The Streets Are Alive….

…with the sound of car horns

In Albania you live your life publicly. People often know all about you and what you do because you told someone and they told someone else and so on.

It is no surprise that celebrations, like weddings are also very public affairs. There is music and dancing for the entire community. The wedding party and guests will drive their cars through the streets blaring their horn.

So last night when I heard the horns blaring in the streets of Lezhe my initial thought was a wedding. However, a wedding didn’t quite fit the time of day, day of the week, or the season.

My next thought was soccer. Albania, like the rest of the world, is wild about soccer. I thought Albania must have won the highly anticipated match against Serbia.

I was wrong.

Stefan Mitrovic, a Serbian player pulled down the flag that flew over the field, a final act to end a troubled match.  Image Credit: BBC

The match was abandoned. 

While soccer is a game that sparks intense emotion around the world that intensity seems to increase when its two nations that have a tumultuous political past.

The game had been interrupted several times prior to being abandoned due to flares being thrown onto the field. Here is one Albanian student's reaction.

The game had been interrupted several times prior to being abandoned due to flares being thrown onto the field. Here is one Albanian student’s reaction.

The tensions largely arise around Kosovo, a country to the north of Albania. The newest country to host Peace Corps volunteers and a country that has a population of about 90% Kosovar Albanians.  There is an extremely strong bond between Kosovo and Albania and animosity between Kosovo and Serbia that could warrant a completely different blog post.

Kosovo is a former providence of Serbia and declared its independence in 2008, something that Serbia has not yet accepted.

So when a drone carrying a flag, depicting Albania, Kosovo and ares of surrounding countries that have large Albanian populations, was lowered onto the field during a football match against Serbia the streets in Albania erupted with emotion.

Even before the flag hovered above there was trouble with fireworks being tossed onto the field.  Albanian fans were barred from attending due to fear of violence and Albanian journalists were also reportedly held at the Belgrade airport earlier in the day.

This incident has sparked a fervor of facebook posts, headlines and discussion among Albanians. Ultimately both teams could face charges from Uefa. Getting swept up in the fever of support for Albania’s team is almost unavoidable.  However, it is important to take a step back to understand the historical baggage that can be carried with a soccer match.

At least until the parade of cars comes circling around the block again with the horns blaring.


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