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Albania Superliga

Football in Albania, history and national team achievements

Football is the most popular sport in Albania, both at the participation and the spectator level. The sport is regulated by the Albanian Football Federation (F.SH.F.) (Albanian: Federata Shqiptare e Futbollit).

Football arrived in Albania at the beginning of the 20th century. The first recorded game took place between students of a Christian mission in Shkodër. The game became more popular and until 1919 the first club, KS Vllaznia Shkodër, was founded. In 1920 SK Tirana was founded. Other cities followed and on 6 June 1930, the Football Association of Albania (FSF) was founded. The association became a member of the FIFA governing body in 1932 and joined the European governing body of UEFA in 1954 as a founding member.

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A national championship started in 1930 with 6 teams. KF Tirana were the opening winners. Together with such teams dominate KS Dinamo Tirana, Vllaznia Shkodër and FK Partizani the Albanian scene until today. In the years following the Second World War, a new political order came with the introduction of a communist system, which had a positive effect on the attractiveness of the game. Football was used as a popular entertainment. Its infrastructure grew stronger as the game was organized and developed in state-owned companies, schools, villages and towns. New institutional clubs such as Partizani Tirana (1946) and Dinamo Tirana (1950) were formed (under the direction of the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior respectively). Until 1990, they were privileged over the other clubs, as they could get players from other teams.

From 1991 onwards, there were decisive political and economic changes that had a tremendous impact on the nation as the centralized economy and political system came to an end. The result for the country's footballers was an opportunity to trade in foreign fields. Neighboring Greece and the Balkans were popular destinations for players good enough to go abroad. The Albanian league is divided into 4 divisions. The Albanian Super League (Albanian: Kategoria superiore) was founded in 1930. In 1998 it got its present name and is the highest level of Albanian football. It currently includes 12 teams. The Superleague displaced the First Division (Albanian: Kategoria e Parë) as the top league, and this is now the second league of Albanian football. Among them is the second division (Albanian: Kategoria e dyte), which is geographically divided into A & B.

The winners of the league are eligible to participate in the UEFA Champions League during the first qualifying round. The runners-up will also be eligible to participate in the UEFA Europa League in the first qualifying round stage. KF Tirana holds the record for Albanian championship titles with 24.

Founded on 6 June 1930, Albania had to wait 16 years for his first international match, which was held in 1946 against Yugoslavia. In 1932 Albania had already joined FIFA (during the congress from 12 to 16 June), and in 1954 it was one of the founding members of UEFA. Albania was invited to participate in the World Cup in 1934, but did not participate for logistical reasons.

In addition to the senior national team, the National Association attaches great importance to the promotion of young talent. There are championships at various ages, including U-18, U-16, U-14, U-12 and U-10, while each club in the top 2 divisions is required to set up a structured youth development program. In addition, there are regional selection teams for all ages. Albanian football celebrated its biggest day on March 29, 2003, when the national team defeated Russia 3-1 in an EM qualifier in Tirana. Albanian teams have also achieved impressive results in the past, but Albania's greater success has not yet been recorded. Albanian footballers are in great demand abroad. Around 200 Albanian players are playing their trade in a number of top leagues in Europe.

The current best-known player is Thomas Strakosha, goalkeeper of Lazio Roma in Serie A.

On 11 October 2015, Albania qualified for UEFA Euro 2016, the first major national football tournament for men, after defeating Armenia in Yerevan 3-0.

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