From Uvil Zajmi
– Long career in Radio – Tirana, friendships with world-famous composers, politicians, actors and athletes…! –
Memorie.al / “Good morning, dear listeners of Radio Tirana…” – has been a well-known expression that has accompanied Albanians for many years. A long and intertwined professional career like a jungle, “I don’t know where to enter and where to get out, I don’t know how to orient myself” – as the icon of the sports radio chronicle himself defines when asked about his journalistic career of almost half a century. As a child, he never thought that this would be his path, a sensational career as a radio sports reporter, when in August 1969, he climbed the stairs of Radio Tirana for the first time, sat down in a third floor office together with some colleagues, a typewriter in front, and intensive work with and without a schedule in search of news, always in the company and separated from the “Uher” tape recorder.
Hundreds of chronicles, broadcasts, reports and interviews on Radio and TV, with articles in all newspapers and magazines, a professional history started by Cycling Tours, with the climax “From one match to another”, the most watched show with a national echo. Then the surprising broadcast from Barcelona, the friendships with composers, politicians, actors, even the most famous ones from: Mina, Kryeziu, Kodra and the forbidden interviews of Vokrri and Albano. A long-standing love affair with TVSh radio, without breaking even for a day, until he “changed houses”. But the “Shqarri Phenomenon” does not stop and another media boom: “Gol” on “Radio + 2” and on “TVA -1” would accompany Albanians for several more years with the voice and figure of Ahmet Shqarri.
To be continued from the next issue
Friendships with artists, from the stage to the stadium…!
For Ferdinand Deda, the well-known composer and conductor, he keeps beautiful memories from his childhood in their hometown, Peq, and thanks to him, he has never left a festival, show or concert without seeing. Then the conductor Rifat Teqja, his cousin, after returning from his studies at the Moscow Conservatory, made him attend every performance of the Opera and Ballet.
He also has a special message for the composer of love, Gazmend Mullain, regarding the CD received as a gift from him: “Modern orchestration, I remember Gaspë Çurçi’s trumpet, it created a fantastic feeling for me. They have warmth and express a lot of feeling and love and the singers who interpret his creations such as Luan Zhegu, Tonin Tërshana, Ema Qazimi, Irma Libohova, or Robert Alia-Dragoti. A gift that especially my generation, gives a lot of pleasure”.
Then in the stadium, especially when there were international matches, many artists who were fans, or doctors invited to his booth. From Kujtim Spahivogli, Avni Mula, S. Qirko, etc., following the meeting alongside Ismet Bellova, Aleko Gjergo, Veli Rada, etc. “With Ferd Deda, I remember when Mihal Gjika from Elbasan scored a goal against the German Democratic Republic, out of joy he shouted “Gooool!”, which was not allowed, as only the radio announcer did it!?, recalls Shqarri.
With Agim Fagun and the criticism after the match…!
“In the early 80s, during the broadcast of the women’s basketball Champions Cup challenge, held in Vlora between “Flamurtari” and the champion of Hungary, the famous Agim Fagu took the role of analyst. The start was more than surprising and Shqarri remembers: “We were in trouble; we didn’t know what to say, since the score in those first minutes went 18-0 for the Hungarians, and our girls couldn’t score a single point.
It was at these moments that Agim Fagu came to my aid, doing a competent and very professional analysis. But, the next day, when I just returned from Vlora, they criticized me for “allowing” Agim Fagun, who according to them, had become the “loudspeaker” of Hungarians, praising them on Radio Tirana”, recalls Shqarri.
With Sando Ciotti, as “Butterfly in my cabin”
“Sandro Ciotti in ‘my cabin’ in ‘Qemal Stafa’ which had become like my second home. I used to go to the office, take the tape recorder and go out for a radio interview, reports, etc. As for the booth, I went at least an hour before the match, I stayed behind her with the interviews, comments, including the two-hour broadcast, that is, about four hours, and not only once, but also several days a week, and this thing over three decades, so it was ‘home’, where I spent a large part of my life.
Sandro Ciotti came there because he gave two chronicles, one before and the other after the match with the ‘Shpresa’ teams, Albania-Italy, in 1984. When he came to me, taking advantage of it, I introduced myself; also referring to the acquaintance I had with the Italian show “Tutto il calcio minuto per minuto”, where he was one of the main ones. My colleague on TV, Ylli Pepo, who was accompanying him, jokingly told him about me that: this is the ‘Albanian Ciotti’, taking a cue from my slightly hoarse voice, similar to Sando Ciotti’s”, remembers Shqarri.
With Panon, in Saranda, a city in celebration…!
Like football fans, who don’t show their favorite team, radio announcers rarely show their passion for who they are rooting for. But Shqarri is a little different, who says: “As a teenage child, a fan of ‘Partizan’, even from the ‘Skënderbej’ School, while Panajot Panon, I loved him very much. I used to go for interviews, reportages in villages, remote areas, like once in Vrina of Saranda, where I promised Stefan Vllahuli, the manager of the Cultural Center, whom I had a friend, that I would bring Panajot Panon with me, for met the people ‘who gave their heads’ for him.
On this occasion, he had informed the leaders and without fear over 400 people was waiting at the House of Culture to meet the “Star” of Albanian football. Ahmet Shqarri has arrived with Pano and will talk to us about sports, about ‘Partizan’ – and the applause broke out, which put me in difficulty, because I had never seen such a festive occasion, which was organized not for one leader, but for two sports people. And for the time, this show seemed like a heresy” – Ahmet Shqarri confesses
Even the Political Bureau, ardent fans of the show…!
“From Prime Minister Adil Çarçani and others from the Political Bureau, everyone was interested in watching the show ‘From one match to another’. This was the reason that for his transmission, especially when he starts his first journey, the commitment to make it happen was very great. These are the years when the Albanian economy is almost at zero level and this was also observed in the Albanian Radio Television, which started with service in the districts with one car, 4-5 different radio-chronologists, in order to save as much as possible.
As for my show, there was an exception, also for the reason I mentioned above, because of the interest it had ‘from above’. In May 1986, on the day of the inauguration of the swimming pool in the “Dinamo” complex, where many of the senior leadership of the APS were present, while preparing the chronicle of the occasion, with a sports character, meanwhile another colleague, Alfons Gurashi, was dealing with it on the political level, I hear a voice telling me: Shqarri, I believe we will hear the match of ‘Partizan’ today…?!
And I, shocked that it was the Prime Minister, Adil Çarçani, who I had never seen or heard so close before, even more so addressing me by name, answered you with all satisfaction and certainty: Definitely, friend Prime Minister….”, because exactly one day before, the General Director, Marash Hayati, who was also a candidate of the Central Committee of the ALP, had ordered that for that day’s show, the ’emergency reserve car’, which was used only for extreme cases!!!, in order to complete the ‘fleet’ of broadcasts in the districts”, remembers Shqarri.
Interviews, unforgettable acquaintances
There are many, realized with personalities from all fields. From Marjeta Pronjari, Panajot Pano, Sabah Bizi, Medin Zhega, Ilir Përnaska, Sulejman Demollari, to Frans Beckenbauer, Kapiçic and Michel Platini, infinity of “stars”, from Albanian to world sports, that Shaqrri has had the chance and the luck to interview them.
With Agim Prodani, after the song “Gol”
“The one with Agim Prodani was one of the most beautiful interviews, right after he had composed the song ‘Gol’. I only knew his wife, Anita Take, as a singer in the Estrada of Tirana, while Prodani, who was a wonderful composer, but who did not want to appear on stage. I knock on the door of the house; I am a journalist, my name is Ahmet Shqarri, I introduce myself. He immediately tells me that I don’t give interviews. They sent me those from the editors; I have no way to tell them, if you don’t want to harm me…! “You seem to me to be an honest guy, with a temperament, like my job,” he replied, admitting that after a while we would conduct one of the most successful interviews in my career”, recalls Shqarri.
With Kona only “yes and no” and Kapexhiu with his hand on “jaki”!
With Andon Konë, the well-known coach of “Partizani” in men’s volleyball, he was among the rare ones, typical of his nature. “It was an interview during a TV show, when I got into trouble, because after every question he gave me the standard “yes and no” answer, depending on the occasion. ‘What was it that we saw last night’ – my managers criticized me. I met Kona, saying you put me in a difficult position. “It’s your fault, you ask the questions, you answer them,” he told me, thus giving me a good lesson in my beginnings as a journalist,” recalls Shqarri.
While with Bujar Kapexhiu, a sports friend is another story. While playing in a “friendly” game with his friends, Faruk Sejdini had seriously interfered with him, lifting him in the “air” and falling down, breaking his hand. “I came home; he was lying with his hand on the jacket of the famous Ceni (Kazazi). It was a very funny interview with him, where apart from his artistic creativity, he also spoke to me so beautifully and competently about sports”, says Shqarri.
With Beckenbauer, the tape stops…!
After the match of ’71, Albania – Federal Republic of Germany, in the Hotel “Dajti” together with the dentist, the well-known German translator, Pano Lulon, after interviewing Overat, Myler and Schnelinger, he met Beckenbauer, starting the interview with the usual question that was asked at the beginning or end, that: “what impressions do you have of Albania”, although from the hotel to the stadium, they didn’t have time to see anything?!
“The tape recorder had a glass on top of the cover, and as I was starting the conversation, Beckenbauer suddenly beckoned to me, showing me through the glass how the reel was mixed with the tape. I stopped it, restarting from the beginning” – says Shqarri, remembering those episodes that also proved the misery of our technical equipment, with which we conducted the interviews at that time…!
From Vokrri to Albano, interviews with “problems”…!
An unaired interview was the one with the well-known Kosovar football player, the legend of “Partizian” from Belgrade, Fadil Vokrri, who came to Vlora to play against “Flamurtari”. “I did it after the match, but this time it was the APS Central Committee that hit me, even planning for a transfer to Radio Kukësin. And just for the fact that I had interviewed a soccer player who played with a Yugoslav team, despite the fact that he was Kosovar, even though the interview was not broadcast.
While the one with Albano, the famous Italian singer, was given late, when he had left our country. Regarding this, Shqarri remembers: “Sometime in 1989, I was in Gjirokastër, after completing a stage of the Cycling Circle of Albania, when suddenly, in the lobby of the Tourism Hotel, I saw a person I had seen on Italian television. I recognized him immediately, I was interested, and I very politely introduced myself to Albano.
The next day in Ksamil, where he was going, we left him to do an interview with him. It was the first time Albano came to Albania, as well as the first interview he gave in this country. It was one of the most emotional, unforgettable, together with that of Vokrri, I don’t know if they are, and where they could have been archived in the Radio Tirana audio library, right? Because in the 90s, I looked for the tapes where the ‘Flamurtar’ match was recorded in Barcelona and I didn’t find it”.
In Rome, with the legendary Kryezius!
Together with the well-known director Ylli Pepo and the cameraman Anton Grishaj, they traveled to Rome to meet Naim Kryeziu, as the champion of Italy they had a character in the movie “Centuries”. Regarding this, among other things, Shqarri remembers: “Together with his wife, Tekia, a Sicilian, we were welcomed by a wonderful man who, after the interview at home, together with his son with a ‘Mille 100’; we went to the stadium where he had played champion with Rome in 1942. We conducted the interviews, and at the end, when we asked him the question; why doesn’t he come to Albania since he came to Italy in 1941, he answered: ‘I had many friends in Tirana, when I played with that team, among them Selman Stërmasin, but all of them are no longer alive, so why should I come there”!
From Xhani Mina, to Bruno Vespa, and “The Hand of Ibrahim Kodra”
In his long career as a journalist, Ahmet Shqarrit has managed to meet and get to know infinity of personalities, not only from the media, but also beyond. The 1997 Champions League Final, Milan-Ajax, in the Vienna stadium, after a year in the “Olympic” Stadium in Rome, was with the famous Italian journalist Xhani Mina.
“I expressed my pleasure to meet him because I had followed his interviews with Kasius Klein (as Mohamad Ali was otherwise known), Diego Armando Maradona, etc. Then with the boxer Patricio Oliva in Mestre-Venice, together with Skënder Kalenjë, the former president of the Albanian Basketball Federation, or with the world champion of athletics, Isinbajeva, the Argentine footballer of Inter, Javer Zanet, etc. Then with the famous artists: From Demis Russo, Brigit Nilsen (at the reception given by Bexhet Pacolli in Lugano), to the “Picasso” of Albania, Ibrahim Kodra: Maestro – I turned to him – can I touch your hands a little, with which you made all those masterpieces!
‘Do you know Adriano De Zan’ – asked me, the famous cycling radio-chronicler? Pizul, De Luca, Trapatoni, Zenga, have my paintings. Berlusconi has 17 such. But also with Bruno Vespa, a great figure of Rai, present at the International Sports Film Festival in Milan, when together with Ylli Pepo, as a director, we won a medal with the documentary “Small town of great champions” , recalls Shqarri.
Together with Flag Top, an absolute record!
Aldo Lipe of the TV show “Aldo Morning Show”, once said that; “I am “envious” of my friend, Ahmet Shqarri, who, together with Flamur Topi, hold the longevity records with their shows that are so watched in Albania.” Then, with the national team of journalists, he was the starting line-up in the first historical match between Journalists and Artists, held in the overflowing “Qemal Stafa”, where for the first time, a meeting was held under the light of floodlights.
Frank Sinatra, for closing!
Ahmet Shqrri’s life continues to be active even today, as he does not exhaust his energies. When he speaks, people still turn their heads, because they recognize his characteristic voice, just like my father Nexhmedin Zajmi, artist, painter who every time he came back from the studio, mostly on Sundays and at noon, lying down, he heard “From one game to another the other”, not that he was a fan, but for an interesting fact: “as energetic as his voice, Shqarri himself must be”, – he told me, – whose figure he inserted into his imagination and artistic fantasy, connected to the characters that they used to paint.
Meanwhile, Shqarri’s conjugal relationship with the already well-known translator, Engjëllushe Shqarri, continues for almost half a century, enjoying two daughters and their granddaughter. He did not keep a diary, but his life, like an endless tape, is accurately stored in his memory, and he even published a book “Memories of a sports journalist”. “I have never been to the Olympic Games and a World Football Championship, while I have not missed all the others, from the Mediterranean Games, to many International Tournaments”, says Shqarri.
The end of our article about the mythical voice that connected Albanians for several decades with sports on the radio refers to the time when television appeared on the scene, for Shqarri, the famous singer Frank Sinatra’s statement was enough: “…television is an invention beautiful. When I close my eyes, it’s like a radio, which has become an integral part of my life.”
(“Ahmet, how tired I tried, how many times we tore up the papers I kept notes on for this article, how many times we debated, and then I returned to the materials again, with a different enthusiasm, because that’s how you are Ahmet Shqarri”! And my him, Nexhmedin Zajmi, was not wrong in his artistic determination: you have remained energetic, and every time I meet you and we talk, your ‘electrifying voice’ wakes me up, hits me, sounds like in the poems of…”! Memorie .al