By Namik Mehmeti
-A story by the journalist, Namik Mehmeti, about the vicissitudes that Shkodra fans went through to follow the football world championships, like the one with the family of Eng. Basri Bektesh, who had brought a television from the Soviet Union, where over 200 people watched the Brazil-Italy final in the 70s…! –
Memorie.al / The World Football Championship, which ends on Sunday in Qatar, is the 9th championship that Albanians see uncensored, i.e. outside the restrictions of television broadcasts, where in Shkodër, the antennas on the mountain of Taraboshi broadcast the screens of the cameras of our televisions, making it impossible to watch the channels of the Federal Republic of Montenegro (then it was within Josif Broz Tito’s Yugoslavia) and Italy. Many episodes have been written about this negative phenomenon, which denied Albanians who are so football-loving, framed in sympathizer camps, cheering for Italy, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, England, Holland, etc., how the Albanians managed to put them out of action, the devices installed by the communist regime of that time, on top of the mountains, by means of can antennas, bicycle discs, etc.
But in the city of Shkodra, I remember that some families had televisions that they had brought from “capitalist Europe”, which were put to work, even with antennas manufactured to be installed, near the television set, finding the best point safe where the television waves penetrated. We went to the houses of some citizens of Shkodran, entered in groups and left as well, one by one, not attracting the attention of passers-by or any fanatical neighbors of that regime.
One of the “bases” that was frequented with invitations to follow the channels of Titograd, (today Podgorica), was the house of the driver (now deceased) Iljaz Çala, who was known by all Shkodrans as an ultra-fan of Brazil. It is even known that Iljazi had sent a telegram to the great Pelé for the victory of the 1970 World Cup, when in the final; Brazil won 4-1 against Italy. Those seven – eight fans that Iljazi invited to his house separated them from Brazil on one side and the fans of the rival team on the other side.
It is understood that everything was improvised in an apartment room, with an area of no more than 12 square meters. That improvised environment there was like a final in itself, as it had its own special atmosphere, as the host, after the victory of Brazil, treated his fans with Brazilian coffee, while the opponents, with surrogate coffee.
This had the humor inside that made the victory even more exciting. When the final, Brazil-Italy, was being played in Shkodër, i.e. in the 1970s, there were no more than five or six televisions in Shkodër families. A sports fan of “Vllaznia”, who was known by all Shkodran residents, the late Basri Bekteshi, had bought or brought from abroad, a Soviet television which he had transported from his house to his brother-in-law, his wife’s brother.
The television was placed on the lower floor, on a large surface, where benches were placed that had both the queue number and the seat number, just like in a cinema or theater. In the first row, reserved seats were placed for the football veterans of “Vllaznia”, such as Muhamet Dibra, Rifat Rusi, Xelal Juka, etc., who were the younger generation of sports masters.
Each of those present had the turn of the place where they had to sit in the invitation and also there they engaged the people of Basria’s relatives, to keep the order and turn on the television, it was assigned to do it, one of the most popular electronic engineers in Shkodër, Ilir Tyli. In that final, the well-known sports journalist, Besnik Dizdari, who had interrupted his vacation at the Razmēs summer camp, happened to be in Shkodër, just to watch that match.
After making sure where he could watch the match, he was surprised by the organization and, above all, by the number of attendees, which exceeded 200 people. When that makeshift movie theater was standing in silence, waiting for the match to start, the unexpected happened. Eng. Iliri, turned on the TV set, but the picture did not appear on the screen…!
Minutes passed and the signal did not activate. The cause was the breathing of over 200 people, where smoking was prohibited. So the temperature created and the temperature of that summer day exceeded 40 degrees, affecting the damage to the television set at the moment. Through the radio, we heard from the Italian commentator, the broadcast of the match, where the great Pelé and Italy’s Bonisegna scored.
Then the hall began to empty and with my childhood friend, Besnik (Dizdari), we headed to the “Vllaznia” Sports Club, which luckily was close to the house, where dozens of fans had gathered outside, but the doors were closed. One of the employees of the club gave us the opportunity to enter through a window, where we watched the second half. Brazil won 4-1, where three more goals were scored by Gerson, Jairzinho and Carlos Alberto. Shkodra was seething from the discussions of the match.
The “People’s Garden” in front of the Great Cafe, was completely full. We asked to drink some beer to wet the esophagus, but even that pleasure was not realized, since, as many food items were missing that were used in token, the beer that came from Tirana, (with a “Skoda” truck with an open trailer) was limited .
Then, television sets began to increase in Shkodër, after the Radio-Television Factory in the city of Durrës, began to increase production. My brother, Reshat, after serving as a teacher for about two decades in the deep villages of Puka, on the eve of the transfer, as a reward, they gave him a television authorization. This and the acquaintance he had with the head of education, the late Mehmet Hoti, from Shkodra.
He brought the television from Puka, on the eve of the start of the 1974 World Cup, this championship which, as is known, took place in West Germany. So for us, they would take skirts and jackets in search of a door to see a match, and more. In the neighborhood where we lived, near the Franciscan Church, that is, in the center of Pjaca, we were surrounded by families of fanatical communists, who watched carefully who entered and left the door of the house…!
This vigilance increased when, above the tower of our house, the antenna was raised. It was an antenna with several elements that were arranged in a pattern to pick up banned stations. And surprisingly, that antenna also picked up the signals of Radio Television of Pristina, this station that did not broadcast just one match, like the State Television of Albania, but more than two or even three matches.
Therefore, when our cousins learned about this privilege that Radio-Television of Prishtina was offering us, they rushed to come especially for regular matches like with me. These entrances and exits to our house, (where my father was called a birder, after he had served eight years in political prison), had attracted the attention of the neighbors. It didn’t take long and, a former employee of the State Security Organs, (D.L.), but who had retired, one day, entering the house, stopped me and asked me:
– “How many people come to you, hour after hour…”?!
– They come with me without the World Cup, – I answered.
He usually sat in front of the door of his house in the afternoons sitting on a bench. As soon as he received my answer, he stood up and fired the next question, but already focused.
– “Why, your antenna picks up the Italian and Yugoslav stations”?
– No, – was my answer. And I added that; we watch the World Cup matches on Prishtina Television. He was silent for a moment, but as a provocation, he said to me: – “Can I come too, I saw the match today, Germany – Yugoslavia”?
I had no reason to refuse his request. In fact, D.L. was a football fan and especially for “Vllaznina” he had a lot of weakness. I entered the house and there I found three or four people, nephews of my father and mother. I told my father about the above. At the moment, he was surprised and said: – “I’m surprised; he doesn’t speak to me every time we meet on our way, but no, let me order.”
D.L. knew that his father had served eight years in prison, convicted as an “enemy of the people”, after he had faithfully served the Monarchy of Zogu, as prefect and mayor, in different districts of the country, from Vermoshi to Jergucat. At the moment, the cousins also felt bad, but the father calmed them down, ordering them to talk as little as possible and not show support for either team.
In fact, when he entered, he gave a greeting, sat in the chair left empty, and watched only the first half. As it came in, so it came out. But we all sat as if on thorns, and when he left, it was as if everyone was out of breath. I led him to the door of the courtyard, where he stopped for a moment, directing me: – “Look, don’t tell anyone that I was here after the match. The ones that come to you go in and out, but not in a group. What you see in Prishtina, do not discuss outside the house. Don’t play with fire, because once you get burned.”
I just shook my head and it seemed like a long time until he got over the door handle. But, after that visit and conversation with D.L., confrontations with the Neighborhood Council, the Democratic Front, and even with the president of the women’s organization did not take long! That antenna at that height above our house “should not make too much noise, with the orders of the Party, in order to be protected from the propaganda of the enemies of Albania, through the television”.
Even a representative of the neighborhood had to give an account of where the metal pipe where we had placed the antenna was taken! In fact, even with father’s pressure, we were forced to lower the antenna, sheltering it under the roof, where our relatives, the younger ones, got tired of finding the nerve center of the TV station of Radio-Television of Pristina.
So, not losing a single game of the World Cup in Germany, until the final of July 7, 1974, where the West Germany of the famous coach Helmut Saint became the world champion, who defeated the Netherlands in the final, with the result 2-1, with goals of Paul Braitner and Geërd Mueller, while for the Netherlands, Johan Neeskens scored (with the penalty awarded by the referee of the meeting, the Englishman Jack Taylor) in the second minute of the match.
All these episodes that I experienced here half a century ago, I remembered as fresh in these days of the World Championship that is taking place in Qatar. But, I cannot stay without mentioning that the communist dictatorship of Enver Hoxha, has not been spared even on the days of the world football championships, to make arrests and punishments, “in the name of the people”, by means of the infamous law, “propaganda agitation”, but we will talk about these in another article. Memorie.al