From Uvil Zajmi
Memorie.al/ The history of Albanian numbers 1 is long, spanning years, decades, matches, clubs and national teams. From Pozeli to Vogli, Bonati, Maliqati, Topi, Janku, Metani, Ndoja, Dinella, Muhedini, Rama, Ahmedani, Luarasi, Musta…! Are more. Everyone has their own career, not similar to the other. They are united by the fact that they have been giants at the gate. But that of Jani Kaçi, a Sarandjot born in Korçë, a 20-year-old untold story is quite special. From the father who escaped being shot, to the passion for boxing, student of Agronomy, history teacher, soldier in Xenio and the match that surprised Petrit Dumen. T-shirt with no. 20 of Llazi Srbo, the wish of Bamir Topi, the match with Austria and the meeting with Shumaker. What is one of the most modern goalkeepers doing today, owner of “Partizani”, “Skënderbeu” and Kombëtera, who determined that Etrit Berisha would be the future of the Albanian goal?
Saran jot by origin, but Korçare birthplace
Very few know that Jani Kaçi is from Sarandjot, although his whole life, career, and family are connected to Korça. The father from Saint Vasili i Saranda, born and lived in Athens, goes to see his mother and sisters in Saranda, during the war years and the Germans send him to the concentration camps in Germany, where he stays for 18 months. After killing 45 men and seeing him as an orphan boy, who spoke German and held the rank of colonel in Venizello’s government, they return him to his homeland. The war had just ended. He had been sold everything in Athens and, under such conditions; he decided to stay in Albania where he started working at the Refrigeration Repair Company in Durrës. My wife, a merchant’s daughter, used to go on vacation to the beach. There they meet, fall in love and she drags him to Korça, where they get married and have 5 children, all boys.
Accidentally a goalkeeper, although he liked boxing!
He became a goalkeeper by accident because he really liked boxing. It was just a smell and a look from Coach Trajan Verika, when he was playing with his peers, who told him: “You will become a goalkeeper”. He is active with young people and in a match in Convalescence in Durrës, Skënderbeu-Besa. Pandi Peleshi, singer of the Ensemble in Tirana, but also his uncle, was attending the meeting together with Boric, with whom they had been students in Bulgaria. There, big Loro asks him: “Why here?” – “I have a grandson who is playing”, was the answer…! Loro sees it, likes it and records it in memory. They call him to the great “Partizan”, where he stays for five months together with Muhedin, Lela, and Ismaili and with the legendary Panon in charge. It was the spring of 1967, when he was only 15 years old, a high school student in the second year of “Raqi Qirinxhi”.
The teacher’s advice: “Jani, go to Tirana…”
He had just started training, with the desire to settle in Tirana, but he could not enroll in the Higher Institute of Physical Culture “Vojo Kushi”, or even in the “Skënderbej” United School. Biography matter…! “You are a Greek boy”, they told him, and the Party Committee of Korça sent him documents negatively. He returns to Korça, finishes high school taking two classes together and starts the Agricultural Institute for Agronomy, but he didn’t like it. Teacher in the “History of the Party”, Liri Lubonja, a modern type, seeing his passion, as well as the class struggle that systematically hindered him, tells him: “Jani Kaçi, try to escape to Tirana…”. He left the Institute and on December 12, 1971, went to perform his three-year military service. He was supposed to go directly to “Partizani”, but Korça sent him to Rinas, in Xenio Ward, to lose his address. “Guerrilla” was in China, on a 6-month friendly tour. However, he stays a few weeks in Rinas, he is transferred to the department near the Rrashbull Hills, an artillery department on the outskirts of Durrës. He stayed three months to get the third transfer that would be decisive for his career.
Spartakiad, the defeat of “Partizani”, the order of Petri Dumas
Just when he thought he was out of luck and everything was closed for him, the Spartakiad of the Army takes place. The ‘Eagle’ ward, where Jani plays goalkeeper, faces the United School. He plays well and someone remembers that he was taken to “Partizan”. As soon as the activity ends, the soldier is transferred to Elbasan, to the anti-aircraft department, on the condition that he becomes active as a goalkeeper, playing for 15 months with Labinot in the First Category, where Jorgaqi, Ibërshimi, Rudini, etc. are. The Labinoti-Partizani meeting is coming, for the championship and a 3-0 victory for the people from Elbasan. The Chief of the General Staff of the Army, Petrit Dume, standing on the stairs after the match, asked: “Who is this bald head?” – “He is our soldier,” they say. – We got it from Korça”.
That was enough for him to give an order to bring him back to the club. Gathered with the Shpresa national team, where the coach was the Romanian Bolonescu, while Ahmedani played in the goal, as soon as the plane arrived in Rinas after returning from Bucharest, where the Balkaniad was held with the 21-year-olds and Albania ranked second, with a military car, they send him to Durrës, where the “Partizani” team was stationed. We are in June-July 1973 and, although the military service started in 1971, until January 1976 he will be a soldier and a football player of “Partizani”. The coach in that season was the coachman Ilia Shuke with assistant Bolonesku. He starts as Muhedini’s backup and, when he needed a week before the end of the first phase, on November 17, Muhedini is not ready and Shuke activates Kaçi. “Partizani” wins, 2-0 with goals from Murat and Berisha, while Jani is stable in the formation.
T-shirt with no. 20, idea of the actor Llazi Srbo
He never wore the black jersey, as he considered it unlucky. He preferred all the bright colors and, in particular, the number 20 on his back. With the first uniform he wore, he has a memory: “The day you will play in the formation I will give you a Chinese blue shirt, a half golf shirt, – an aviator, Sabri was called, told him, with which the aviators were equipped. – While no. 20, made it with the club’s designer and put it in the sun to dry the paint. The idea for that number was given to him by Llazi Srbo, an actor-painter, whom he has had many friends in sports and life”. As soon as he went to “Partizani”, Llazi Srbo made him a proposal: “Jani, you will use a wide shirt, since you are big. You will play with the number 20”. “I liked this number, although even today I don’t know how they allowed me, since the regulation was from 1 to 11. I have always played in uniforms, jerseys that came to me from Greece”, Kaçi confesses.
Versatile in any sport
He could have become a boxer, a basketball player, a volleyball player or a good wrestler. When the national team of wrestlers was going to travel to Romania, an international meeting, just two days before the departure, there was no competitor for the weight of Stefan Gjeneral and Ali Kastrati, Jani Kaçin announced to go to fight. Although it was only one day before the ‘Partizani’-‘November 17’ challenge, on the carpet of the “Partizani” Sports Palace, Jani Kaçi, a goalkeeper, faced a legendary champion like Stefan Gjenerali. No one thought that a catch by Kaçi would momentarily throw the great champion to the mat. Then, the second match and a suplex by the General left the opponent breathless, also damaging his shoulder. Big concern for the club and the next day against Tirana in the derby, he played with an injured shoulder, being the best player on the field. In his career, he has waited, but also shot penalties. In the Republic Cup, he scored for Perlat Musta, in the meeting between “Skënderbeu” and “Partizani”, while the two penalties shot by Tomorri and Skuro of Partizani were missed by him.
Unwanted return to Korça
The time had come for him to be released, even though he had done a few more years of military service. The group of generals had just been hit, “Partizani”, no longer had the previous strength, although Jani wanted to stay and “if the generals were still around,” he says, “the career would have continued at “Partizani”. Mihallaq Ziçishti himself, an admirer of his, although with the desire to stay in Tirana, informed him that he had to leave. There was nothing he could do, as there was pressure in Korça and the fans wanted him to return. It was the beginning of 1976, January, “Skënderbeu” was playing in the Second Category, but after eliminating Lushnja and “Dinamo”, it reached the final of the Republic Cup. It was the Xambazi team and they faced ’17 November’, playing one of the famous matches in the history of this trophy, where the protagonist is also Jani Kaçi, who has already returned to his hometown.
Dinella, Kaçi, the well-known Korça School
There are three players from Korça, protagonists, celebrities of the Albanian National Team: First Teodor Vaso, then Koço Dinella and Jani Kaçi, without forgetting the Marian Clan many years ago. All three in defense, all three starters in the well-known teams “Partizani” and “Dinamo”, even none of them stayed in the capital. All in the span of a decade, almost from the middle of the 65s to the 75s. While Dinella, after “Dinamo”, comes to Korçë, to Skënderbeu, Kaçi has just arrived to Tirana, to play with “Partizani”. He finds Dinella there when he returns in 1976, they stay together for a while. Both have their peaks with Germany: Dinella in the 0-0 draw and the 0-1 loss, while Kaçi on March 1, 1981, Albania-German RF 0-2 (Shuster two goals). When he left “Partizani”, Muhedini was with him. The managers of the club asked him who he thinks will replace him: “I see Musta and Lekbello with a perspective. Musta is very elastic”, he said, paving the way for another legend of the partisan cadre, the Albanian one.
Years of modern goalkeeper style!
Janku, Dinella, Ndoja, Rama, Muhedini, Ahmedani, of the same style, air goalkeepers. But Jani Kaçi, 1.86 cm tall, with a rare, powerful, elegant physique and build, remains one of the great talents of national football. A true colossus, as he was only 20 years old when he shone. Flexible in movement, a modern performer of this role. A typical “Majeri” goalkeeper with a natural sense of position and good grip on the ball. It flew in the area, conquering and owning the air in the entirety of the area. It did not leave any empty space inside it, enough to increase the fear on the way out. One of the strongest points, a leader for the team. It is enough to see Jani Kaçi at the gate and you had one more guarantee. Alone against all. A reserved, simple, very educated guy, with a strong character, modest about what he really demonstrated on the field and off it. A friend of everyone at “Partizani” and at Kombëtare, he slept with Ali Kastrati in the same room.
He has great respect for Gjergji Thaka, then Muhedin, Mit’hat Shehu, Astrit Ziu, Safet Berisha, Agim Murat, but also for Ilir Përnaska, Mujo Targaj, Agustin Kola and Kreshnik Çipi, doctors, football players and coaches, massage therapists, drivers etc. For a moment, he stops and remembers Arjan Hoxha, the former goalkeeper of “Skhendija”, “Partizan”, who is no longer alive. He had him as a brother…! During his career, he has not known uncertainty, although he has suffered from emotions. In his beginnings, he was “afraid” of Ramazan Rragami, as he shot from a distance and accurately. When he gained experience, he looked for challenges and confrontations with the titans of the goal: Tit Dibra, Përnaska, Murat, but also Mir Hima, the attacker of “Lokomotiva”. When he played with “Skenderbeu”, as a modest team, he was alone against everyone, especially in the challenges against “Partizan”, “Dinamos”, “17 November” and “Vllaznia”, as he played almost in one goal. No cigarettes, no drinks, German regime in career…! Never to the doctor, hiding every pain and injury, a typical German professional regime. Half an hour before, he went to the field, wet the place where the goalkeepers train with water. He liked the cloudy weather; the 12th opponent had the sun. Never debate, controversy and punishments from referees.
Career, National Team and… Austria of Vienna
Considered one of the most famous Albanian numbers 1, the first and last team is “Skënderbeu”, although it has also defended the goal of “Labinot”, “Partizani”, and the National team at the height of their magical moment. He played with many great footballers of the time, working with coaches such as: Ilia Shuke, Loro Boriçi, Refik Resmja, etc. Over 300 Cup championship matches, but without ever becoming a champion and when “Skënderbeu” was one step close to him. The 1978-1979 seasons, the second phase has ended and they have equal points with “Dinamon”, when the AFL throws the third phase into play, so there is no title, but this formula is invented. The last match, in Durrës, “Dinamos” opened the door, won without difficulty and took the trophy.
With Shpresa only a few meetings, in 1970, he was added as Gud Tafaji’s reserve in the match against Turkey, held in Vlora, with coach Refik Resmen. Then in Romania, reserve of Met Ahmedani and then some Balkan challenges with Hope and clubs. Lack of matches and long years of suspension also affect the career of Jani Kaçi, right at the top of his form. In the goal of the representative team, it starts again with the 3-0 victory, a friendly match played in Tirana on October 10, 1976, against Algeria, when the coach is Loro Boriçi, with whom he will end it. Then another two-year break and again in goal in the first official match, Albania-Finland for EKB, on September 3, 1980, in “Qemal Stafa” 2-0 (Braho, Baçi), to continue in five more challenges, with coach Zyber Konçin: Against Bulgaria, Austria, to close with Germany, in Tirana, April 1981, when Boriçi returned to the bench. Only 6 match with the representative.
His last memory is with the goalkeeper Shumaker, precisely in the meeting at “Qemal Stafa”, after which he stopped playing with the red and black colors to make way for Musta, just like when he left “Partizani”. The clubs received it three times as reinforcement: Vllaznia-Austria of Vienna played in Shkodër 2-0 and in Vienna 1-4. “Dinamo”-“Dinamo” Zagreb and with “Labinoti” in the Balkan Cup, against “AS Tergu Muresh” in Romania. Once champion of the Balkans, with the national team Shpresa, although 27 years old, old age, as two players were allowed in the team.
The goals that made Gëzdar famous!
It is related to the final meeting of the Cup of the Republic, the year 1977, at the moment when “Skënderbeu” is passing one of the best seasons in the history of the club, all in a few months, immediately after the return of Kaçi to Korçë, where as a coach it’s Ilia Shuke again. 3-0 the first match in Tirana, “Skënderbeu” loses deeply with three goals scored by Gëzdari. In Korça, after a week of extraordinary interest, “17 November” won 1-0 with a goal from Gëzdari. “I told him: ‘I made you famous with the goals you scored for me,'” says Kaçi today. Tirana played with half-high balls, arching in the area from the wings with Tit Dibra and Llambi, for Mond Gëzdar who bravely hit with his head.
His career has been abruptly and treacherously cut short! Only one episode was enough that caused his separation with “Skënderbeu”, football, the final break with the gate, the club, and the stadium. Years pass, but you don’t forget. “They didn’t do it to me during the class war, but they waited for the last years of my career. They pretended that I had torn up Enver Hoxha’s photo, while at “Partizani”, I was very respected, precisely by Enver’s children, and there was no reason for such an action”, says Kaçi. He left in 1985, when he was 32 years old, with the desire and passion to play until the age of 40, as the regime and physical strength guaranteed him such a thing.
Friendships, everyone has appreciated
From age coaches, teacher Liri Lubonja, general Petrit Dume, managers, football players and coaches of the “Partizani” club and the national team, senior officers, to Bamir Topi, who even today remembers when he used to say to him: “Jani, how I would like to be in Tirana”. But even Jashar Menzelxhiu, when he arranged him in Elbasan with “Labinot”, or Mihallaq Ziçishti, until Enver Halili, when he was in Vlora, insisted on taking him as a goalkeeper at “Flamurtari”. Not forgetting Foto Çami, who invites him to become active with “Vllaznina”. But for Jan, married and with children, it is difficult for him to move. He refused even though he still has the shadow of the biography on his back.
What is the gate giant doing today?
No one from the family would have thought of him as a sportsman, even a famous goalkeeper. Married and with two sons who played a little football, at amateur levels in Germany, without any of them inheriting Jani Kaçin. He has never tried to go to work and live abroad after 90, although he comes and to Greece systematically, never prefers to stay in the neighboring country. “Those who read my biography have fled and live there, with changed names,” he says. He directed the club for several years, while he currently teaches the subject of Physical Education at “Ymer Dishnica” high school. He is known everywhere: “I played football without interest and I am proud to have been a starter with “Partizani”, “Skënderbeu”, and the national teams since the age of 15″.
He did not end up with football, returning to it years later as a coach with the youth teams of “Skenderbeu”. In fact, he was the one who made his way to Pristina, when he was asked to give his opinion on Etrit Berisha: “As far as I saw, I liked him, he had plastic, he was not a rigid goalkeeper, and I recommended that he be immediately added to the team Shpresa e the late Artan Bushati”.
Even though the years pass, he is the same, charming and very magnificent as before. We can talk about him for a long time and what we have shown is a small part of the large dossier of one of the giants of the Albanian gate of the last century, Jani Kaçi, originally from Saint Vasili i Saranda, born in Korça, where he lives and works today too. Memorie.al