Manaj moves to Pisa after lackluster half season with Pescara

Manaj moves to Pisa after lackluster half season with Pescara

TIRANA, Jan. 19 – Albania’s promising forward Rey Manaj will spend the rest of the season with Pisa in Italy’s Serie B following a lackluster six months with Pescara at the top Italian league. The Albania-born, Italy raised 19-year-old striker

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Albania’s sole Olympic record holder dies at 73

Albania’s sole Olympic record holder dies at 73

TIRANA, Jan. 18 – One of Albania’s best weightlifters, Olympic Games  record holder in the no longer practiced clean and press style, Ymer Pampuri, has died at the age of 73 in his hometown of Tirana following a heart attack.

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Albania’s chances for major World Cup debut increase as FIFA expands tournament to 48 teams

Albania’s chances for major World Cup debut increase as FIFA expands tournament to 48 teams

TIRANA, Jan. 18 – FIFA’s recent unanimous decision to expand the World Cup to 48 teams from 2026 has been hailed by Albania whose chances of a first-ever participation significantly increase following the major 2016 debut at the European championship.

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Sadiku back to Swiss top league with Lugano

Sadiku back to Swiss top league with Lugano

TIRANA, Jan. 9 – Albanian international Armando Sadiku is back to the top Swiss league after spending the first half of the season with his Zurich club which seems on track for a return to the Swiss Super League. The

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Mavraj moves to Hamburger in mission to save club from first-ever relegation

Mavraj moves to Hamburger in mission to save club from first-ever relegation

TIRANA, Dec. 28 – Albania’s international center back Mergim Mavraj has moved to Hamburger from Cologne on a two-and-a-half-year deal for a €1.8 million fee in a surprise move as the defender was playing one of his best seasons, having

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Partizani beats Skenderbeu to keep alive decades-long title hopes

Partizani beats Skenderbeu to keep alive decades-long title hopes

TIRANA, Dec. 23 – Partizani came from behind to beat reigning champions Skenderbeu 2-1 in a priceless victory to keep their title hopes alive and narrow their gap with Superliga leaders Kukes who were held to a draw by newly

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Skenderbeu could face further match-fixing sanctions, UEFA warns

Skenderbeu could face further match-fixing sanctions, UEFA warns

TIRANA, Dec. 8 – Albania’s six straight Superliga winners could face further sanctions over match fixing allegation following a one-year ban from European competition, a senior UEFA official has warned. Emilio Garcia, the head of the UEFA disciplinary and integrity

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Kukes hold Partizani to lead Albanian Superliga

Kukes hold Partizani to lead Albanian Superliga

TIRANA, Dec. 7 – Kukes held Partizani to goalless draw on Tuesday in a key encounter with a direct title rival that saw the northeastern club with not much history in Albania’s top league lead the Superliga on better goal

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Albania’s Mergim Mavraj makes it to surprise Bundesliga team

Albania’s Mergim Mavraj makes it to surprise Bundesliga team

TIRANA, Nov. 24 – Albanian international center-back Mergim Mavraj has made it to the surprise Bundesliga team this season with his Koln team ranking fourth in the German top league, in one of its best-ever positions that could secure the

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Albania’s Shkelzen Gashi claims U.S. Major League Soccer ‘Goal of the Year’ award

Albania’s Shkelzen Gashi claims U.S. Major League Soccer ‘Goal of the Year’ award

TIRANA, Nov. 16 – Albanian international striker Shkelzen Gashi has claimed the Goal of the Year award at the U.S. Major League Soccer with a wonder left-footed free kick he converted for his Colorado Rapids last September. Gashi, who has

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 19 - Albania's promising forward Rey Manaj will spend the rest of the season with Pisa in Italy's Serie B following a lackluster six months with Pescara at the top Italian league.

The Albania-born, Italy raised 19-year-old striker will join Pisa on loan from Inter Milan in a bid to save the Serie B club from relegation.

Manaj scored twice in 12 appearances for Pescara in the first half of this season, but was not a first choice for coach Massimo Oddo with whom he also had some arguments. With the season already at its halfway stage, newly promoted Pescara and their captain, Albanian international Ledian Memushaj, find themselves in the relegation zone having collected only 9 points in 19 matches.

Manaj will join two other Albanian players at Pisa, Albanian international striker Edgar Cani and Kosovo goalkeeper Samir Ujkani, a former Albanian international.

The talented 19-year old forward is seen as a key player for Albania's attack and has been singled out by Albania's Italian coach Gianni De Biasi among emerging talents.

“I don’t like talking about special individuals as the team spirit has been and remains our strength. But I could think about Manaj who plays at the Italian championship and who will for sure be part of our team in the future. He is now gaining experience and his potential is well-recognized by everybody,” De Biasi has said.

Manaj scored one goal in three appearances for the national side.
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_130733" align="alignright" width="300"]Pampuri sets a world record at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games Pampuri sets a world record at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games[/caption]

TIRANA, Jan. 18 - One of Albania's best weightlifters, Olympic Games  record holder in the no longer practiced clean and press style, Ymer Pampuri, has died at the age of 73 in his hometown of Tirana following a heart attack.

In 1972, Pampuri set a world record at the Munich Olympic Games for the press at featherweight lifting 127.5 kg, finishing ninth overall following an injury. He has since been a world record holder in the clean and press which later in 1972 was removed from competition due to difficulties in judging proper technique and health concerns.

In one of his rare interviews, Pampuri recalled how Albania's communist authorities of that time took him to a psychiatrist for his comments that he would come back as a champion from the Olympic Games and how he was punished for giving an interview with a foreign TV upon his return.

Albania sent a team of four shooters and a weightlifter to the Munich 1972 Olympic Games but the team did not reappear at the Olympic Games until 1992 when the communist regime collapsed.

Weightlifting has traditionally been Albania’s best performing Olympic discipline at international competitions. Ilirjan Suli finished fifth in the men’s middleweight category at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and Romela Begaj was sixth in the women’s lightweight at Beijing 2008.
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_130725" align="alignright" width="300"]Coach Gianni De Biasi Coach Gianni De Biasi[/caption]

TIRANA, Jan. 18 - FIFA's recent unanimous decision to expand the World Cup to 48 teams from 2026 has been hailed by Albania whose chances of a first-ever participation significantly increase following the major 2016 debut at the European championship.

The world football governing body’s decision which adds another 16 teams starting with the 2026 tournament will also benefit the European World Cup qualifiers with the number of teams expected to make it to the World Cup increasing to at least 16 from a current 13. The new tournament will have a format with 48 teams split into 16 groups of three with the top two advancing to a 32-team knockout stage.

Albania's Italian coach Gianni De Biasi, who has been in charge of the national side since 2011 and managed to take Albania to a first-ever major tournament such as the Euro 2016, says the decision increases Albania's chances just as the latest European championship did by expanding the competition to 24 teams from a previous 16.

"There is no doubt I am with the minnows. If we are given more opportunities to reach the World Cup, what we can do is only smile at this choice," De Biasi has said.

"I think this is the best chance for changing the tournament's basis and format. The Euro 2016 taught us that small realities such as Albania, Wales and Ireland can compete at high levels even without the important tradition on their backs,” he adds.

Armand Duka, the president of Albania's football association, has described the FIFA decision, as positive development that increase's Albania's chances for a World Cup debut.

"It is an extra opportunity but it does not considerably make it easier to get qualified. The extra teams Europe could get is five to six which means that in addition to the group leaders in the qualifying stage, 70 to 80 percent of the second placed teams will also make it," says Duka now on his fourth term as the head of Albania’s head of the football association which he has led for the past 15 years.

After its historic direct qualification for the Euro 2016 and failing to make it as the third-best team at the knockout stage only on goal difference, Albania has been facing some tough times in its Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying bid.

Albania’s hopes for a third place and a possible play-off opportunity in the World Cup qualifiers received a severe blow in late 2016 following losses to Spain and Israel.

With seven other qualifiers to go, Albania now see themselves fourth with 6 points, trailing Israel by 3 points and group leaders Spain and Italy by four points.

Although mathematically Albania can still remain hopeful for a miracle second place which would award them a play-off opportunity, their qualifying bid looks like a mission impossible now as former World Champions Italy and Spain seem unrivaled in the fight for the group’s first two places.

The Red & Blacks will travel to Italy on March 14, 2017 to conclude the first round of group matches for the Russia 2018 World Cup qualifiers.

 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 9 - Albanian international Armando Sadiku is back to the top Swiss league after spending the first half of the season with his Zurich club which seems on track for a return to the Swiss Super League. The 25-year-old striker who has been decisive with his goals for the national side during the past couple of years will play the rest of the season with Lugano on loan from Zurich. The transfer came as Italian Paolo Tramezzani recently quit as Albania's assistant coach to take over Lugano in the Swiss top league in a bid to save it from relegation.

"I am happy to be back to Lugano and wearing the black and white jersey again to spend the second half of the season in the Super League," Sadiku has said.

"I know Lugano quite well and we now have Tramezzani [Italian coach] whom we worked with for five years with the national side. I know how things work in this club and for me it is an advantage to get quickly familiar," says Sadiku who played for Lugano in the 2012-2013 season.

Sadiku, who scored six goals for Zurich this season, including one in the Europa League, returned to the pitch in late November 2016 after a two-month injury and surgery that also saw him missing two of Albania key World Cup qualifiers against Spain and Israel.

“In addition to helping Lugano remain in the top Swiss league, I want to score as many goals as possible. I want to regain my top form and I believe here in Switzerland it will be easier than elsewhere because the injury I went through was not easy," says the center forward.  Sadiku, who started his career in his hometown of Elbasan, central Albania, has been playing in Switzerland since 2011.

Having scored seven goals with the national side, including one in the first-ever European championship appearance against Romania at the Euro 2016, Sadiku has been a reference point in Albania's attack in the past couple of years.

Albania's hopes for a third place and a possible play-off opportunity in the World Cup qualifiers received a severe blow in late 2016 following losses to Spain and Israel.

With seven other qualifiers to go, Albania now see themselves fourth with 6 points, trailing Israel by 3 points and group leaders Spain and Italy by four points.

Although mathematically Albania can still remain hopeful for a miracle second place which would award them a play-off opportunity, their qualifying bid looks like a mission impossible now as former World Champions Italy and Spain seem unrivaled in the fight for the group’s first two places.

The Red & Blacks will travel to Italy on March 14, 2017 to conclude the first round of group matches for the Russia 2018 World Cup qualifiers.

 

 
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_130581" align="alignright" width="300"]Mergim Mavraj Mergim Mavraj poses with his new jersey[/caption]

TIRANA, Dec. 28 - Albania's international center back Mergim Mavraj has moved to Hamburger from Cologne on a two-and-a-half-year deal for a €1.8 million fee in a surprise move as the defender was playing one of his best seasons, having made it to the surprise Bundesliga team after an injury that kept him off the pitch for 20 games last season.

One of the best Bundesliga teams and the only side to have never been relegated, Hamburger find themselves in one of the most difficult moments of their century-long history this season when they currently rank 16th out of 18, being in the relegation play-off.

Meanwhile, Cologne has been one of the Bundsliga surprise teams this season ranking seventh through halfway stage.

"To many people, this move was a surprise, but the Cologne contract coming to an end and huge interest by the Hamburger coach and staff made me make this step," Mavraj has said.

"I am happy I will have the opportunity to play for Hamburger from the start of the second stage. I am proud I was chosen to help this club and look forward to joining the team in January," he added.

Mavraj played 46 games with FC Cologne since joining in summer 2014, being a key player, especially this season when he was in the starting XI in every match.

“For Mergim, the offer from HSV [Hamburger] was an attractive one. We spoke openly about his situation after he informed us about the HSV offer,” said Cologne General Manager Jörg Schmadtke. “For Cologne, Mergim was a reliable pro and a team player, who contributed to the success of this team. We would like to thank him for his time in the FC jersey,” he added.

The 30-year Germany-born Albanian defender of Kosovo roots, joined the Albanian national team in 2010 and has since become a regular starter. He had a key contribution to Albania’s historic Euro 2016 campaign also scoring two goals against Armenia and France.

 
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_130555" align="alignright" width="300"]ekuban Partizani striker Caleb Ekuban[/caption]

TIRANA, Dec. 23 - Partizani came from behind to beat reigning champions Skenderbeu 2-1 in a priceless victory to keep their title hopes alive and narrow their gap with Superliga leaders Kukes who were held to a draw by newly promoted Luftetari, this season's surprise team.

Italian-born Ghanaian striker Caleb Ekuban was Partizani's hero in Thursday's encounter, scoring a double to overtake Skenderbeu and climb to second, trailing Winter champions Kukes by one point. Ekuban, who joined Partizani only this season on loan from Italy’s Chievo Verona, has scored 9 goals with Partizani so far, only two fewer than top scorer Pero Pejic, the Croatian Kukes striker.

"If we maintain this pace and the team achieves its title target of course I would like to continue with Partizani," Ekuban told reporters after the match.

Sixth straight champions Skenderbeu are facing tough times this season after they were banned for one year from European football on match-fixing allegations and warnings they could face new sanctions by UEFA, the European football's governing body. The Snow Wolves failed to resist Partizani pressure after an early lead with Nigerian striker James. Former Albania international Hamdi Salihi, recently voted the Best 2016 player by Superliga coaches and captains, could not help Skenderbeu get a positive result.

Partizani coach Sulejman Starova said beating Skenderbeu at home was key to their Superliga bid.

"These are three points that count a lot psychologically to show that we are the ones who should win the championship. The title battle will continue through the end, but the three points with Skenderbeu whose supremacy has been undisputed are so important," said Starova.

The future of Skenderbeu's Italian coach Andrea Agostinelli is now in doubt following a series of poor performances. Agostinelli who last season coached Partizani blamed the result on the squandered opportunities and the departures of some key players from the club in the past couple of years. Kosovo international Bernard Berisha and Nigerian striker Peter Olayinka moved to Russia and Belgium top leagues in 2016 after Skenderbeu's Europa League debut, earning Skenderbeu a lot of money but leaving voids in the team's starting lineup.

"If I remain with Skenderbeu, we need January reinforcements. We need midfield and attacking players to give more quality to the team. Partizani withdrew in defence in the second half and we were not strong enough to break through them," he said.

Partizani is considered a key favorite to win a long-awaited Superliga title after more than two decades of trophiless seasons and relegation to inferior leagues. The Reds made a historic comeback to European club football last summer replacing Skenderbeu in the Champions League qualifying campaign after the Albanian champions were banned from European competition for 1 year over match fixing allegations.

Winter champions Kukes, the northeastern club with not much history in Albania’s football history, have been playing in the Superliga only during the past five years. They have provided impressive performance since their 2012 debut, finishing second four times and playing well even at the Europa League qualifying campaigns, being the only key rival to Skenderbeu who have dominated Albanian football in the past six years.

With the Superliga already halfway and 18 other weeks to go, a tight race is expected among the top three favorites Partizani, Skenderbeu and Kukes.

Newly promoted Korabi but also Laçi, Teuta and Flamurtari will fight to remain in the Superliga where the bottom two are relegated.

The 10-team Albanian Superliga will resume on January 21, 2017 following the winter break.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Dec. 8 - Albania's six straight Superliga winners could face further sanctions over match fixing allegation following a one-year ban from European competition, a senior UEFA official has warned.

Emilio Garcia, the head of the UEFA disciplinary and integrity unit, said the European football's governing body was considering further action following last summer's decision which he called a 'preliminary ban."

"The UEFA disciplinary bodies are considering real disciplinary measures," Garcia said at a panel session on match-fixing at the International Sports Convention as quoted by AP.

"The numbers don't lie and the betting patterns don't lie," the UEFA lawyer said, adding that Court of Arbitration for Sport judges agreed betting monitoring "is a reliable means of evidence."

UEFA banned Skenderbeu over match fixing allegations in two Champions League qualifiers and two Europa League group-stage games in 2015. The European football's governing body suspects Skenderbeu who have dominated Albanian football in the past six years could have also been involved in fixing around 50 domestic matches since 2011.

Last July, Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld a UEFA ruling that banned Albania’s champions Skenderbeu from European competition for 1 year over match fixing allegations, paving the way for Superliga runners-up Partizani to replace them in the Champions League campaign.

UEFA welcomed the decision saying “the case affirms the reliability of UEFA’s betting fraud detection system in identifying abnormal betting patterns on matches played by the Albanian club at European and domestic levels.”

The probe came after Brussels-based Federbet gaming anti-corruption organization, cast match-fixing doubts on several of Skenderbeu fixtures, including the UEFA Champions League qualifying round with Northern Ireland’s Crusaders and UEFA group stage matches with Lokomotiv Moscow, Dinamo Zagreb and Sporting Lisbon.

Skenderbeu ended their last year’s Europa League campaign with a 3-0 home defeat against Russia’s Lokomotiv Moscow, finishing bottom in Group H, but making history as the first Albanian club to have made it to the group stage of a major European competition. Skenderbeu earned only three points from a 3-0 home victory against Sporting Lisbon.

The club, who have denied any wrongdoing, currently rank second level on points with leaders Kukes and are a favorite to win the Albanian Superliga again along with rivals Partizani who were hoping to be crowned champions following Skenderbeu’s ban after finishing second last season. Albania’s football association has justified it can impose no other sanctions by stripping the champions of their titles following the final say by the Court of Arbitration for Sport banning Skenderbeu for one year.

Reacting to news of a new probe, Skenderbeu's president Ardian Takaj said he was surprised by the recent statements by the senior UEFA official, saying that only few days ago UEFA rewarded Skenderbeu with Euro 105,000 for financial fair play.

"That story is over, we have already received our punishment. I am not at all aware of a new probe into our club. I just learned that a senior UEFA official has mentioned Skenderbeu. That's okay with us. Nobody prevents UEFA from investigating into European clubs," said Takaj, who has been in charge of Skenderbeu for the past four years.

"That's their job, but I can tell you that our last contact with the European football governing body was on Monday when we were informed of a bonus regarding financial fair place. UEFA praised our club and rewarded it with Euro 105,000. A decision has already been made on the Skenderbeu issue and the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld it," added Takaj.
                    [post_title] => Skenderbeu could face further match-fixing sanctions, UEFA warns
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Dec. 7 – Kukes held Partizani to goalless draw on Tuesday in a key encounter with a direct title rival that saw the northeastern club with not much history in Albania’s top league lead the Superliga on better goal difference after the 14th week with 28 points, level with sixth straight champions Skenderbeu. Partizani trails the leaders by three points and is considered a key favorite to win a long-awaited Superliga title after more than two decades of trophiless seasons and relegation to inferior leagues. The Reds made a historic comeback to European club football last summer replacing Skenderbeu in the Champions League qualifying campaign after the Albanian champions were banned from European competition for 1 year over match fixing allegations.

Kukes coach Ernest Gjoka said he was pleased with the north-easterners performance.

“Sure, I’m pleased with the draw against a direct rival. We should keep our feet on the ground although we got four points in two encounters with Partizani. We want to keep up this advantage with all rivals. In such matches, the important thing is earning at least one point,” he has said.

Kukes, who have been playing in the Superliga only during the past five years have made an impressive performance since 2012 finishing second four times and making a good performance even at the Europa League qualifying campaigns, being the only key rival to Skenderbeu who have dominated Albanian football in the past six years.

Partizani coach Sulejman Starova blamed the result on the referee, who according to him, denied striker Caleb Ekuban a regular early goal for an alleged offside. The Italian-born Ghanaian footballer has scored five goals for Partizani this season, being the club’s best scorer but trailing Kukes Croatian striker Pero Pejic by three goals as the league’s top scorer.

“There is real irritation because we are not converting in front of the goal. Then, turning to the referee, we were punished. Imagine the game if we weren’t denied the early goal, there would be another match and Kukes would not be defending all the time,” Starova said.

Meanwhile, fourth-placed Tirana lost a golden chance to keep up the leaders’ pace after losing away to Flamurtari 1-0 in Vlora earlier on Sunday.

Reigning champions Skenderbeu were earlier held to a goalless draw with Vllaznia as former international Hamdi Salihi failed to convert a Panenka penalty.

With 22 other weeks to go, it is still early to predict the winner of this season which will be apparently decided in a tough competition among the current top four with Skenderbeu and Partizani being the top favorites again after last year’s top 2 finish.

 

 

 

 
                    [post_title] => Kukes hold Partizani to lead Albanian Superliga
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                    [post_date] => 2016-11-25 11:14:58
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 24 - Albanian international center-back Mergim Mavraj has made it to the surprise Bundesliga team this season with his Koln team ranking fourth in the German top league, in one of its best-ever positions that could secure the club a historic Champions League qualification if it finishes in the top four.

"Mavraj missed 20 games with injury last season, watching on as Dominique Heintz and Dominik Maroh held the fort at centre-back. Köln finished a respectable 10th, and there was a question mark about Mevraj’s place in the team, let alone the team’s ability to repeat a season so bereft of relegation worries," writes the Bundesliga official portal.

Until the sixth Bundesliga week, Mavraj was one of four players not to have missed a single minute as the “Billy Goats” galloped up to sixth in the table. Only leaders Bayern had conceded fewer goals, and the Albanian managed to stand out in a team allegedly lacking star individual performers, German experts say.

The 30-year Germany-born Albanian defender of Kosovo roots, joined the Albanian national team in 2010 and has since become a regular starter. He had a key contribution to Albania's historic Euro 2016 campaign also scoring two goals against Armenia and France.

Mavraj has played a full 990 minutes in 11 appearances with Koln this season and has only received a single yellow card, proving key with his interventions, allowing Koln to maintain a +10 goal difference by conceding only 8 goals in 11 games and proving a real surprise so far this season.

Mavraj says that the 2012 promotion into the Bundesliga with SpVgg Greuther Fürth is his biggest sporting success. He considers Koln more than just a football club and has said that “If I wasn't a professional footballer, I would be a policeman.”
                    [post_title] => Albania’s Mergim Mavraj makes it to surprise Bundesliga team
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                    [post_content] => GashiTIRANA, Nov. 16 - Albanian international striker Shkelzen Gashi has claimed the Goal of the Year award at the U.S. Major League Soccer with a wonder left-footed free kick he converted for his Colorado Rapids last September.

Gashi, who has scored nine goals this season helping Colorado make it to the Western Conference Championship, polled 77 percent of the vote, becoming only the second Rapids player to win the award.

The Switzerland-born striker of Kosovo roots won the award for his strike against the Vancouver Whitecaps last September when he broke a 2-2 tie with a lovely swerving free kick that flew into the top corner.

Gashi was the Rapids’ Golden Boot winner, and a number of his nine regular season strikes were special, including a thunderous first-time drive at LA Galaxy and technically testing effort at Sporting Kansas City, which triggered the club’s single-season record run of 15 games unbeaten.

And, of course, had contenders for Goal of the Year also included those scored in the playoffs, then the 37-yard laser against the Galaxy would surely be in the running, writes the Colorado Rapids on its website.

The Albanian international could have the opportunity to add to his resume of stunning strikes when the Rapids travel to Seattle for the first round of the Western Conference Championship on Tuesday, November 22, but the Albanian Designated Player’s presence is doubtful as he continues his rehab from an ankle sprain suffered during the Rapids’ 1-0 victory over the LA Galaxy on Nov. 6.

“Gashi is making improvements every day,” says Rapids coach Pablo Mastroeni. “He’s a lot further than anything I anticipated to this point. His participation in the first leg will be doubtful, but with the expectation that we’ll be able to get him in a good way for the home leg.”

The 28-year-old striker looks back to old times in Switzerland where he was named the league’s best player in 2014.

Gashi who joined Colorado Rapids as a Designated Player last February is the second Albanian international to play in the Major League Soccer after Hamdi Salihi’s 2012-2013 spell with D.C. United.

Since joining Albanian in 2013, the Swiss-born attacker of Kosovo origin has scored three goals in 11 appearances for the national side, including a game-winning goal against Armenia in Albania’s Euro 2016 qualification campaign.

Gashi has not been called up in Albania’s last three World Cup qualifiers due to club engagements, being a key absence for the national side who suffered two consecutive home defeats against Spain and Israel in Group G after making its first ever appearance at a major tournament such as Euro 2016.
                    [post_title] => Albania’s Shkelzen Gashi claims U.S. Major League Soccer ‘Goal of the Year’ award 
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            [post_date] => 2017-01-19 08:55:55
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            [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 19 - Albania's promising forward Rey Manaj will spend the rest of the season with Pisa in Italy's Serie B following a lackluster six months with Pescara at the top Italian league.

The Albania-born, Italy raised 19-year-old striker will join Pisa on loan from Inter Milan in a bid to save the Serie B club from relegation.

Manaj scored twice in 12 appearances for Pescara in the first half of this season, but was not a first choice for coach Massimo Oddo with whom he also had some arguments. With the season already at its halfway stage, newly promoted Pescara and their captain, Albanian international Ledian Memushaj, find themselves in the relegation zone having collected only 9 points in 19 matches.

Manaj will join two other Albanian players at Pisa, Albanian international striker Edgar Cani and Kosovo goalkeeper Samir Ujkani, a former Albanian international.

The talented 19-year old forward is seen as a key player for Albania's attack and has been singled out by Albania's Italian coach Gianni De Biasi among emerging talents.

“I don’t like talking about special individuals as the team spirit has been and remains our strength. But I could think about Manaj who plays at the Italian championship and who will for sure be part of our team in the future. He is now gaining experience and his potential is well-recognized by everybody,” De Biasi has said.

Manaj scored one goal in three appearances for the national side.
            [post_title] => Manaj moves to Pisa after lackluster half season with Pescara  
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