From Uvil Zajmi
-Iljaz Çeço testifies about the controversy over the title of 1967, when ‘Tirana’ and ‘Partizani’ were condemned: “Dinamos” cannot take it away, Tirana was supported by the Party Committee”
Memorie.al / The three publications of the well-known journalist Besnik Dizdari, the veteran of the Albanian sports press, some time ago, about the sensational event in June 1967, where “November 17” and “Partizani” were condemned, could not pass without the reactions of those footballers who experienced those times. One of them is Iljaz Çeço, the former legendary captain of “Dinamo” of that era, who won the title, when the white, blue and red were punished. In an exclusive interview, he has a different stance on the event and does not agree with Dizdar, that Tirana was punished enough to take away the title and that “Dinamo” benefited from this injustice. Cheço says that; things should be evaluated for the time and circumstances when they happened, focusing on the fact that; the riots that were caused could not be forgiven in that system.
Iljaz Çeço, today 76 years old, starts his story by remembering the famous match of June 24, 1967, where he was present in the stadium. The famous former player of “Dinamo” and the Albanian national team, shows details of the fight on the field and stands, while he is convinced that; in this story, there is no “Dinamo” connection behind the scenes at all.
Iljaz Çeço’s testimony: “It was like a war, it could not be tolerated”
“Tirana” and “Partizani” were punished, because they were both guilty, but in this story, you cannot take away the title from “Dinamos”. I remember very well what happened, as I was in the stadium myself. We have to agree on something, as many years have passed, but in that period, what happened on ‘November 17’ – ‘Partizani’, could not be tolerated by the Party Committee and also the Albanian Football Federation.
This was initiated by the Central Committee of PPSh, as such events were considered very serious for the time, as no one dared to do them. The fight between the players did not come suddenly, as always, ‘Tirana’-‘Partizani’, has been a fighting match and the explosion was exactly that on June 24, 1967. If I’m not mistaken, ‘Partizani’ scored first. and then ‘Tirana’ overturned it.
Dinamo were two points behind leaders Tirana before they played Partizan. In the meantime, there was no work for “Dinamo”, as we played a strong match in Shkodër and drew.
The interest was between two rival teams, such as ‘Tirana’ and ‘Partizani’, where any result was expected. The two fans were angry and there were reports that; it would be a problematic match, as of course; it was also of great importance for the continuity of ‘Tirana’. Everything was aggravated on the field, but there were scenes that had not been seen, because the fights were not absent even among the fans. This situation got out of the control of the police itself and was something unbelievable, for the time.
It was like a war and I remember that in that match, some wooden stairs were placed for the fans and at one point it creaked, creating a great chaos. The calm and normal continuation of that match took a long time, creating an unprecedented event for our time. In that period, the political side was also very hot. The war against foreign apparitions and sheet-lightning had just begun.
This was considered one of the most serious events for the time. Who dared to make such scenes, in that period, that’s why that decision was made, because facilities could not be created, for the very situation where the country was located? I have to remember that the situation has been very tense since before the match, with all the measures taken by the police. The head of the police at that time was Qemal Balluku, the brother of Beqir Balluku, the former Minister of People’s Defense, a member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the PPSh and, at the same time, the first deputy prime minister in Mehmet Shehu’s cabinet.
In fact, Qemal Balluku, in that match, came around the stadium and as soon as he saw any fan making abnormal gestures, he ordered the police to take him out. The irritation was not only on the field between the players, but also worsened on the stadium steps. The kicks were actually started by the players of Tirana”, recalls Iljaz Çeço.
“THIS IS WHY THE ANGRY BETWEEN THE TWO CLUBS WAS BORN”
The former Dynamo midfielder gives a strong reason that, according to him, the two clubs of the capital have created an eternal rivalry and the match between them was rather a matter of anger and, without exaggerating at all, was experienced as a war by the respective fans.
Regarding this, Çeço recalls: “The whole internal revolt of ‘Tirana’ was due to the fact that ‘Partizani’ took many players from them, like soldiers. These sparks started at the time of Panajo Pano and Luigj Bytyçi, (Bijhit), who moved to ‘Partizani’. With a lot of determination and agreement’ in that period, Pano never returned to ‘Tirana’ and remained red. Even, at that time, the late Skënder Halili was also in the game to go to ‘Partizani’, but he came to ‘Dinamo’ as a soldier. “Tirana”, did not make a sound, as he was more interested in Pano.
In the years 1961-’62, I remember that “Partizani” took 5 players from “Tirana”, while Ali Mema also went to Shkodër as a soldier and played with “Vllaznina”. The same thing happened with Fatmir Frashri, who played with ‘Partizani’, without forgetting here Bujar Kasmi, who was sent to Skrapar, where he was active with ‘5 September’ of that district for two seasons.
All these moves ignited a great rivalry and “Tirana”-“Partizani” became more of a grudge match than who would win. But time showed that “Partizan” has always defeated “Tirana”, emphasizes the famous former player of “Dinamo” and Albanian representative.
“RIGHT DECISION, THE DISCOUNT WAS ALSO DISCUSSED”
But how does Çeço comment on the decision of the leadership of the FFF, which invalidated the match ‘November 17’-‘Partizani’ 2-1 and expelled both teams, three weeks before the end of the championship. The former player reveals that the descent from the elite of the capital team was also discussed.
“It was not a matter of giving this decision so that ‘Dinamo’ could win the championship. I guarantee you that; Our club’ had nothing to do with these stories at that time. To be honest, the Ministry of the Interior at that time did not interfere at all in such situations. But, sometimes, the Ministry of the Interior, when there was an arbitrator who had a grudge against us and did not hold a correct trial, warned them to keep us straight.
We were like a third, who benefited from the punishment of ‘Tirana’ and ‘Partizan’, but we cannot be denied that title. I reiterate that; it became a big event and they gathered us all, considering it a foreign show. If this case happened in Germany, would such a decision not have been made?! “Tirana” and “Partizani” were expelled and the match was considered invalid. This was a normal decision and we cannot say now that it was deliberate for ‘Tirana’.
It was a very difficult period, as such gestures were never tolerated. I am against the interpretation given by Mr. Dizdari, in his writing, as it seems to be something anti-‘Dinamo’. There was a time when the decision was partisan. For the incidents on ‘November 17’-‘Partizani’, the Party Committee was also convened, and I even remember that the exclusion of the teams was also discussed, dropping them a category below. But, starting from the fact that it was a question of big clubs with popular support, especially of ‘Partizan’, this punishment was passed, as it could have been even more severe.
To be honest, at that time, we were dealing with a country like Albania, which was against social-imperialism. It is certain that the exclusion of the teams was not done to favor “Dinamon”. If it happened to us, of course the same decision would be made, because that was the law. At that time, I remember that it became big, also because of the fact that foreign media writes.
I know that the foreign press appreciated the decision. It was a championship with 12 clubs, which represented Albanian football in the best way, which today has completely lost its tradition. In a competition, where two clubs are excluded, it is not the fault of ‘Dinamo’ that comes first. It makes no sense, at this moment, to return to a story, when a decision was made based on the rules that existed at that time. This is all. This issue was much discussed.
How did “Dinamo” know that they would fight in “Tirana”-“Partizani” and that it would benefit?! We didn’t even win in Shkodër, the next game. It was a championship with a lot of rivalry. What was the fault of ‘Dinamo’? History cannot be revised and follow the current rules, it is left as it was done for the time. Why should the championship be left void?! Many of those who speak, after 55 years, were in high positions during that period, but did not open their mouths when they should, because they knew very well that they could not complain about one of the events that was described as the most serious. “, remembers Ceço.
“RIVALRY, INTERFERENCES AND FAVORITES”
Remembering the championship of 1967, Çeço also talks about the rivalry between the capital clubs and the accusations of favoring “Dinamo” and “Partizan” in that period of time.
Regarding this, he remembers: “Tirana’s schedule was better on paper, but if they lost to “Partizan” and we won, then “Dinamo” came first. Then we played directly against “Partizani”. I had just arrived at “Dinamo” and was considered a talent for the time. I won the first championship title, becoming the best footballer of that year, together with Panon. In that championship, we could win the title even without ‘Tirana’ being punished.
However, what cannot be denied is the fact that; it has been a good period of “Tirana” with; Fatmir Frashërin, Ali Mema, Xhuxh Kazanxhiu, Niko Xhaçka, Skender Hyka, etc. Most of the ‘Tirana’ formation that played against ‘Partizan’, were part of the Reds before, but finished the army and returned to ‘Tirana’.
This group of players, who came from ‘Partizani’ to ‘Tirana’, gave the team great impetus in those years. At that time, Ali Mema played in Shkodër and was held in the palm of his hand. He even humorously said: ‘I am better than in Tirana’. I mean something that was the reality of our time. “Partizani” has had the power of football, since the Central Committee of PPSh and not “Dinamo”. We were a quiet club and after Dinamo came Tirana.
“Partizan” had the Ministry of Defense and Petrit Dumen, (Chief of the General Staff), but above all, there were many fans in the Central Committee. ‘Dinamo’ was a quiet club and did not insist on taking players from other teams, like soldiers. Football players came at that time, such as Hushi, Saraçi, Stringa, Taushani, etc., but “Dinamo” never imposed such things.
We took players who did not disrupt ‘Partizani’s’ work. Mehdi Zhega and I came to “Dinamo” because, above all, we wanted to get an education. Zhega, continued Merceology. So, “Dinamo” has had intellectuals in its composition and the credit of the Club was that it educated them. “Tirana” has always been at war with “Partizan”. When ‘Tirana’ played with ‘Ajax’ in the famous 2-2, they took me as a reinforcement together with Zhega. We played very well; I even gave the assist for the goal to Zhega. The trainer was Myslym Alla, who was known for jokes. Fatmir Frashëri’ says to him: ‘These ‘Dinamo’ players are good guys and we get along very well’.
While Alla replies: ‘We have it written on our foreheads, that we are eternal opponents of ‘Partizani’, while ‘Dinamo’ is like pouring water from the mountain of Dajti and getting your butt wet, at 15- storey’. Guess what mentality has been at ‘Tirana’ since the 70s. I often remember the duels of Gëzim Kasmi, as a left defender, and Panajot Panos, as an attacker. Lym Alla took a cat and flew it, and then addressed Kasmi with humor: “Catch it urgently, here’s Panon”, the 76-year-old confesses.
“TIRANA, I DEPEND ON THE PARTY COMMITTEE”
Çeço closes with a comparison, for the support that the three capital teams had at that time, from the leadership, while it is totally against what they claim in “Tirana” that; The party has not dealt with them, like ‘Dinamon’ and ‘Partizan’. “I have often heard that they were victimized by ‘Tirana’ during that period and I am not happy. Some things need to be said. ‘Tirana’ depended on the Party Committee, which took care of the Sports Club. By order of this committee, none of the employees of the Tirana Club were engaged in work, as others did, from 5 hours a day.
They looked for houses and, while they were safe, they took employment as physical education teachers. They had everything they wanted. They had a sports manager in the municipality, who administered them and they were the most privileged in all aspects. While I had problems at “Dinamo”. I was in high school and the goal was to finish school and get a job. ‘Tirana’ had all the sure things, but unlike ‘Partizani’, they didn’t have die-hard fans at the highest levels.
So, they did not have active fans, who were very devoted to the team, as Partizan had. The fans of “Tirana” did not have the will to make a model team, at a time when all the enterprises in the capital depended on them. Why couldn’t they make a club like ‘Partizani’ with as many opportunities as they had?! But they had no fans…!
Then the difference was that ‘Partizani’ had fanatical fans at the highest levels, such as: Kadri Hazbiu, Qazim Kondi, Llambi Peçini, Feçor Shehu, Rexhep Kolli, etc. Interior Minister Hekuran Isai came later and built the complex. In the 50s and 60s, the dominance of “Dinamo” and “Partizan” was total. The history of titles has changed only after the 90s. If we take the theories of ‘Tirana’ for granted, then it seems that in the 70s, when ‘Dinamo’ won four championships, the Party’s order, that we should not participate in the international arena, had to be undone.
How do we get this? All that generation of “Dinamo” and the national team was burned. We drew 1-1 with “Dinamo” from Zagreb, which had 7 players from the Croatian National Team. We had talents, but I cannot say today that the Party in that period favored us. This is an example that condemned us as a generation. We became champions and could not play in the Champions Cup with ‘Eintracht’ Braushvajgu.
Of course, I have to admit that the ministry also cared a lot about ‘Dinamon’, as they were friendly with the Club. But then Tirana took the stadium that is now called ‘Selman Stërmasi’, even though by court decision it belongs to Dinamo, that is, to the Ministry of the Interior. The municipality took it under its control and gave it to the club of Tirana for use. The municipality must treat all three teams of the capital equally. Why should he favor “Tirana” with land?! Dinamo does not have a home even today as we speak. Even what he had was taken by the AFL. “Dinamo” and “Partizani” cannot be looked at with the stepmother’s eyes. Memorie.al