New national team coach Arie Haan cannot have failed to feel sympathy for the tempestuous lives of domestic league coaches after a scouting tour of Albania.
Haan followed up trips to watch Albanian stars in action in France and Greece with a trip to the country itself, in an effort to discover new talent for the coming FIFA World Cup campaign. What he made of the players remains to be seen, but the Dutchman would have found it hard to ignore how hard it is for local coaches to live up to their clubs' expectations.
In the first 21 rounds of the season, there have been 21 changes of coach among the 12 Kategoria Pare clubs, the most recent of them being at league leaders KS Dinamo Tirana. A meeting with second-placed FK Partizani ended in a 1-0 win for Dinamo's local rivals and saw their lead at the top of the table cut to three points. President Besnik Sulaj promptly fired coach Agim Canaj.
'Not playing well'
"We haven't played well in any of the last three matches - the draws against [KS] Elbasani and [KF] Tirana and the loss against Partizani," explained Sulaj. "We didn't have one real scoring chance [against Partizani] and that's bad. We weren't playing well so I decided to replace Canaj." Former Elbasan coach Ilir Daja, Dinamo's sporting director, has been named as the club's interim coach.
Meanwhile, Sulejman Mema has quit his post as the head of refereeing at the Football Association of Albania to replace Astrit Hafizi as coach of Tirana, who was dismissed after a 2-2 draw against Elbasan on 2 February. "It's unfair to be fired this way," said former Albania coach Hafizi, who was Tirana's second coach of the season. "I didn't deserve it. I did my best to improve this team."
Mema, 53, a former player and coach of some standing, feels that there is plenty of work to do. "We needs major changes," he said after the 0-0 draw against Dinamo on 16 February. "This team has lost the winning formula and some players have to change their attitude and their approach during both training and games if they want to continue to wear a Tirana shirt."
'Only in Albania'
Meanwhile, KS Bëselidjha won 2-0 at KS Skënderbeu on 20 February in a game put back four days because of snow, but it was not enough to keep coach Neptun Bajko in a job. The mayor of the club's home town, Lezhe, got his assistants to fire the coach leaving Bajko to say: "Only in Albania. A coach wins and then gets fired. Unbelievable." Haan will doubtless be taking note.
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