiing, ice skating. Followed the Russian championship, a fan of “Partizan” before leaving Albania and of “Rostov” and “CSKA” of Moscow. He admired the legendary Russian soccer player, Viktor Poniedelnik.
Bellova, the one who opened the gate!
He didn’t think of becoming a pilot, but he did, as he played football with the neighborhoods, “Mine Peza” – “Rruga Fotuzi”, where there were Panajot Pano, Skënder Halili, Plangaricat, etc. Having inherited something from his father, Andrea, a football player in his youth, when at the “Skënderbej” School, Ismet Bellova, a physical education teacher, was the one who, during the lesson, practiced as a goalie at the dance pit, where he would jump over its sand. Then in the match between the classes, meanwhile, Bellova will thus open a small window, to become a big one later. With the professor, friend, lecturer, radio reporter, journalist, he will maintain his friendship, and they will even be together in a radio booth in front of a microphone, many years later.
The break with the Russians, the lack of the helicopter
When he was in his last year and was preparing for his return, “MI-4” helicopters came with the groups to Albania. They were even packed, but when the students arrived in late August 1961, the helicopters were not. However, it was arranged in the helicopter department in the aviation hangars (today the “Asllan Rusi” Sports Palace). Informed that this contingent was prepared for the military base of Pasha Liman, against submarines. But since there were no flights (only one helicopter was on standby), they did theoretical lessons and played football. In 1962, the Military Spartakiad took place in Tirana and when it ended, a meeting was organized at the “Dinamo” stadium between “Partizan”, where Panajot Pano, Refik Resmja and a selection of the Spartakiad teams played.
Mikel Janku is put in the focus, but, being a military aviation pilot, he was not allowed to be active with clubs, and to the proposal of Besim Fagu, Loro Boriçi and Rexhep Spahiu, he answers that they should first talk with the Ministry of Defense. When they told him that: “permission has been obtained for you, young man, and you will start training with “Partizan”, not even the aviation commander, Colonel Edip Ohri, who opposed it at first, could stop the order of the Minister of Defense and the Deputy Prime Minister. Lieutenant-General Beqir Balluku, Chief of Staff, Major-General Petrit Dumes. This is how training begins with the first team, alongside Sul Maliqati, Zija Dani, Refik Resma, Fatbardh Deliallisi, Miço Papadhopulli, Miço Ndin, Merjes, Lin Shllakut, Bert Jashari, Tomorr Shehu, Panajot Panos, Iljza Dingut, Fatmir Frashërit, etc., while he is active with the reserve team, coached by Slava Llambi.
Debut related to Maliqat
Born in 1941, the first of the four Janku brothers, although not tall, was an extremely flexible goalkeeper, acrobat, modern for the time, bringing a new philosophy to the game of goalkeepers, boldly exiting the gate in the air balls. He played with his left hand and kicked with his right foot, on which he put a white cavalier that he kept after an injury some time ago. When he came to “Partizan”, he found a great master in the goal, Sulejman Maliqat, (considered the “Black Cat”), with whom he connected two decisive moments: In April ’62, for the Cup of 60- of the Anniversary of Liberation, in the “Dinamo” stadium, Maliqati also warmed up, but injured just before the start of the match, he tells Loro Boriçi that he has concerns. “No problem, take off your clothes” – addressed to Janku, who marks his debut with “Partizani”. In September 1962, while Maliqati was activated and played in Sweden against “Norçeping”, he was injured in the return match. While the team is assembled, when coach Spahiu tells Janku to prepare, and in “Partizani” – “Norçeping” 1-1 (Kindrall goal 9′ and Kraja 50′), he is in goal.
“I still see it as a dream and not as if I played that match”, Janku remembered that meeting. With no experience in major Albanian football, with sporadic activations and without a single full match, he was only 21 years old when he debuted in the Champions Cup. Then in the championship, against “Spartak” and “Cologne” and when in September 1964, the legend Maliqati finally leaves “Partizani”, the gate of the famous club, there will be another protagonist: Mikel Jankun.
When Bestie imitated the Beatles
They were on the plane together with Fatmir Frashër, traveling to Belfast, when they saw a photo of George Best with short hair in a magazine. As they went out to warm up, they recognized him, but he had long hair. Frashëri, who communicated in English, together with Jank, approached him and asked him: “Why with long hair, you look more charming with short hair” – they say. “I imitate the Beatles” – was the answer. And really, George Best is known as the first footballer in the world, who imitated the Beatles in terms of hair, lifestyle, clothing, etc.
From Belfast, Janku kept one more detail: Entering the field to start the game, Jennings, the Irish goalkeeper, saw him from top to bottom, without taking his eyes off him. Only after the match at the banquet, he told him: “You do a great heroism, playing as a goalkeeper”. From Belfast, he also remembers a pair of gloves that Alfred Kazanxhi, the president of the FFL, bought for him before the match, because it was wet. They were only $7…!
Beckenbauer and Müller’s goals
There are some memories in Dortmund: It was April 1967, the first historic sports match was played, Federal Republic of Germany-Albania. The match ends 6-0 for the home team, the world runner-up, where Tillkosvki, Overat and Franc Beckenbauer play, and the goals are scored by Gerd Myler (4) and Lohr 2. These are the years when the goalkeeper is not replaced during the match, only in cases where he is injured seriously and Janku was forced to stay at the gate until the 1990s. From that meeting he remembered that he had the chance to meet the goalkeeper Tillkovski, the man of the final match of the World Cup England ’66: His tears and despair after that phantom goal by Hurst are unforgettable.
“We had a nature and similarity in the game”, Janku said. Then the four goals scored by a legend, like Gerd Myler. He remembered it all, as separate parts of that challenge. And the last one: In the only game he was captain of the team, he and Beckenbuer exchanged flags before the start of the game. The first and the last, since in Tirana, in the return match, neither Janku nor Beckenbauer, nor Tillkovki nor Myler, were on the field. The first reserve, while the familiar Germans did not come.
With the national team, protagonist
The period as goalkeeper of the national team is limited to only three years: 1964-1967, playing 9 official meetings of FIFA and UEFA. He made his debut in Rotterdam, in May 1964, Holland-Albania 2-0, activated by Coach Zyber Konçi. Then, in the return challenge with the “oranges”, twice with Switzerland, against which he remembers the non-existent penalty given by the referee, after a deflection of the ball for the corner. While the footballers remembered him for a corner kick, his rush ordered for the 11th yard.
But also Northern Ireland, in particular, he is the starter at the “Qemal Stafa” stadium, in that 90th minute of history, after the 1-1 draw. In April 1967, in Dortmund, R.F. Germany-Albania, 6-0, to be followed in Tirana, on May 14, Albania-Yugoslavia 0-2, and this is Janku’s last game in goal for the national team, after Yugoslavia-Albania 4-0, on November 12 , Jani Rama of “Dinamo” will be in goal. For the challenge of December 17, 1967, against FRG, Boriçi will discover Koço Dinella of “Skënderbeu” of Korçë, while Janku will be his reserve.
From Norçeping to Turin
Janku has started his debut in Europe with clubs. First in Sweden against “Norceping”, as a reserve, then with “Spartak”, to continue in Germany against “Cologne”. Here he remembered Overati, who scored the second goal at the end of the match, as well as Shefer, the world champion of 1954. Then in Scotland on “November 17”, 1965, it was the Tirana players who asked coach Alla for reinforcements. Janku played in both matches, only conceding a goal when there were a few minutes left and Paris was thought to be the neutral site for the third match. And the last one, with “FC Torino” in the Cup of Cups in September 1968.
As the first challenge with an Italian football club, of Xhixhi Riva, Xhani Rivera and Macola, newly declared European champions. The team includes coach Fabri, Vieri, Puia, Agropi, the French Komben and Mondoniko, the author of the third goal. Janku remembers the lost case of Panos in “Qemal Stafa”, when the ball was deflected by a crease in the field. Mikeli remembered the end of the match in Turin, when the leaders of “Partizani” ordered the team not to leave the field. It was a misinterpretation of the result, as it was the first year of the double goal in the transfer and them thought that after 1-0 and 1-3, extra time should be played.
The banquet that drove the Germans crazy..!
The banquet after the match against “Cologne” (0-0) was not held in the “Dajti” Hotel, but in the great hall of the SHQUP (Central House of the People’s Army), on “Rrugë e Kavaja” today. German journalists were also invited, the first time that the protocol was not respected, as foreign journalists were also invited. Songs and parties until after midnight with well-known singers Avni Mula, Mentor Xhemali, etc. German and Albanian footballers who danced in a group with hair on their heads, a gift from the club. In Cologne, the “Partizan” was received by the mayor, thanking him, he was presented with a box, inside which was a bottle of perfume, produced in the well-known and world-famous “House of Cologne”, based in Cologne.
Boriçi, the first and the last
Loro Boriçi was the coach who opened and “closed” his career, which is summed up in seven intense years, from 1962 to 1969, as the goalkeeper of “Partizani” and the National Team. Boriçi was the one who took him by activating him, but also the one from whom he left football, when he was 28 years old. Bashkim Muhedini came to “Partizan”, a tall, elegant goalkeeper, whom Boriçi liked by integrating him into “Partizan” and the national team. Even Muhedini came from the “Skënderbej” School, he too did not have a goalie profile: A born basketball player, but with the qualities of a goalie. Birçe smelled it, diverting his career.
Janku stays for some time as Muhedini’s reserve and in June 1969, when the team assembles to start the season; his name is not on the list. Returning home, he realized that for him, both gates have already been closed: That of “Partizani”, that of the National Team and the end of his career…! He was offered to play football in Vlora with “Flamurtar” while also being a teacher at the Aviation School, the only one at that time in that city, but he refused. The order comes to him that “you must fly”, but it was impossible as time had left him behind with the technique of flying. He returned to the club, as deputy head, at the same time coach with Kolec Kraja.
A whole family with “Partizan”.
This may be the only case when four brothers have played with a single club, as happened with Mikel, Virgjili, Agim and Vladimir Janku, all with “Partizani”. Mikel Janku ten years, the absolute double of the goal of the club and the national team; then Virgjili as a goalkeeper, striker, continued in Lezhë with “Victory”, even in the Cup of the Republic, in 1964 in the meeting “Partizani” – “Victory”, they were both on the field. To continue with Agim Janku, one of the greatest and most outstanding strikers and talents of Albanian football in the 1970s-80s, this is also a prominent name of the club and national teams.
And the last one, Vladimir Janku, winger, starter with the youth and the first team, as well as the U-21 national team. All graduates. There is also a historical episode with Agim Janku…! June 1968: “Partizani” – “Dinamo” was played at the “Dinamo” stadium and Janku scored a goal. While the game has not yet started, Agimi approaches him and says in his ear: “Don’t be upset.” He took the ball from the center, dribbled, one or two opponents and equalized. But even in Turin they were together, although the big Janko was on the field, the little Gimi was on the bench.
The unforgettable match
It is from October 1965, in “Qemal Stafa”, “Partizani” – “November 17” 1-0. For many reasons, but the most important one is that he was the absolute protagonist of the challenge. He waited for every shot, every goal attempt by the opponents, which was then illustrated in the “Sporti” newspaper with a sports caricature of Bujar Kapexhiu: a giant goalkeeper who covered a small goal. But that match is also remembered as the meeting that collapsed the stadium, Qojle’s goal and when the enthusiastic fans after the match carried him to his house, near the “Dinamo” stadium. And the banquet at the Army Headquarters, a party with wives and betrothed.
The injustice of a sentence…!
This is how he summed up in his memories, what happened after the match “Partizani” – “November 17”, when the teams were excluded from the continuation of the championship of ’67. He was one of the protagonists of a tense 90-minute meeting on the field, but everything ended normally. “A fight in the corridors that made more noise than it really was. Then an absurd decision”, said Janku, when he remembered that match, he felt regret and considered it a dark moment for football, athletes, fans, for history itself…!
In the Urals, when Kennedy was killed
The Hanoi tour with the military clubs of the countries of the “People’s Democracies” of Eastern Europe (including China and North Korea), is an important part of Janku’s career. Starting from Tirana with the Tirana-Moscow-Beijing airline, the tour started on November 20, 1963. That moment is connected with a historical event: while a stop was made in Irkutsk, in the Urals, on the airport television, the news that the American president John Kennedy had been killed was broadcast. Then ten days of preparation in Nianin, where November 28 and 29 was also celebrated. They activated him as a reserve in a friendly match, which made him suspicious. But in Hanoi he would be in the formation in all challenges.
With CSKA after the demolition
There have been five official matches of the tournament: group victories against “CDNA” of Sofia 2-1, “Honved” Budapest 4-0, and the extraordinary 3-1 against “Forverst” of Berlin, in the quarterfinals. Again with “Honved” 1-0 in the semi-finals and “Partizani” – “CSKA” of Moscow will play in the final. For fear of any irregularities in the match, as a result of the bad relations between Albania and the Soviet Union, but with the intention of softening the situation, the teams settled in a hotel and the day before the meeting, they were called by the Minister of Defense of Vietnam.
The match was played in Hanoi without any problems. 0-0, then 2-0 to the Soviets who score in overtime. This remains the first and last sports confrontation with Russian clubs, after the breakdown of official relations between Moscow and Tirana. A few days of stay in Vietnam, the return to Shanghai, where the New Year is also celebrated, as well as the congratulatory telegrams that came in vain from Albania, and was read before every friendly meeting. Then the one-week Beijing-Moscow trip, by train from Siberia, and on January 20, 1964, the presidential plane on the Budapest-Tirana route landed at Rinas airport.
Who were the “Vietnamese” protagonists?
Janku wanted to remember those who have been in Vietnam, in that unforgettable tour: Besim Fagu, head of the delegation; Vasil Naço group commissioner of the Ministry of Internal Affairs; Dionis Miho companion; then trainers Loro Boriçi and Xhep Spahiu and doctor M. Karanxha.
Team: Sul Maliqati, Mikel Janku, Fatbardh Deliallisi, Miço Papdhopulli, Lin Shllaku, Fatmir Frashëri Miço Ndini, Osman Mema, Tomorr Shehu, Bert Jashari, Pavllo Bukoviku, Zaho, Luigj Bytyçi, Refik Resmja, Foto Andoni and Iljaz Dingu flag bearers. As Resmja fell ill and did not play any matches, Miço Papadhopulli was appointed captain. Injured in Plovdiv, a month ago, even Kolec Kraja did not travel to Vietnam.
Why didn’t Jorgaqi stay with “Partizan”?
It is an important moment for the history of the club and the career of the well-known defender Frederik Jorgaqi (he is not alive either). He performed military service at “Partizani”, when the club left for Hanoi, but he did not receive it. Without any motive, although Besim Fagu had insisted on taking it, since Jorgaqi was in the projects of the “Partizani” team, to stay there even after the end of the mandatory military service. At the end of December, when Jorgaqi finished his military service and “Partizani” was in Hanoi, he returned to Elbasan. Insulted by not being picked up in Hanoi, he no longer stayed at the Club. This is also the reason why Jorgaqi, the famous defender of the national team, did not play with “Partizan” in the years that followed…!
Friendship with Pano and the goals of Hanoi
Among the few who have seen the legend of Albanian football in matches abroad, even at the peak of his form. Former student of “10 Korrikut”, then together with “Partizani” and Kombëtare, Janku kept many memories from Pano, but among them he singled out a rare one: The three goals in Hanoi that Pano scored against “Forverst” were extraordinary. “It’s a pity that there is no film part”, – he expressed regretfully. They stayed together for long hours after training, then in the hotel room, a friendship that continued even later. Even after Pano was no longer alive, Mikeli continued to meet his family members.
Opinion columnist and sports journalist
He started by accident, but the microphone, the newspaper, would become an important part of his activity. The “discoverer” was Ahmet Shqarri, who takes him as a commentator in several matches on television with Lirim Zalla. The well-known journalist, the creator of the famous “From one match to another”, will activate it in the 80’s near the microphone of “Radio Tirana”, being for a decade among the main commentators alongside the legend Ismet Bellova and Veli Rada , in the national championship matches. Then, together with Fatmir Mneri and the editor-in-chief Andi Bushati, they came up with the idea and published the first sports newspaper after the 90s (“Sport Ekspres”), which came out in 1995. This was another era with the sports daily, being the winner of the first “Anton Mazreku” award given to sports journalists.
What was Mikel Janku doing until he died?
From August 1958, when it was launched by steamer, until today, a lot of time has passed and a lot of water has flowed. The 17-year-old boy, who started to become a senior soldier, did not even think that life would offer him another career, also glorious, like that of football. Marriage with Sandra when he was 25 years old, then two children, helicopter pilot, goalkeeper of “Partizani”, of the National Team, leader, coach, head of department at “Zall Herr”, teacher, official of the Ministry of Defense, in finally retired. From ’67, the year they removed the ranks until ’90 when they came back, from Lieutenant, he was promoted to Major, but very little enjoyed this high officer, since the reform in the army hit him even though he was young only 51 years old…!
He danced and sang Russian songs well, which he learned there. It was decisive in the activation of Perlat Musta in the goal of “Partizani”. Mikeli remembered with nostalgia his friends and fellow aviators, the landing and takeoff lever that required strength, but the helicopter never came back…? Meanwhile, the son Albano, a Civil Engineer by profession, tried to follow his father, played with the youth of the “Partizani” club, to continue as a football referee, among the most famous, with the FIFA emblem for many years. Janku’s is a big sports family. Mikel’s life continued and continued like this, always close to sports, until the day he passed away on January 10, 2019, where he was escorted to his final resting place with great honors, as he deserved. Memorie.al