Nevil Dede has been a stalwart of Albanian football over the last two decades, winning nine league titles with KF Tirana and KS Elbasani. But after 16 seasons and nearly 370 appearances, save for the briefest of spells in Bulgaria a decade ago, earlier this year he upped sticks to play in China.
Dede moved from Tirana to Changsha Ginde at the start of 2008 and after seeing out his contract has returned home to Elbasani, who beat off strong competition for his signature. "It was a great experience for me," Dede told uefa.com. "I went to play in China because they were keen to have me. I enjoyed playing there. Their league wasn't very strong, but they have invested a lot of money in soccer and their infrastructure has improved significantly."
Making his debut for Tirana in 1992/93, Dede helped the capital club to seven league titles and five Albanian Cups over a 12-year period, interrupted only by brief spells with FK Partizani and Bulgaria's FC Metalurg Pernik. In 2004 he switched to Elbasani, captaining them to the 2005/06 title before a return to Tirana, and another championship. At Changsha avoiding relegation was the aim and that was achieved. Dede said: "We achieved our goal and I was very happy, even though had many bumps on the road."
One of those bumps came straight away. "It didn't start so well after I injured my knee in my first game in China," Dede said. "I left the game after the first half and had to play injured for a few weeks until a season break because of Chinese national team obligations. Those couple of weeks helped me recover and get ready to continue playing." But that was not the only such setback. "After I suffered the first injury in collision with our goalkeeper, I had to deal with another injury caused by another bad move from our goalie, who moved below me while I was challenging for the ball in the air. That caused me to land on my arm and break my wrist."
Not only did his year in China mean being away from his family, which Dede admitted was "hard", he also found himself unable to add to his tally of Albanian caps, having been first choice in UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifying under Otto Barić, who was replaced last January by former China coach Arie Haan. "I'm pretty sure a part of his decision not to select me had to do with the distance," Dede said. "I enjoyed playing for the national team and I will be ready any time I receive a call." He has the backing of Football Association of Albania president Armando Duka, who said: "
He is one of the best and most solid Albanian defenders out there and he is a very good leader as well and a very good person too."
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