Recently, I attended my first soccer game in Albania. Permet was playing the nearby town of Kelcyre, and a friendly rival was in place. In our preservice training, I remember hearing that girls didn’t go to soccer games here. In the very least, it wasn’t common, unless you were in the big city. Unsure of what to expect, Jackie, Will, Monika and I all headed to the stadium to cheer on our respective cities.
The game was already underway, and the first thing I noticed was the police lining the fields. Crowd control was their main concern, but they were also there for the players’ safety. Albanians are passionate and don’t exactly keep their emotions in check.
After halftime, the referee made a questionable call in favor of Permet. This resulted in a penalty shot that won Permet its first goal of the day. Permet fans went absolutely wild, while Kelcyre started shouting in outrage. This keyed a major shift in the crowd atmosphere. As we sat on the Kelcyre side, I sat there and took it all in. Grown men were acting like little children throwing tantrums. As Permet, rode their endorphin high to another goal, it sparked even further chaos. Men and teenagers began throwing rocks and water bottles on the field. Screaming every obscenity under the sun at the referee and players. The policemen retrieved their batons and stood there gripping them with white knuckles. We decided to leave the game, not wanting to be a part of the mayhem. Thankfully the game ended without a serious incident. However, it was an eye opening experience. As I walked home, glad I wasn’t the referee, I realized soccer here isn’t just a sport. It’s a way of life and you couldn’t pay me to get in the way of that!