By Namik Mehmeti
Memorie.al publishes some memoirs of the former well-known sports journalist, Namik Mehmeti, originally from the city of Shkodra and living for years in Florence, Italy, regarding the period when he performed compulsory military service in one of the wards of the district of Kolonjë, where at the weekend, the unit commanded by the former military major, Malo Harshova, was visited not infrequently by the Chief of General Staff of the Albanian Army at the Ministry of People’s Defense, former Lieutenant General Petrit Dume, who was also and the First Deputy Minister of Defense and Member of the People’s Assembly for the district of Kolonjë. Unknown memories of Namik Mehmeti, for the conversations that the Chief of Staff had with the soldiers and officers of that unit when he went to play football, regarding their affiliation as fans, where according to him, during the period they performed compulsory military service , they should definitely be fans with the “Partizani” team! As well as his excuses, when many of the soldiers of the districts complained to him that: “Partizani”, unjustly, had taken from the districts some of the best football players of that time, such as: Shllaku, Rragami and Bizi , from “Vllaznia” of Shkodra, Karriqi and Dizdari, from “Besa” of Kavaja, Mexhit Haxhiu, from “Flamurtari” of Vlora, etc.
In Ersekë of Kolonja where I did compulsory military service, as in any other ward, we had a football field where we played in our free time. There were soldiers from Kavaja, Shkodra, Tirana, Vlora, etc. There were also matches organized between them, being represented by the names of the city’s football clubs such as “Besa”, “Vllaznia”, “Flamurtari”, “17 Nentori”, etc., but always disguised that we were fans even with “Partizan”, which was imposed on us by the commissars.
But the football field in the center of the military ward also had guests coming down in sports uniforms, especially on Sundays. These were the former generals who, after the abolition of their ranks (in 1965), had become more massive and modest.
One of these frequenters of the football field in the military unit of Erseka, was the former general Petrit Dume, the Chief of General Staff of the Albanian Army in the Ministry of People’s Defense and at the same time the first deputy minister of Defense, who besides being a ‘ ‘crazy fan’ of the “Partizani” team (as the ardent fans were called at the time), where ‘de facto’ he was also the Head of the Club, he had a lot of passion to play football, especially with the soldiers. The frequent arrival of Petrit Dume near our ward where he played football with us, was justified by the fact that he was a colonist and also represented this southeastern district, as a member of the People’s Assembly.
And for us soldiers those hours we spent attending the training of the former general, whom we fearlessly called ‘Chief’, were a breaking of the monotony of the daily regime in the gazebo, as in any other ward of the People’s Army of that time . Former General Dume, as expected according to military regulations, by the commander and commissioner of the Brigade from which our unit depended, in one of the command rooms, changed his uniform from military to sports.
Attention-grabbing sports uniforms with red tracksuits resembling the sports uniform of our national volleyball team in the early ’60s, Adidas’ athletic and soccer shoes, such as soccer balls, three or four pieces, which used as he wished. On a beautiful spring day, when the soldiers were out of the training program, as it was Sunday, at the entrance of the ward appeared the ‘VOLVA’ of the former general, and it was not long before the soldiers gathered around the field.
He did not hesitate to greet us and exchange any ball passes, when behind the gate stood almost three or four soldiers, to return the balls to the field. That day I asked the soldiers for one of us to come out to the gate and that thing was taken over by a soldier from Shkodra, I remember it was Xhevat Idrizi, who took the middle of the gate.
Former General Petrit Dume, Chief of Staff of the Albanian Army, hit the ball hard, so he had a strong shot, and always aimed at the goal. Xhevat had played goalkeeper at school, I knew him for the courage he had, which he was showing even that day, making wonderful receptions and punches, which did not pass without being applauded by us soldiers.
The ‘boss’, as we soldiers called him, started to get nervous. At one point he stopped having fun and addressed Xhevat:
-Which district are you from, fellow soldier?
“From Shkodra,” Xhevati replied.
-Did you decide not to let me score a goal ?!
-As long as I am at the gate, I do not cut “Vllaznia”.
It took so long and the soldiers exploded in chorus shouts: “Besa ‘,’ Besa ‘,’ Tirana ‘,’ Tirana ‘,’ Vllaznia ‘,’ Vllaznia ‘,’ Flamurtari ‘, Flamurtari”.
The Chief of Staff immediately stopped the entertainment, but did not show many signs of nervousness and to our surprise, he started a conversation that we at the moment heard while maintaining distance and respect as well.
– “You, as long as you are soldiers, must be with ‘Partizan”.
“Partizani takes the best footballers from football clubs, Haxhiu took us from Vlora”, a soldier from Vlora intervened.
– “You also took the two best football players from ‘Vllaznia’, Bizin and Rragamin”, was another soldier from Shkodra, who embarrassed the Chief of General Staff.
– “You also took Karriqi, Dizdar, etc. from ‘Besa’, it was the intervention of a soldier from Kavaja
“Yes, you forgot Panon,” said another soldier from the capital.
I did not hesitate to say a fact that set the conversation on fire: “Lin Shllaku, comrade boss …”!
Meanwhile, he intervened with a speech, which he often displayed when he became nervous, taking his mouth a little.
– “Lin Shllaku is completely ours, Shkodra did not appreciate his talent. You should know that Western European clubs, especially Germany, are looking to buy it, but we say no to bourgeois sport. “Their newspapers have written about Lin Shllaku.” We were surprised by this conversation that flowed naturally, but the former general was not satisfied with that. Not far from the football field was the ward command and he let out a voice: “O Malo, come on, what do you have these soldiers…” ?!
The commander of the military unit, a former senior officer, Malo Harshova, approached without fear of his superior.
– Work harder in political hours, soldiers as long as they are under weapons, should show respect for the “Partizani” team, not as they say today. What do those commissars do… ”?!
After that, the Chief of Staff approached his “Volva” brand car, somewhat upset, took off his football boots, put on a pair of white sneakers and “Volva” stopped near the Command offices.
Commander Malo Harshova, after warning the soldiers about the attitude they had taken towards his superior and at the same time figure no. 2 of our People’s Army (he followed the minister, Beqir Balluku), addressed the goalkeeper from Shkodra, Xhevat, saying: “Even if it was an official match, you had to open the gate, even for a goal…”!
As soon as the silence had invaded the sports environment and Commander Malo hurried his steps towards the Command. The meeting with his superior did not last long, as the command of the guard officer “in honor of the weapon” also signaled the departure of the Chief of General Staff, Petrit Dume.
The next day, according to military disciplines, the commissars began lecturing at the behest of Petrit Dume. It was the last months of military service and I remember that the Chief of General Staff, Petrit Dume was no longer seen on the football field, but on the day of the Israeli attack on Egypt, in June 1967, he was present in the military unit of Erseka, for two-three days after the entire Albanian Army passed on readiness number one. In those visits he made to Erseka, there on the football field he was not accompanied by his adjutants, not even his driver, as he valued it as a weekend. /Memorie.al