Last season KS Skenderbeu goalkeeper Orges Shehi broke an Albanian record – and now has his sights on a new landmark.
Shehi was ever-present in last season's 26-round Albanian Super League and thus reached 472 top-flight appearances, passing the mark set by the much-admired ex-international goalkeeper Blendi Nallbani. Having made his debut in 1994/95, Shehi started all but one of those matches.
"It's a great accomplishment," the 36-year-old told UEFA.com. "I had no idea what the exact number of matches was. I knew I had played a lot of games, but I never realised it was that many."
Thinking back to his debut for KS Teuta – where he spent the first decade of his career, save for a loan at KS Bylis – Shehi said: "I was 18 years old. We had a great team. We were the defending champions and I enjoyed being part of the team."
That season Teuta won the Albanian Cup having conceded the title of Nallbani's KF Tirana. Eventually moving on to KF Vllaznia in 2004, the following year Shehi joined Partizani Tirana for a successful spell, going to KS Besa for 2009/10 and then Skenderbeu.
It is at his current club where Shehi has enjoyed what he believes to be the best years of his career. Last season Skenderbeu claimed a third successive championship, and Shehi was 2012 Albanian player of the year. This term Skenderbeu became the first Albanian team to make the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round and were within a penalty of the UEFA Europa League group stage, losing an epic shoot-out 7-6 to FC Chornomorets Odesa.
"That will continue to haunt me for a long time," Shehi said. "It was an opportunity to achieve something special and we didn't deliver and that is something that will stay with me for a long time." That is not his only personal regret. "Having the career I had and playing only one match with the national team is below par for me," said Shehi, whose only full game came against Qatar, though he also had a minute as a substitute versus Georgia.
Shehi is not about to quit as he moves towards 500 league appearances. "I feel good. I have been lucky not to have career-threatening injuries so I am hoping to continue to play until I cannot. I will always remember my first days, my top days and my last days as a player. [Getting to 500 games] would be something very special."
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