From Uvil ZAJMI
The first part
– The “Sporti Popullor” newspaper mocked the Dutch who came to Tirana with female journalists in miniskirts and with food, but Mihal Kanini, the chef of the “Dajti” hotel, refused to cook for them! –
Memorie.al / Two matches with rare stories inside and outside. From the historic tie with which the white and blue stunned the giants of Europe, to the footballers who received “debt”, and when Hotel “Dajti” refused the food, they had brought with them. How did the press comment at the time, when in the capital, they saw female journalists in miniskirts, at Ali Pazari and why Cruyff stayed on the bench? Why was Kazanxhiu activated in the second half, scoring the goal that surprised the opponents, who did not know the real motive? It was September 16, 1970, when “Total Voetball” would start from “Qemal Stafa”, with the challenge “November 17” – “Ajax” 2-2!
Goglat in Nion, “November 17” on the beach at “Iliria”!
June 1970, the footballers are on the beach, in the cabins in the “Illyria” area in Durrës, spending the summer holidays. From the news at 15:00, on Radio-Tirana, they were informed about the lottery, which was received with enthusiasm. The team gathered at the “Donika” hotel in Tirana, in the morning run to the lake, in the afternoon, training in the “City of Students”. The last two weeks, the midday training took place at the “Dinamo” stadium, because it was a grass field, not dry land.
A few days before the match, three analyzes were organized, with party leaders, the member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the PPSh, Deputy Prime Minister Manush Myftiu, who held a normal conversation, without setting any conditions with party directives, current for the time. , while Beqir Balluku, Minister of Defense, also assists in Monday’s training at the “Dinamo” stadium. He met the team and said: “I have faith in you, you will play a good match with a positive result”. On the day of the match, coach Lym Alla did not make a special analysis.
Not having much information about “Ajax”, he built the technical-tactical analysis of the meeting, based on the strength of his team, the individual skills of the players, the collective game, traditions, sacrifices, etc. Meanwhile, there was talk of a young man named Johan Cruyff, but he was only seen in Ajax training, catching balls behind the goal, as he had no children. For this meeting, “November 17”, received as reinforcement, three footballers: Iljaz Çeco and Gani Xhafa from “Dinamo” and Din Zhega from Vllazniye.
Threshold challenge, great heat, only a few words in the dressing room, Lym Alla was very indifferent. No comments, no conversation, but without forgetting the moment of entering the field, he approached the goalkeeper, saying: “Listen to Konomi, even if you concede 20 goals, don’t break your head” – says Konomi. “Then comes the control of the shoes, where Djuxh Kazanxhiu, who was not allowed to play, we had almost all the others (few football players had shoes with plastic heels), with flat heels, someone even managed to escape the control, getting involved to the spectators who were on the track”.
Hotel “Dajti” refuses Dutch food!
Since “Ajax” was coming to Albania for the first time, just like many teams when they go to unknown places, as Tirana was for them in the 70s, the team had taken with them a considerable amount of food. But such an action was rejected by Mihal Kanini, the chef of the “Dajti” hotel, a well-known master in this profession, who objected to the use of food brought by the Dutch, mainly sausages. There was a reaction from their side, but meeting his firm stance, they didn’t last. Even, when they left, they distributed all the food to the hotel staff. Only Mihal was given nothing, as the person who had ordered and forbidden their use.
Towards “Cemal Staff”, “Popular Sport” reacts, but there is another historic start!
For the match “17 November” – “Ajax”, in the newspaper “Sporti Popullor”, Prokop Kureta, would write: “Ajax” (a name of a hero of Greek mythology), came to play against “17 November” , sure that the victory was in his pocket. The Ajax procession, consisting of managers, players and journalists with long hair, bushy beards, numerous cameras, and a variety of brightly colored costumes (where miniskirts were also not missing), descends heavily, full of pomp, just like in the theater, the hotel stairs and boarded the bus, which will take them to the ‘Qemal Stafa’ National Stadium.
Many passers-by shrug their shoulders and ask each other: ‘Where did these come from? What are they? How will they be in football?! Meanwhile, the team came to Tirana with claims and the coach-general, Michels, had taken everyone, the young Krujfi, Hulshof, Surbier, Neskens, etc. But it was not just a match, the surprise result, the emotions until the end of the game. Since that meeting, five decades have passed, no one thought that; “the triumphant step, that team, with total football, would start from Tirana” – as described by R. La Monica, in “Coppa Campioni Story”.
It was a hot afternoon, in the overcrowded “Qemal Staff”, that 16th of September 1970, Wednesday, 90 minutes that attacks the last century, from where a new style of play would take its place, probably the most famous system in the history of world football, represented by “Ajax” of the Netherlands, would start. A big, modern, completely different football, “Total Football” would be called, dominant in years, extraordinary, inimitable with “Ajax” of the 70s, with the coach Michels, a former player who also invented it. When Michels moved to “Barcelona” in 1971, he passed the baton to the Romanian coach, Stefan Kovač.
The bicycle guard, Ali Pazari, who surprised the Dutch!
They had not encountered in any other country, the fact that a man systematized and preserved in a very original way, the fans’ bicycles, during a football match. As soon as they arrived at “Qemal Stafa”, curious to see its surroundings, the atmosphere, they noticed that people came to the stadium on bicycles.
Even the group of Dutch journalists saw that in a corner, in the northern part (Today the “Palace of Congresses”) a charming person, thin, modern in clothes, with a typical hat, smiling, communicative and very popular, with a hand-held radio around his neck, people would hand him the bike and he would place them one after the other, with rare speed and certainty. Even catching in the “air”, with an unprecedented skill, the metal coin, which they threw to him from a distance, as a price for its preservation. A fact that prompted them to take out their cameras, photograph and film the famous Ali Pazar, who in his own way communicated with them, after speaking a few words in a foreign language.
Injured, Johan Cruyff watches the match from the bench
“Ajax” came the day before the meeting and, as usual, the entire delegation, including 30 journalists, TV anchors, among them women, settled in the “Dajti” Hotel. Beautifully dressed in formal suits, long hair, tall, imposing bodies, a period imitation of the famous music group “Beatles”. At noon on Tuesday, a familiarization session at “Qemal Stafa”, which was attended by fans, curious, but also by “17 November” football players. The next day the match, under a scorching sun and heat, not very comfortable for the Dutch, in a rarely overcrowded stadium.
Johan Cruyff, went to training the day before, and while he was expected to play, he stayed on the bench, with the knee of his left leg bandaged and to protect him, the staff had thought not to activate. Of the few who had information about him and knew him, was coach Myslym Alla. “Look at that boy, very soon you will see how great a football player he will become” – Lymi addressed some of his friends. Harie Haan was also part of the team, but he was not activated either.
Gani Xhafa, coach Alla’s favorite reinforcement!
“Coach Myslym Alla liked the way I played, and there were several meetings that ‘November 17’ took me as a reinforcement. In Liège against “Standard”, I was activated as a right defender, and there I played under the name of Osman Mema. When ‘Ajax’ came, the day before in training, we went to see him, we stayed in the stands. In Albania in those years, we played with Chinese balls, while in that meeting, we played with their balls, Adidas, and the match ball was held by the referee” – Gani Xhafa recounts.
From the photo, to the jerseys, different from tradition!
Only one photo of the “November 17” team exists from that match, not even the one usually taken before the match, but another, fixed when the Tirana players came out to warm up. But it has a rare content: In the formation that came out on the field, it is not Kazanxhi, who appears in the historical photo. Given that the referee, during the routine check of the players’ uniforms before the match, found irregularities in his shoes, not allowing him to enter the game.
Unable to find others, or fix them, Çeço was activated, whose activation created an unclear situation for journalists, chroniclers and fans, since he did not even appear in the preliminary lists of the protocol. Pavllo Bukovik is not even in that photo, not included in the lineup, this is another fact that surprised the attendees, when he had been a starter and a key player in many championship matches, as well as the captain of the team, against “Standard” of Liege, one year ago. Then the photos with Konomi, the giant goalkeeper, when before the start of the game, some of their prey approached him, taking pictures of him, while he stood with his hands in the middle, on one of the goalposts.
Meanwhile, “November 17”, unlike the traditional uniform, did not play with white and blue vertical stripes, but with blue ones, this was also an unexpected surprise for that meeting. Why and what was the motive, no one had accurate information! Although nostalgic leaders of the Club, oriented the blue color, as the traditional one over the years. They were jerseys that were taken out of warehouses and smelled of mold from old age and disuse! In the same way, “Ajax” came to the field with a cherry-colored shirt.
Gifts are not accepted; “They are firms, capitalist production”!
Before the meeting, the team, leaders of “Ajax”, have given the footballers of “November 17”, something symbolic, a Club flag and a small football miniball, “Adidas”, but with an absurd order, some of the players did not accept, since they were produced in a capitalist country, like Hong Kong, although some others kept them! While the goalkeeper Konomi remembers: “I ordered the gloves at the fur store, then I took two table tennis rackets, removed the porous rubber band and attached them to the gloves, with which I played.” The match was broadcast by Radio Televizoni Albanian, still experimental, under the commentary of Ismet Bellova and Skifter Këlliç, who alternated from a part of the game, on radio and television.
Shoe heels that write history…!
Under the direction of the referee, the teams are ready for the start of the game, but in “November 17”, Xhuxh Kazanxhi does not play and in his place, it is Iljaz Çeço. What is likely in the stadium tunnel before the start of the match? In the routine check, the referees found that Kazanxhiu’s shoes have exposed soles, which pose a danger to the players on the field of play and do not allow him to activate. So coach Myslym Alla, at that moment of speed, replaces him with Iljaz Çeço.
A sudden absence of Kazanxhi, sitting on the bench, creating great doubt, since he was a player of the formation, even of the national team in that historic 0-0 draw, with West Germany, and no one was informed of the real motive, at least until halftime, as the information was confusing and only after the match, something was clarified about his non-activation.
Iljaz Çeço, from the bench to the field!
“Cheço, we will activate in the second. “Ajax” is a strong team; they need new forces and that’s how we thought to play in the second half” Lymi tells me before the match. “But suddenly, when the teams were still in the corridor ready to go out, Enver Shehu comes: ‘Undress quickly’ – he tells me – you will play instead of Xuxi, as the referee does not allow him to enter the game.” Caught by surprise, I’m not ready, I answer. “Put on the tights, take the jersey with No. 14 and go out into the field’.
I was a little late, and I found myself on the field as soon as Din Zhega, Aali Mema and Skënder Hyka played the first ball for the start of the match. I tell the players, don’t pass the ball to me, I’m out of heat, I’ll take a break. Without knowing the motive and completely unprepared psychologically, in those few minutes, I did not know where I was. Not only for me, but also for the opinion, my activation was unexpected. However, over time I got oriented, I played the whole match, I even passed the ball to Zhega in the equalizing goal” – remembers Iljza Çeço.
The first ball from the center is played by Hyka, Zhega and Mema. The people of Tiran have emotions, they appear cautious, the big name of “Ajax” scares them. The match had two appearances. First, when everyone was numb, pressing in the midfield by the Dutch, the first goal comes: Hulshof-Neskens, surround Kasmi, grab the ball and the defender Surbier, quite intelligent, who participates in the action started from the right wing, after a 50-meter run, it suddenly happened in front of the goal, Tokazi hits, Konomi touched it, but was unable to deflect it. The second half has a different presentation, although the Dutch, as a photocopy of the first, achieve it again: the ’58s, after receiving the ball in the midfield, they let go of the goal and again with Surbier they scored after a calibrated shot outside the area. 2-0, it looks like there is no game left and it’s all over….
“Xux” Kazanxhi, how many “doubts”?
Kazanxhi goes out in the warm-up, the shoes are no longer a problem, since in the span of the first 45 minutes, in a room of the stadium, with circumstantial means, Met Hyka repaired what he could repair. “Xuxi” entered the field around the 57th minute, not already checked by the referee, when just a few moments ago, the Dutch doubled the numbers. Minute 58, still without touching the ball, in an unassuming attack from the northern gate of “Qemal Stafa”, Kazanxhi bravely follows an arched ball from Ben Çela inside the “Ajax” area, avoids the intervention of the captain, the Yugoslav Velibor Vasovic wins the duel against Berri Hulshof and heads the ball into Stuy’s net, surprising everyone.
The numbers change to 1-2, hopes for another result are restored. The Dutch are confused. In the last ten minutes of the meeting, the two defensive players of “17 November”, Fatmir Frashëri and Perikli Dhale, suffered injuries and although they were given the possible treatment by the Tirana medical staff, (in conditions and with primitive instruments), replacement was not possible. after what was allowed by the regulation was done, they stayed on the field. Precisely in that period, the figures have been equalized, after that combination Zhega-Çeço-Zhega. 2-2, a great, surprising result, a surprise for the European media, very historic for the Albanian Club as well.
“November 17” – “Ajax”, will thus record the first official match, with which total football will start the epochal, unrepeatable cycle. Although Cruyff will be absent in the two meetings, this is the first historical formation of “Ajax”, in that start with “Total” football, in the early 70s, with coach Michels, who also devised that game system. When Michels moved to Barcelona in 1971, the baton passed to the Romanian Stefan Kovač. Without forgetting Johan Cruyff, the unique performer of that inimitable, spectacular football.
Unknown and very enigmatic for the Dutch, that a football player with such a tall physique, typical of their style, who was not activated at the beginning of the game, has made them think that it was a tactical choice of coach Myslym Alla . This was reinforced more when Kazanxhi headed the first goal as soon as he entered the game. Physically fresh, tactical player, he has created some concern for them, then paying attention by marking him with 2-3 players. Only later, after receiving information from journalists accompanying the team, were they informed about the real reason for not activating Kazanxhiu at the beginning of the game, because of the shoes with high heels, not allowed by the Austrian referee!
Wednesday, September 16, 1970, 2 p.m., “Qemal Stafa” national stadium
November 17 Ajax 2-2 (0-2)
November 17: Konomi (Habibi 61), Frashëri, Dhales, Kasmi, Xhafa, A. Mema, Çeço, Xhaçka (Kazanxhi 58′), Çela, Hyka, Zhega. Tr. M. Alla. (Substitutions: ’57 Kazanxhi for Niko Xhačka ’57; Durim Hatibi for M. Konomi ’61).
Ajax: Stuy, Hulshoff, Krol, Surrbier, Vasovic, Muhren, Rijnders, Nesskens, Van Dijk, Keizer, Stëart. Tr. Michels.
Scorers: Suurbier ’19, ’58, Kazanxhi ’59, Zhega ’85.
Referee: P. Schiller, Uxa, Mayer (Austria).
The departure, immediately after the match!
After the raging match, in the “Ajax” locker room, coach Rinus Michels could be heard screaming at his players. While the “Robur” bus with the Tirana football players, it took an hour to return to the “Donika” hotel (the main boulevard, near the editorial office of the Zeri i Populli newspaper), as the road was filled with enthusiastic people. that had blocked the central boulevard. While on the pages of “Popular Sport”, we read: “The Amsterdam clan, left Tirana without fuss and noise, head down.
Even in the stadium, the coach refused to answer the journalists’ questions, while in Rinas he changed his mind, admitting that he was surprised by the game of ‘November 17’ and never thought that they would find in Tirana, an opponent of such. But he did not have the courage to say that he came from Holland with a different opinion and is leaving our country with a different one”. It was Tirana, that 90 minutes in “Qemal Stafa”, that draw, that season from where “Ajax” will start the great European cycle, while on “November 17” the collapse begins, up to the “threat” for it dropped into the Second Category. But let’s continue with the return challenge…! Memorie.al
The next issue follows