By Lutfi Dervishi
Prime Minister Rama’s letter after the European draw
Be careful with Italy, we owe them!
Even in my wildest dreams I never thought we would face Italy, Spain and Croatia. World champions and sub-champions. It’s one of those times where even the staunchest atheist starts to think there’s a God up there, and the most devout believer thinks it’s time to wait for the next prophet.
As you today start the glorious path of the European qualifiers, I feel compelled to write to you about a matter of capital importance, for you, for us, for everyone. I am talking about the first match against Italy.
Before I played this heavy sport of politics, I myself played with the national basketball team and I understand, as much as any of you, the thrill of victory and the sweet taste of success. But this in no way, for any reason and at any price, should not happen against Italy.
We owe a lot to Italy. If I lined up here the list of debts we have to our western neighbor, the European would occupy us without training.
I am not going into history, but I am referring to the hospitality that Italy showed to hundreds of thousands of Albanians in 1990, when hundreds of thousands of compatriots “red like Russians, yellow like Chinese and tanned like Albanians”, took the rickety ships that had us let them go far and learn the Italian shores.
Today we are talking about 600 thousand Albanians who have built their lives in Italy. With Italy we are already like a family, together consuming more and more pasta and less and less drama.
Let’s not forget 1997, when the weapons we had in storage to defend against America and the Soviet Union, we used against each other in a stupidity that took thousands of Albanian lives. It was Italy that led Operation Alba, and not only fed us, but also made it possible to get back on track towards the EU.
Let’s not forget the noble advocacy of Italy for our European dream. Italians have waved the Albanian flag in EU membership discussions, shouting “Let them in!” Italy is our godfather.
But it is also in our national interest to lose to Italy. Imagine a moment for us to win against the 3-time world champions. How would the Arber community that has been living for 600 years in Italy feel. Six centuries are not little! Even the statues we have in Albania are not older than a century. They have longed and suffered for Albania for centuries and it is time to spare them the pain of loss.
Think about what would happen in Albania where half of the Albanians cry when Italy loses. What would happen in our Shkodra where half are with Italy and half with Germany? We have neither the luxury nor the means to face another civil war in the country.
A victory of yours would have multiplied by zero the effort we just made to welcome the immigrants who teach the Italian shores.
How can we win against Italy when 7 of you play in Italy. Isn’t the Albanian in the habit of tipping over the cup when he eats bread?! Finally, what are Italians – they are “Albanians dressed in Versace”. How can we win against ourselves?
In the group matches, we can freely win against Spain, which is ready to recognize Palestine, a country without clear borders and which does not know who governs it, and does not recognize Kosovo. With Spain it is time to settle accounts. Three points with Spain and a draw with Croatia, the country that supports us the most in the region. Four points is our target.
So dear players who have made us proud, when you tie your shoes and prepare for the match against Italy, remember the debts we owe you. And if they have the same desire, that we may succeed, please tell them that victory is a gift we graciously decline.
Remember, in the end, we are not talking about just one match, it is a testament to the brotherly relations between Albania and Italy.
Good luck to Spain!