Some people use their annual holiday for the Football World Cup. I only noticed that there even is a World Cup after planning my trip to Greece, Macedonia and Albania. I didn’t care, as long as it wouldn’t lead to trains being cancelled.
Thus, I was in the Albanian capital Tirana on 13 July 2014, the day of the final match between Germany and Argentina. The whole day I had seen people in Germany jerseys, German flags in front of restaurants and bars and on cars, and other black-red-golden markings. During a hike on Mount Dajti, I had met an Albanian who had pointed out that the parents of one of the German players, Shkodran Mustafi, actually came from Albania. But the enthusiasm for Germany seemed to be more general and independent of one player (who had to drop out due to an injury anyway). Already the day before, the lady who owned the pension where I stayed, had told me that she couldn’t wait for this World Cup to be over because she couldn’t bear the constant talk of “Germany, Germany” by her husband any longer.
The match was shown in every bar, ever restaurant, every garden. I could walk through all of Tirana without missing a second of the match. The largest congregation was in the center, where several huge screens had been put up, back to back, to that the viewers could watch from both sides. Each 50 or 100 meters there was another one of these sandwich screens, all the way through the pedestrian zone.
This is where I happened to pass by when the only goal of the match was scored:
And this was no neutral jubilation just because a goal had been scored. Even prior to that, the cheers had obviously been for the German team. I was however shocked to see that even in Albania, which had once been occupied by the Nazis, someone ran around with a “Deutschland über alles” placard. Lack of historical knowledge is a global phenomenon.
This boy couldn’t wait until the final whistle and started burning his flare prematurely:
When the match was finally over, the crowds were dancing as if Albania had become world champion:
Someone had brought along some fireworks (and I wonder if he would have used them for Argentina as well):
From the minaret of the nearby Et’hem Bey Mosque, the muezzin called “Allah u akbar”: God is great. That was really over the top, I thought.
Keep in mind: if you plan to escape the football frenzy during future European or World Cups, Albania is not a good destination. Apart from that, it is a very likeable country.