From Uvil Zajmi
The first part
– Long career at 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.
Childhood, between books and cinema…!
One of the most authentic, absolute, original voices, pure literary language, rhythm like “Shqarri-Story” itself. From primary school teacher Fani Kocilja (the aunt of Robert Shvarc, the well-known translator), then in the second grade, when Evlija Çelebi read the first book given to her by her great uncle, Shefqet Gripshi, who had felt the grandson’s thirst for reading. That first book of the Turkish author and chronicler, among other things, talked about his city, Beijing, which according to him, during the time of the Ottoman Empire, stood out for its prosperity and prosperity.
To go to countless books by Albanian authors, foreigners and those banned for the time. “They were my second school in life, as they pushed me to study Language and Literature at the University.” Adolescence as Skenderbegas, then military service, was another school, where besides the book, sports also took place, where as an athlete participating in the Spartakiads of the Army, but also in the National Championship for young people, in speed races, he competed with well-known this discipline as Çlirim Balluku, etc.
Then life at the University filled with the atmosphere of professors, scholars and academics, from Ismail Kadare, Jakov Xoxe, Shaban Demiraj and later in the first two-year journalism course with Dritëro Agolli, Vangjush Gambeta, Hamit Boriçin, etc. “It was these personalities that strengthened the foundation of my future as a journalist” – says Shqarri, when he talks about his life and career.
Anton Mazreku, radio and only a reel, as a gift…!
It was an opportunity, a great luck to follow the path of Anton Mazrek, Ismet Bellova and Skifter Kelliç, without realizing that he would become a slave to this profession, the main voice, one of the most popular sports commentators in the country. Maybe a teacher, a journalist, but not with sports, but graduation and appointment at Radio Tirana, the only very important means of communication since there are few televisions in circulation, are the incentive for the new Shqarri.
The beginning of the 70s in Radio, there is a need for radical change, at least in sports, people with ideas are needed, although there is no sports editor, and he started to engage alone. “I had to do interviews, radio chronicles and more.” I had to go to the stadium, and then run to the Sports Palace, which was not easy, without tools and with “Uher” 7 kg. on the side. Very soon I realized that football was the first sport that entered my heart”, says Shqarri.
Mazrek only “inherited” a tape recorder reel. “I was surprised by my teacher, Kozma Vasili, who had a copy of the broadcast from half a century ago. It was only the last 8 minutes of the Hungary-Albania matched from Budapest in 1950, and the result is 12-0 for the locals, whom Mazrek describes: ‘These are the minutes of a match that should end as soon as possible’. When I heard it, I was brought close to the melodious voice of the one who “invented” the first broadcast of a football match on the radio in Albania. It was September 1, 1938, from Fusha e Shallvares, Tirana-Kavalla, Greece”, recalls Shqarri.
Beginnings, there is always a first time!
“In addition to the football broadcasts that I found, I broadcast live for the first time in Albania, volleyball, basketball, wrestling, weightlifting, athletics, and even the national festivals of the People’s Games, the finals of the National Spartakiads, those of the Army, of Workers, Agricultural Cooperatives, where the direct broadcasts of almost 30 cycling districts of Albania have occupied an important and unforgettable place.
For the first time, I introduced a live and non-recorded interview in Radio-Tirana broadcasts. All this was done for the first time on the radio because nothing was entered without being checked, but through sports, as “not important” that they considered, these were entered that were taboo at the time.
In the car, in the lobby of a hotel, sports palace, outdoor sports environment, I managed to do the interviews that were given after the news of the hour, 15.00 or 20.00 which the General Director, Thanas Nano, used to listen to. Until the interviewee coughed, he was careful when they said remove or leave.
Or words that were not allowed, for example, once from Elbasan, I said that Frashëri of “November 17” was not “lucky”, they criticized me saying that in sports there is passion, struggle and sports competition and not luck. For the first time I created a Sports Column on Sunday at 21.00.
Likewise, in the role of collaborators for various sports, apart from Bellova, I approached Vangjel Shundi for Hand Games, Xhafer Bogdani for heavy sports, Zef Ashta, Kristaq Andoni for chess, but also athletes, such as P. Ketën, Xh. Lačin for mass sports events and activities.
For the first time in Albania, I “invented” the role of the analyst, or commentator, during the broadcast of the matches, approaching personalities in the role of commentators such as Sabri Peqini, Skënder Begeja, Refik Resmja, with whom I had the pleasure of working for several years. as well as Gëzim Kasmi, the longest-serving on the show, Mikel Janku, Ramadan Shehu, Astrit Hafizin, etc.”, recalls Shqarri, the first years of his career as a sports journalist in Albanian Radio-Television.
Not only on Radio, but also on Television, versatile
Ahmet Shqarri alone has launched several columns and sports shows for the first time. In its beginnings, “Rubrika Sportive” also had external sports news speakers, who received them with droppers such as L. Meçani, Violeta Gjoka, Virgjil Kule, and Lorenc Zadrima, an engineer at the Arms Factory in Gramsh who came on Sunday in Tirana, just for the column, and the next day at 4 o’clock in the morning, he left to be at work at 7 o’clock. This fact, in a way, showed the passion and interest that aroused the new sports columns and shows of that time.
Likewise, “Jehona Sportive”, a show that was broadcast on Mondays from 16.00 to 17.00. Ismet Bellova came to fill in what was not said on Sunday, or some spicy interview was broadcast, while the Second Category was also talked about, etc.
While the show “Sport-Kalitje-Sëndet” gave me the opportunity to visit every corner of Albania, even the most remote areas, such as the Agricultural Cooperative, where I showed how sports were developed there, how physical culture was organized at school and various topics. a show that was given from 9 to 10 in the evening with various collaborators, including Sabri Çelnikasi, who translated material from foreign languages for me.
Then on Television, in the first Sports Column with guests.
I remember that I did a show where a year later that “Studio” turned into a cafeteria….! Then in the big amphitheater-shaped studio, together with the director Albert Minga, with whom we introduced some new things, and once I even had over 50 guests: the champion team of volleyball, basketball, together with their staffs.
I changed many directors, the first of which was Thanas Nano, a man of discipline and cleanliness, while Todi Lubonja was liberal, charming and supported my proposal to host the show with guests, as it was dangerous because it was broadcast live says Shqarri.
“Cycling circle of Albania”, an unimaginable chronicle for the time…!
Could it be imagined at the time that Albania would also broadcast “live” a cycling race and not a “Cycling Circuit”, when only a few powerful countries like the “Tour of Italy” or the “Tour” in France, behind which they stood hundreds of people! But this is also another extraordinary and unforgettable page of “Shqarri-Story”.
Regarding this, he recalls: “It has been a passion of mine to adapt to these great world competitions.
I broadcast them live, on motorbikes, interviewing the cyclist during the mountain climbs of Ulza, in bad windy and rainy weather, but also under the scorching sun. Such commitment, race after race, on the streets of Albania, made the listeners’ interest grow and it was achieved that in the finals of the stages, the main midday news was also interrupted, which did not happen for anything else at that time, only for to connect with “our special envoy Ahmet Shqarri”.
We reached the finish line faster than the cyclists arrived, I got on the tourism balcony, or somewhere at a height and together with the technicians M. Berberi, S. Paçrami H. Sala, and later F. Sala, I transmitted and described the finish of the race. Then I conducted the interviews” – remembers Shqarri.
“From one match to another”, a great sports “invention”!
The beginning of the 80s records a revolution, a radical change for sports broadcasts on the radio. Sunday, October 2, 1983, noon. “Dear listeners of Radio Tirana…”. It was the first time that the show was going to start, that the well-known journalist Ahmet Shqarri, conceived and managed to make his broadcast a reality, offering Albanians for the first time on that October day a new show, when after the opening bell was heard: “From one match to another”.
This new show would resemble an orchestra, with Shqarri as the conductor, while Bellova would be its voice or ‘first violin’. And with him, Aleko Gjergo, Veli Rada, Ymer Stërniqi, Fico, Qiqi, Ymer Kurti, Rrok Preçi, Efica, Allkja, Arbër Emiri, Mikel Mbrricaj, Qesja, Njjela, Agron Kaja, Fatmir Mneri, Moisi Dalipi, etc. “From one match to another” will thus mark the beginning of a new sports radio format, which will soon be the most watched show with a record number of listeners.
Shqarri himself considers “From one match to another” the greatest “invention”, which he directed for 20 years, as the longest-running and most watched show for the time, October 1983 – October 2003. “The 20th anniversary – I celebrated him in a ceremony at the Academy of Arts, with many guests, radio reporters and personalities from other areas of life, where I received the accolades as the creator and leader of this show for two decades”, he recalls. Clarify.
In the 80-year life of Radio Tirana, (1938-2018), he spent almost half of his life for this institution: 35 years filled with memories, passion, and enthusiasm! Even “From one match to another”, has served Albanian football, its existence, without being interrupted for a single week. He was the one who “saved” our football in 1997, when UEFA and FIFA excluded our teams from European matches, and he emigrated the national team like a Jew in the desert” – remembers Shqarri.
Barcelona and “Camp Nou”, beyond fantasy
Such has been and will remain for Shqarri, or any Albanian, like a dream that surpasses fantasy, from the announcement, the departure, the journey, Rome – Barcelona, the draw, the emotions experienced on that unforgettable evening at “Camp Nou” in Barcelona. A rare transmission, unheard of at the time, even nobody had dared before. He was quite surprised when they announced that he will accompany the “Flamurtar” team in the transfer to Barcelona, to broadcast live the return match, after the 1-1 draw in Vlora.
It was the first time that a match for Albanian clubs would be broadcast from outside the country and, ironically, from the “Camp Nou” of Barcelona, Spain! “It was a fantastic trip together with Petro and Vasil Ruci, Kreshnik Čipin, Rrapo Taho and others. It would be played against the Barcelona of the famous Lineker, who had just been announced as the top scorer of the 1986 World Cup. The 90 minutes were more than dramatic and 0-0, a strange result for the time”, Shqarri remembers his first trip outside Albania.
A modest team, not with footballers, but with true Vlora heroes, who get an unimaginable draw, even the qualification of the Catalans was secured with the goal scored in the opposing field, after the 1-1 draw in Vlora. It was the first experience for Shqarri, who broadcast a live international football match alone, for 90 minutes.
In “Bayer Arena”, with the great champion
It was March 24, 2001, when the match between the Federal Republic of Germany and Albania, 2-1, was broadcast from the “Bayer Arena” stadium in Leverkusen, when the well-known radio journalist from Lezha, Zef Shtjefni, was in the studio, while in the role of the columnist, the famous Panajot Pano. This is a practice applied in many other international matches, with the representative and the clubs.
It was always customary for him to be an opinion columnist alongside the radio chronicler, including well-known coaches and football players. “From abroad – says Shqarri, – I realized this innovation with some such as: Skender Ibrahim, Bejkush Birçe, Suljeman Mema, K. Bozgo, Halim Mersin, A. Maxhun, etc. I remember that at that time, I broadcast the match between Crete, Greece and Albania with my colleague, the well-known Vladimir Grillo”.
To the Soviets, the first diplomatic act of rapprochement…!
This is the meeting that simultaneously records the great historical turning point, not only in sports. The confrontation and broadcast for the first time of an Albanian team with “Uralochka”, a team of the Soviet Union. In Ravenna, Italy, in 1989, the “Final Four Euro” for girls in volleyball took place and after the termination of diplomatic relations between the two countries for over 30 years, “Dinamos” met to sign the “diplomatic peace act” Albania-Soviet Union.
At the “Ambassador” Hotel, before the match took place, together with coach Tartari and journalist Kastriot Ahmati, we were discussing whether we would play or not. All the more broadcasting, another bold initiative, if it could be done from one moment to the next, I was waiting for approval from Radio Tirana. In fact, a verbal approval was received from Ramiz Ali, who directed “see and act as the situation is” – recalls Shqarri. It was precisely this tour that marked the “first meeting” between the two countries, after their break in the early 60s.
With Koço Kokëdhima, from RADIO+2 to TVA-1, versatile, success and fame!
Not by “stealing” his creation on Radio-Tirana, but by “inventing” another show, with a completely original format like “Goal” on “Radio + 2”, where the specialty was in the sections “Hour after the match”, where, through mobile phones, the microphone went from a field, to a bus with the teams returning from the match, to a player, coach, manager, to the various houses of Albanians to comment on the matches that had just been broadcast.
“Out of hundreds of interviewees, I chose the charming opera couple, Luiza and Gaqo Çako. Or when I took Brigeli from Rrogozhina, who directly, among other things, told me that he had good relations with Maradona, from the time when he played with Napoli, while Brigeli was a champion with Verona. Armand Duka, in “Ora pas Ndeshjes”, was interviewed so much when he was around the stadium, but also in the office and at home, that one day he said to me: Ahmet Shqarri, you made me feel like I was a district correspondent.
Or the interview from “Ariston” of Sanremo with Ardit Gjebrena, when he was in the company of singer Ana Oksa, who did not forget to ask me how the match “Partizani” – “Flamurtari” ended. Or Anjeza Shahini from Istanbul, where the Eurovision Song Contest took place. It was one of the most listened to shows on Radio + 2. Then “Gol” on TVA 1, another TV show, just as followed, where, among others, there were also the emotions of the 2004 European Championship and the 2006 World Cup.
I don’t forget when among the guests was the permanent Muç Fagu, whose lines are unforgettable, and I also remember with pleasure how in this show, Igli Tare or Erion Bogdani came as special guests from Italy. It was fun how famous people would come with just a phone call from me. Or a telereport at Bogdan’s house in Tirana, following the broadcast on Italian television, a meeting where he played, and where through the emotions of the parents, I realized spicy things, so as not to be a stamp.
The show arouses interest as far as Montenegro, Macedonia, Kosovo and Corfu. There was a time when Koço Kokdhima appreciated me a lot and big billboards with my portrait filled Tirana. Meanwhile, Koço himself produced his own show “How to become a millionaire”. He always said that: Two are the most watched shows, that of Ahmet Shqarri and that of Edi Rama, then the Mayor, who every morning did on Radio+2, a kind of experience of his own, to change the life of Tirana” – he recalls Clarify. Memorie.al
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