ALBANIA

Goalkeeper 1997/98

Matchprepared/Matchworn by Blendi Nallbani

Manufacturer: Puma

Source: Small ads

THE TEAM

The end of the 90s was a turbulent time for Albania. A civil war that was sparked by a huge pyramid scheme fraud, led to many Albanians leaving the country (apparently, Albanian’s love pyramids, as they build a huge one in memory of their former dictator Enver Hoxha).

This was also the time when more and more Albanian players like Altin Rraklli, Igli Tare and Besnik Hasi arrived at the German Bundesliga.

In 1997, those players would face their Bundesliga colleagues during two World Cup 1998 qualification matches. While Albania’s national team finished last in their qualification group, their matches against Germany were extremely close. Losing their first clash 2-3, the team almost achieved a 3-3 draw in the second game, where Oliver Bierhoff scored the decisive goal in the very last minute of the match.

The biggest achievement in Albania’s football history, however, came in 2016, when the country wrapped up their first ever participation at a major tournament, when the beat Armenia 3-0 and eventually qualified for the 2016 UEFA Euro.

THE SHIRT

This shirt gets a head-shake from me – an Albanian one that is – as the affirmative nod and the disagreeing head-shake are interchanged in the Albanian culture, causing embarrassing situations for unknowing tourists (like myself).

I first fell in love with this Puma goalkeeper template, when I watched the 1996 UEFA Euro final between Germany and the Czech Republic and saw Czech keeper Petr Kouba wearing it during his fantastic performance.

24 years and a random encounter on small ads later, the shirt is finally in my possession, albeit, from a different nation.

After an extensive research, I was able to find videos of Albania’s keeper Foto Strakosha wearing the design in the aforementioned game against Germany. As substitute goalkeeper Blendi Nallbani wore the number 12 during that time, I assume that the shirt was prepared for either the Germany match or a later one against Portugal.

The pattern on the front really makes you dizzy when you look at it up close - possible the reason why Germany struggled that much...

Goalkeeper Foto Strakosha during Albania's 2-3 loss against Germany.

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