From Vepror Hasani
The third part
Memorie.al / We had let him meet in one of the bars in Korça. I saw that he was coming with his “Cadillac”, as he called the bike he goes out on every day…! After we ordered, the “Deserved Master of Sports”, Teodor Vaso, decorated with the “Gold Medal” – for outstanding merit in sports -, football player from 1957-1973 and coach from 1973 until today, started to tell me recounted one of his football stories: “Everything about my stay in the ‘Partizani’ team or not, was left in the hands of the generals…” he began to tell me.
Continues from last issue
“The directors of “Partizan” had started with the interventions to keep the football players. It seemed like there was no other way. “17 November” held the crown of the championship for the year 1964-’65, but the people of Tirana did not hide that they would make all efforts to keep the title for another year. For this reason, they had to first stop the momentum of “Partizani”. The military team closed the first phase by getting 96% of the possible points. “November 17” it received 77% of the points. The issue of “Partizan” was turning into a major day issue. The military was engaged to influence the dome of the state.
The objective was clear: not to release district players T. Vaso, M. Haxhiu and R. Ragam, who, with the decision that had been made, had to return to their cities. The success of “Partizan” propagated superior qualities and through its success the military could justify the realization of their claim to keep the players. Everyone knew that breaking the decision of the Central Committee Secretariat would not be easy. Such approval would create tremendous problems!
“Partizan” would again prevail with its results; again it would have the largest number of players in the composition of the national team. The rest of the sport did not want this. They were against the possession of two military teams in football life. Besides, the fetishization of a single team, whatever it was, was beginning to be frowned upon. They wanted to put an end to the practice when a single team dictated the course of results and the history of Albanian football. In such conditions it was difficult to predict what would happen”.
Something was happening…!
“Something was happening with “Partizan”. When this team returned with silver medals won in Leipzig, in the tournament of the armies of the socialist countries, before the month was over, they went to Berat and lost to Tomor, 2-1. The surprise was great. The little one had defeated the big one! Anyway, Berat was a team of the first league, for many years it competed with the superior teams of Albanian football. But if that wasn’t enough, something else happened. It was 1966.
“Partizani” went to Shijak and got a draw with the “Erzen” team. After “Partizani”, “17 November” went to Shijak and scored 11 goals! The news came out that day: Shijaku was playing without protection! Then “Partizani” got a draw in Durrës, while the loss with “17 November” in the middle of the second stage, brought the situation into crisis. Finally, the two teams “Partizani” and “17 November” ended the championship with equal points.
“Partizan” in the first phase left only one point, in the second one lost 5 points. Losing with Tirana in the final, they scored 7 points. However, a prophecy that had been rumored for a long time was fulfilled: “Partizani” would play for the Balkan Club Cup, which meant that this team had to be classified second in the championship standings.
“November 17” held the championship crown again. If “Partizani” would have been declared champion, then it would only make one trip abroad, because our football teams were eliminated in the first round. “Partizani” preferred the second place; this allowed him two routes abroad: one in Varna, Bulgaria and the other in Arad, Romania…”!
“I finished my military service before the fall of 1966 began. Every day that passed, the anxiety became greater. The coaches, after many tests, stabilized Spiro Gjika in the role of center forward. I would be a left back. I was exactly in my role. This change coincided with the beginning of the Balkan Cup matches, in May 1966. We entered the matches with the football teams of the clubs participating in our group for the Balkan Cup.
We played the match with “Çorno-More” from Varna in Tirana on 31.05.1966. We won 2-0. Skënder Jareci wrote about this match: “The opposing players insisted on passing the home defense from the left wing, where their most active player, Stojanov, played, but Vaso, with his dynamism and very sure interventions, was always ready and unstoppable “.
The match with Varna in Tirana came after some strong matches we played in the Albanian championship. They highlighted our abilities. For the match with “Dinamo” (12.10.1965), in “Sporti Popular”, it was written: “The only thing that distinguished the winning team from its level was the mobilization. The players of “Partizani” fought resolutely for the first ball and covered the Dinamo players more closely. The defense of the soldiers was never seriously engaged with the Dynamo attack and not because of his fault, when the opportunity presented itself, it fought with energy, intervened with determination (Vaso e Dingu)”.
After the match with the Bulgarians of Varna, the road to the national team was opened with the Olympic team of Bulgaria. Skender Begeja in “Popular Sport”, on 28.03. 1967 wrote: “Rivals explode attacks towards our goal, where Dimitrov maneuvered, fast and strong. In this part, the defense protected the opponent better. Vaso fought better with no. 7 Bulgarian and avoided his penetrations from their birth”. We won 2-0.
The meeting with the generals was approaching
“A short time ago, I had passed the exams at the Pedagogical High School in Tirana. The results were not bad. In Literature I got a 6, but in Geometry I got an 8 and in Algebra a 10. Maybe the school results were known by the members of the football committee. The chairman of this commission, Peti Shambëlli, called me and said: “Vaso, prepare the documents to continue studying at the Faculty of Law in Tirana”.
Everything was carefully thought out by them. Studies in Tirana would give me the opportunity to play with “Partizan”. This solution was not even taken as a violation of the decision that the Secretariat of the Central Committee had requested. Meanwhile, they were making all efforts for a meeting with the generals. In fact, it all happened by chance.
At the beginning of June we were in Durrës. We were preparing for the final match “Partizani” – “November 17”. The 1965-’66 seasons ended with that match. The table showed 38 points for both teams. To announce the title of national champion, the final match had to be played. Once, years ago, with equal points, “Dinamo” won the championship title in 1950 with a goal difference.
Before the 1957 championship, the goal difference rule was abolished. The extra game between “Dinamos” and “Partizani” would be played, winning 3-1. “Partizani” is declared national champion. In 1961, the same story was repeated again. “Partizani” won against “Dinamo”, except in extra time with the advantage goal of Panajot Panos, in the 212th minute. The fourth occasion made the teams of our time actors. Instead of “Dinamo”, the final match was played with “17 November”
In front of Beqir Balluk
“While we were in Durrës, the General Staff of the Army was also called for a national seminar. A few days later, five or six people, officers of the Ministry of People’s Defense and the “Partizani” Club, together with them and one of the team’s trainers came and told me: “Vaso, you will come with us”! “Where are we going?”, I asked them. “Come after us”! They returned to me. I understood that they would give me a surprise.
I started walking behind them in silence. We went up to the second floor of the small building, next to the central building of the Military Rest House in Durrës. “Someone wants to meet you”, they told me after a while. Intuition led me to believe that I would have a meeting with one of the major officers. I wasn’t wrong. The weather was hot that day. Our trail entered the porch of the two-story building. Barbell.
Sitting on a white plastic chair, Beqir Balluku was waiting for me! If I had to describe the soul of that man now, I would have to single out the simplicity, the laid word that freed you from the feeling of anxiety, from that indeterminate feeling that arose whenever one was in front of the great figures of the state of at that time.
Several men had taken their seats next to the Minister of Defense, sitting around him. One of them was the director of the Rest House. Together with a short and small officer, they got up and left with military honors. Two young officers did the same, after exchanging a few words on foot with the civilian-clad general, they left in a hurry.
The general beckoned me to come closer. Then he gestured to the chairs. I sit. Several other officers continued to stand. It was easy to understand that they were not sure whether they should stay or leave too. Balluku noticed the reluctance of his subordinates. “Sit down,” he said. I noticed that the word “sit” did not sound like an order at all.
It was said as a prayer is said. The officers looked each other in the eye and took their seats next to the general. Later I noticed that Beqir Balluku addressed his subordinates with the Italian word “Calmo”. If someone was in a hurry in the conversation or to quell the nervousness that he noticed in someone else, he used the word “Calmo”. I was waiting for what would happen”!
Conversation with Minister Balluku
“When everyone had taken their place. Beqir Balluku turned to me asking: “Vaso, when you are released from the army, will you go to Korça…?” I already had the chance to explain my desire. I don’t know how it happened, but I realized that I had started talking. I was excited: “I love my hometown and the “Skënderbeu” team, but I want to continue my studies in Tirana…! Then suddenly I thought that I should also express my opinion about “Partizan”, I continued: “I want to tell you that I like the shirt of “Partizan”, it encourages me, it mobilizes me, I find inspiration in it…! I was silent for just a moment, I don’t know how long, then I hastened to speak again, frightened by the thought that if I was late someone would interrupt me.
I hastened to speak quickly: “The climate created here by the managers, trainers, all the people of the Club warms me… I like the human and social spirit that exists within the Club; it inspires you to progress…! The general smiled, as if he wanted to tell me: “Yes, Vaso, you will stay with the ‘Partizan’ team.” It was a meeting that gave me a lot of hope. The general had said that he would see all the possibilities for me to stay in Tirana”.
In front of Mihallaq Ziçishti…!
After that meeting, I was starting to get bored. I had to go to Korça and inform the First Secretary of the district, Mihallq Ziçishti. His signature would pave the way for the course of my life. All the way I was thinking about what I would say to him. Of course, I would tell him about the meeting I had with General Balluku, I would also tell him about the studies I would continue at the Faculty of Law.
Upon arriving in Korça, I headed towards the Party Committee building. Everything was going in my favor. When he was in front of the building, he shot that Mihallq Ziçishti was leaving the Party Committee. We shook hands with each other. After the usual questions and answers, I started to tell him why I had come to see him. He started listening to me attentively. I told him everything.
When I had told him everything, I waited for what he would say to me, but suddenly I noticed that the smile with which he had greeted me at the beginning had disappeared from his face. He started talking to me, moving one of the fingers of his right hand, the one that pulls the trigger of the gun.
He kept his elbow resting near the right shadow, where the cobra is kept. Then he brought his hand near the middle and moved it as if to pinch the cobra where its sheath rests. He suddenly raised his voice: “As long as the coat that Enver Hoxha gave me will work for me (Ziçishti pretended to hit the cobra several times with his hand), you Vaso will return to Korçë”! I realized, my whole dream was completely crumbling…!
I wanted to find something to say to him: “What you told me, I asked him, (I was talking about the cobra), and should I tell General Balluk?” After I had said the word, I felt fear. Ziçishti could take my words as a threat. I waited for what would happen, but I was surprised again, he was not impressed by my words. At that moment he answered me: “Yes, or yes, tell anyone who might ask.”
After that I noticed that a light of triumph was shining in his eyes. I had always thought that the leaders of the state cooperated in a Christian spirit, but that day I realized that something hidden filled the relations between them. The leader of the Korça party addressed me again: “You will continue the school by correspondence”! His expression left no room for discussion.
Then he gave me a pleading look: “Goodbye in September here in Korça”, he returned. After that I saw him leave with the 69 “Gaz”, I don’t know where he was rushing to…! I returned to Tirana. I told the team leaders about the decision that Mihallq Ziçisti had made, but I didn’t want to remember his words that he had told me about the cobra.
It was at this time that interventions became more frequent. They called him from the Ministry of Defense, had meetings with him, and sent him letters and telegrams, the interventions continued until the end of August 1967. The answer coming from Ziçishti was always the same. “Teodor Vaso will come to Korça”!
“The moment of separation had come. On the canteen table of the “Partizani” Club, spoons and forks were visible next to the plates laid out for a soldiers’ banquet. Beer glasses, canisters of sliced and salty bread. The officers of the Club congratulated me with the words that are usually said: “Good luck and good luck”. We had lunch, sang a couple of songs from Korça, Shkodra, and then we took to the songs of Central Albania.
I took in my hands the gift of the “Partizani” Club, a football sports kit, and I met all my friends one by one. It was good to leave for Korça before dusk. Now when I remember all this, I can say that I have learned one thing: Only time has no end, being is temporary.
After a few years, Mihallaq Ziçishti moved to Durrës. At that time my game on the football field was closed. They gave me the job of coach. Returning to Korça gave me only one solution: to continue the Institute of Physical Culture “Vojo Kushi” by correspondence.
The dream of continuing higher studies at the Faculty of Law was dashed. Who knew if I had become a lawyer, I would probably travel in a luxury “Cadillac”, but even now I have a “Cadillac” with two wheels, it keeps my body’s muscular system prepared…”!
With this epilogue, he concludes his story, “The Meritorious Master of Sports”, Teodor Vaso, announced as the footballer of the century, according to a survey conducted in Korça, in 1999″. Memorie.al
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