From Uvil Zajmi
Memorie.al / The story of the orphan who became a star in the 70s and 80s and recorded how often he was sick. Bomber that Loro 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 ones he received in his 20 years of 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 Ujjejelles, 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…?!
Continues from last issue
Knock at midnight at his house…!
The director of the Cinema of the city of Berat goes with the Kino-Kinema vehicle to the village of Mbrakull to show a film for the villagers. At dinner, after the show is over and they are sitting drinking, someone tells him that; Kovaci hasn’t been in training for two days and he didn’t play on Sunday against “Partizan”. That was enough for the director, Jani Semani, to leave the dinner and at midnight he knocked on the door of Kovaci’s house.
Concerned, his wife Bukuroshja came to him: “Why have you come at this hour”? “Where is Kovaci”? Jani asked. He heard the conversation and immediately came out: “Why hasn’t he gone to training, how is your leg”? “I’m fine,” answers Rimi, “but it depends on the coach if I play or not.” “Which coach is Jani, we are the coach” and they left singing with enthusiasm that Kovaci would play.
Myth even for the little ones!
“I am in my studio and we are preparing the material for the People’s Games, and to follow the work, I also invited a group of children from the July 10 kindergarten. Suddenly someone informs me that Kovaci has arrived and asks him to meet you. Come in, I say, and as soon as he appears at the door, all the children stand up to honor him, shouting: “Kovači, Kovači”. It was a chilling moment, very emotional. The surprised educator filled her eyes with tears. Even for children, his fame was great,” says Vlash Pambuku, the city’s well-known publicist and photographer.
The analysis, which was interrupted before starting. In Berat, a very difficult match will be played with “Lokomotiva”. In the morning at 10.30, the analysis is scheduled to take place in the grounds of the old stadium, which was full of fans even though the match started at noon at 16.00. While the coach took the chalk to formulate the tactics on a blackboard, Kovaci says: “Professor, what analysis are you going to do, when half the stadium is full? We, the players on the field, will do the analysis ourselves.” After listening, he understood the message; Guxim Mukli lowered his hand, left the chalk, stopped the analysis and signaled that the players are free to continue walking on the boulevard until lunch time.
Fame in Romania even after he left football!
Balkan Cup, 1991-’92 edition, the first game in Berat, in the first representation of “Tomor” in this trophy, but Kovaci does not play because he is injured, however a 2-0 victory against the Romanian team “Otolul Galati”. The return match in Romania, 4-0 for the locals, at the official dinner, the day before the match, the manager of the local club, in the words of the occasion, says: “We were in Berat and we saw a beautiful city and an ardent fan base that we in We don’t have Romania. However, we will win the match tomorrow, since here you lack the fans and you don’t have Kovac”. They didn’t know that after that injury, he had left football for several months, but the fame and name you left behind had reached Romania.
Even the sick scored…!
In Berat, “Labinoti” comes with full claims, although with the fear of a defeat that only Kovaci could cause and the entire tactical strategy from Elbasana was built for his “isolation” so that he would not score. In the meantime, all the people knew that he was sick and the doctors had made a card for him to be admitted to the city hospital. The first half on a heavy rain and mud terrain, 0-2 for “Labinot”. Kovaci had taken a corner there and was watching the game that was taking place in the old stadium, while the fans began to shout and in chorus, demanding his activation. The coach, Sajmi Dauti, together with the doctor, addresses the spectators, saying: “You know that he is sick and cannot play”?
But the desire, the tension created on the scale, forces him to strip. He gets a white shirt without a number and asks to play. As soon as he entered, the people raised him to their feet, but the referee found that he did not have a number, and stopped the match. The leaders of the team quickly ran to the dressing room, took a coal from the burning stove and marked on his shirt, the number 10. The game continued and Kovaci scored two spectacular goals, and a 2-2 draw at the end of 90 – of minutes, after which the people entered the field, while the doctor did not forget to remind him: “Kovač in the hospital tomorrow”!.
Tomb of the goleadors
How many cities with a football tradition in Albania would envy the list of Beratas scorers, an important detail for the history of the national championships of the First Category, even ethnic autos? There are not a few: The first is Rim Kovaçi, the best scorer of the 1979-’80 seasons with 18 goals. After him, in the 1986-87 championship, Arben Arbëri ranks first with 14 goals. To continue in the 1990-’91 edition, when the best scorer of the championship is the outstanding Kliton Bozgo, with 29 goals. In the 1999-2000 seasons, a “Beratas blood” was at the top again, scorer: Klodian Arbëri with 18 goals.
Without forgetting Ahmet Qolje, the man of the historic 1-0 goal, when he played with “Partizan” against “November 17”, which is known as the day when the “stadium collapsed”. Or Bardh Buzin, the well-known dentist, then Dynamo. With them also Nevruz Hodon, owner of “Partizan” in the 60s. Other well-known names such as: Miço Ndini, Suvorov Seferi, Astrit Ziu, Hektor Buza, Sajmir Dauti, Arjan Bakiri, Pandi Sare, Naim Allaj, etc., have emerged from that club and have been protagonists, for at least one match alone, wearing that jersey.
Rivalry in “Tomori” – “Naftëtari”!
The derby between the teams “Tomori”, “Naftëtari” and “Apollonia”, “Traktori”, has been and remains unique for national football, as four teams played in a few kilometers, at close distances. In particular, that “Tomori”-“Naftëtari” of the late 70s. Only 20 km. it divided the cities, where the rivalry was great, between the fans on the stairs and the players on the field. Meanwhile, throughout the week, he was joined by a shelter, that of the “Mao Ce Dun” Textile Factory, where the majority of the population and fans of the two cities worked. Debates started on the first day of the week, not to stop during it.
The rivalry in the derby with Kuçova is also related to other sports stories that both Clubs have almost the same: The team of football players who have alternated trying the First Category, falling to the second, registered in different seasons. Even in player exchanges, they have had good relations: Dashnor Dume, a well-known Kuçovar player for many years, has played with “Tomori”. Or Vladimir Skuro, the legend of the famous “Naftëtari”, wearing the Beratasi jersey in an international match. It has been a derby that in its history has been associated with goals, protagonists, with all the results, although with the desire of an “Oilman”, to beat the rival, but it has been “Baba Tomori”, triumphant of many battles.
The goals in the derby!
There are several spectacular goals that Kovaci has scored in this famous derby: Always on the old pitch, as it has been played there for many years, when the referee has awarded a free kick. Suvorov Seferi, has arched and from 16 meters, with a full three, Kovaçi has hit the goal, an extraordinary goal, against which the goalkeeper, Fatmir Ismaili of “Naftëtari”, has not made even the slightest movement and 1-0.
It will be played in Kuçovo, but he is withdrawn and during the week all Kuçovo fans hope not to play, as they had a problem with him. (In the cases when he played, their analysis focused on who will cover Rim Kovac). When he came out to warm up, even though he was wearing tracksuits, everyone was stunned, after realizing that the “panther” was going to play. Coach Mukli bravely activated him and his prophecy showed that he was not wrong: “Tomori” won 2-0 and the first goal has the signature of Rim Kovac.
In the national team, Loro Boriçi did not like him!
To be among the top scorers at the time of the giants in this role like Pernaska, Murati, Minga, Kola, and never play with the national team, is a rare case, this only for a special fact and motive: Coach Loro Boriçi didn’t like Rim Kovaçin because of his height. “Short player” – he always declared, when asked about him. He collected it only once with the “B” national team. He played 10 minutes in front of the “A” team, scoring the only goal of the friendly, but he never tried the red and black jersey due to the physical factor because he did not meet the physical element.
Reports with referees, Pregja loved it!
He has not been so “kind” to the referees, the opponents; he has even tried the red card several times. The reason was the heavy interventions, the rough coverage, but also his impulsive temperament.
This usually happens with goal scorers, against whom all means are used to stop them. Fidai Pupa in Berat, while the game was ending 0-0, gave an 11-meter penalty for a wrong intervention by Kastriot Hysi of “Partizan” against him. But also the red card given by Tef Prela to Kovac, after a fierce protest against him, in a meeting with “Partizan” again. But, with the famous Ramiz Pregja, he had very good relations.
Two memories from “Tomori”
Many episodes are associated with the “Tomori” stadium, but two are the ones that set them apart and remain different from the others: The goal against the national team in the friendly match and the moment when he finally handed over the shirt. On May 15, 1985, the day of the stadium’s inauguration, in the presence of a record number of spectators, the friendly match, “Tomori” – the Albanian national team, took place. A spectacular meeting, which ends 3-1 for the locals, with goals scored by the usual Kovaçi, Mile and Matrapazi.
The next moment is related to the day when he retired from football in 1990. Again in an overcrowded environment, before the meeting “Tomori” – “Skënderbeu”, an exciting ceremony was held, when Përparim Kovaçi handed him the number 10 jersey another Berata striker, Kliton Bozgos, who will also have fame and become famous, even outside the Albanian borders.
Playing for a flat!
Rim Kovaçi was without a home, although they had been systematically giving him the word for a while, but nothing concrete even though an acquaintance had asked to contribute with voluntary work to get an entry, as was done in those years. On the eve of the match with “Beselidhje”, the team was gathered at the “Turizmi” Hotel. Taking advantage of a meeting with Abdyl Pilaf (the first secretary of the district Party Committee), he asked them to give him a house. He did not answer, while Kovaci, in protest, left and did not stay with the team in the gathering. The next day, at the house with his siblings where he lived, the coach comes and asks him; why had he left without notice? “I don’t have a home and I don’t play today” – was the answer.
But the refusal, the disobedience had been “successful”, since the leaders of the local government went to him the next day, saying: “Come to the match and play, you will get a home”. The indisputable protagonist of the meeting, in an overcrowded stadium, comes when referee Namik Jareci awarded an 11-meter penalty for “Tomor”. The goalkeeper of “Beslidhje”, Birçe from Vlonia, in order to provoke and irritate him, says in his ear that; you have to lose it. But, Kovaçi calmly placed the ball at the white spot and, as usual, a perfect shot and the net. That’s how the game ended 1-0, with his goal. The next day the District Executive Committee met and voted to give him an entrance, the apartment he still has today, a room and a kitchen.
For an “Obodin” refrigerator more!
In the 1988-’89 season, the First Secretary of the Party Committee of Berat is Hysen Shahu, a fan of “Dinamo”, but also very fond of football. Kovaci asked for a refrigerator, but Krenar Suku, who distributed them, (childhood friend of Rim Kovaci), refused to give it to him. “I have them for kindergartens and nurseries,” he said. Without delay, seeing that he was not providing one, he knocked on Hysen Shah’s office. After hearing it, his reaction was immediate. He picked up the receiver, answered the phone and ordered to give him the refrigerator he dreamed of.
An “Obodin”, which he bought with the money saved over the years (it cost 45,000 lek). Injuries, health problems you don’t forget. Against “Partizan” in Tirana, sick with the “yellow” he played in a difficult match, even the left defender of the reds could not stop him, even tearing his jersey. Then the serious injury: ‘meniscus tear’ of the right leg. With the mediation of Astri Ziu’s brother, who was the team doctor, he was visited by the well-known orthopedist Panajot Boga, at the Military Hospital, who, upon seeing him, told him to operate, but Kovaçi refused.
That week in Gjirokastër against “Luftëtari”, he was the starter in the 2-1 victory (his 1 goal), but in the 80th minute he left the field as it was impossible to continue to stay. Then with a great will, lifting weights, between works, he strengthened the ligaments and never had surgery. But he also suffered a lot from the liver; he was shot to activate even when he had 450 transaminases. “How did you play with this liver”?! – stated the doctors when they visited him at the hospital in Berat. Then stop for 6 months, staying in the hospital, in bed and recovering for a long time.
Vlash Pambuku and “Kovaçi goal”…!
It may be a rare book, as we do not often come across such publications. “Kovaçi-Gol”, this is the title of the book by Vlash Pambuku, journalist, photographer, archivist, a symbol of sports and beyond in Berat and all of Albania. After publishing the “Sports Encyclopedia of my City”, another book with values in terms of statistics, characters, photos, a comprehensive book of more than 700 pages, Pambuku, now over 85 years old, but very active, realizes another work, “Kovaçi Goal”, where in about 170 pages of the book, the life and career of Përparim Kovaçi is narrated, as well as 70 photos of his sports activities.
A large part of Berat’s sports history is connected with Vlash Pambuku, from the first articles in 1963, to the weekly informative chronicles in “Popular Sport” for every sports discipline that took place in Berat. The book is also accompanied by cartoons that reflect another of his professions.
What is the “panther” of Berat doing today?!
The legend Rim Kovaçi left football at the age of 36, with a 20-year career behind him. After 90, he continued with the chain teams, then in the staff of the first team, alongside Kiçi Miles. Along with the scored goals, he remembers with nostalgia everyone, coaches, teammates, referees, fans, “IFA”, the team bus, Shpeti, the Tourism waiter, the old field, the dressing rooms, after he played a little at the stadium new, or “Dinamon”, the team that did not work for them. In every hotel room, he stayed alone with Agim Matrapazi, his friend. Fan of Brazil, Kareka and “Real”.
Only “Master of Sports” remained, since they did not give him the “Deserved” one. Born in 1955, he built his career with hard work and sweat, without thinking that one day he would be covered by the fame of a very popular footballer who continues even today. With a secondary education with a mechanical profession, he was an employee of the city’s Water Company, where he worked for many years, together with the 5-hour-shin, which was one of the few privileges of the time. Kovaci has remained simple, even nowadays; he doesn’t even have a car or the luxury of a famous ex-footballer. He lives with his wife in the house that the district Party Committee gave him in the 80s./Memorie.al