Matchworn Kliton Bozgo 15.11.1995 ALB 🇦🇱 : WLS 🏴 1-1
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.
Collecting football shirts more often than not involves a great deal of detective work:
From simply googling new designs, to finding contacts and – in this case – digging through old grainy videos, looking for pictures and information in both Albanian and Welsh and matching player pictures with blurry video stills.
It could have been easy, as the tag in the neck of my shirt clearly says “Albania – 15.11.95”, the date when Albania hosted Wales for the EURO 1996 qualifiers.
“But anyone could have scribbled that on the tag!”, you might say – and you’re absolutely right!
Further research yields that the design has also been worn twice against Germany, however, a closer look reveals that the Uhlsport logo on the shirt was different for those games
Then, after entering the magic letters “Shqipëria Uellsit futbolli 1995” (Albanian for “Albania Wales football 1995”) a close-up picture of the Wales game emerges, clearly showing Albanian captain Sokol Kushta wearing a shirt with the same style of numbers and a black Uhlsport logo – bingo!
But wait! The number on my shirt looks weird!? Is that #9 actually an upside down #6? A clue?
Finally, after rewatching a fuzzy, green-tinged highlight video of the game, a player wearing an inverted #9 enters the frame, suggesting that the kitman both applied #6 and #9 the wrong way around! At last, I can confidentially say that my shirt was worn when Albania faced Wales in 1995 and, by the process of elimination, I can also deduce that the player who wore the jersey was striker Kliton Bozgo.
This amazing shirt brings back memories of the first German Bundesliga season I actively watched, when then league runner-up 1. FC Kaiserslautern would wear this iconic design made by German manufacturer Uhlsport. Stripes, color transitions, zigzag, tiny squares, dotted lines – it’s got the whole 90’s shebang! While the shirt is in fantastic condition, the printed Albania badges has lost a bit of its color, whereas the (inverted) numbers are still in great shape. Even better, it’s a long sleeve shirt, so even more fabric for the buck!
Finally, there’s only one last question to be answered:
Is this the greatest Albania shirt of all time? Yes, it is!