Gianni De Biasi knew little about Albania, when he landed in December 2011. The Italian coach accepted the offer to lead the national football team. His information for his new ‘home’ and the traditions of football across the Adriatic were reserved. His last experience as coach was with Udinese , in Italy. He terminated the contract there in February 2010. After nearly two years away from football , De Biasi was ready to face his new challenge. ‘’ Many colleagues asked whether I was sure about the decision to coach the Albanian team’’, declared De Biasi for BIRN (Balkan Insight). ‘’ Some advised to take time and evaluate the situation. But I took the decision immediately. To tell the truth , I considered it as a kind of adventure’’.
On March 2015 , while the team was reaching an unprecedented success , De Biasi accepted the offer from the President of the Republic , Bujar Nishani , for the Albanian citizenship. ‘’ That was an important moment for me , – declares the coach. – I wanted to be included entirely , and give my best. The Albanian citizenship brought me closer with the Albanians’’. The adventurous decision of De Biasi was the most successful one of his career and a rare opportunity for Albania. For the first time in history , the Albanian national team qualified for the finals of the European Championship.
De Biasi is considered one of the best coaches in the history of Albanian football , and his personality has played a huge role in the success that the team has achieved. De Biasi’s convincing abilities were the base for building a winning team. In the first months in the job , he contacted with players , that had refused the chance to play with the national team , including ethnic Albanians that played in Europe. He promised a novel approach of training and convinced experienced players to join the mission of Albania, making them part of a team that includes promising young players. ‘’ It was the right moment for us ‘’, says De Biasi. ‘’ I had the chance to experiment and get to know the team during the qualifiers of the World Cup 2014. This gave the chance to be wiser and improve , thus qualifying in the European Championship in France’’.
De Biasi is like a father to the footballers. He has a fatherly figure , even with the personal life. ‘’ I’m very close with the guys , – he says- I understand their difficulties and I try to comport like a father with them.
I try to give advice not only about football , but also about their personal life , when I’m asked to do so. De Biasi adds that he always reminds the footballers to be careful with money , because the young players sometimes are careless with the money they earn. ‘’ I advise them to be careful with the way they spend what they earn- because tomorrow it might get difficult. Saving is of essence. Like Albania , even De Biasi will make his first debut in the European Championship. He has had a long career before starting a new one as coach. De Biasi was a midfielder for many Italian teams , including the famous Inter Milan.
His many years around the Italian community of football helped him during the negotiations of the career of the Albanian footballers in the Italian teams. ‘’I try to help whenever I can- he says. – I do the best to present the best qualities of the Albanian footballers to the coaches that I know’’. The journey of the Albanian team went through critical moments. Maybe the most difficult one wo the match of October 2014 , against Serbia. ‘’ For me personally , this was the usual match – tells De Biasi. I was entirely conscious that the players were tense. Some of them told me that they had lost family during the Serbia – Kosovo war. I knew it was difficult for them to enter in the pitch. He remembers that the match turned violent and the game stopped , and when the Serbian fans started to throw objects towards the Albanian players. For De Biasi , the match of Belgrade on 14 October 2014 , was the bitterest moment with the national team.
Then a drone with the symbols of ‘’Ethnic Albania ‘’ fly over the stadium. ‘’It became really difficult, -says De Biasi.- After the drone episode we believed that the situation will deteriorate’’. Another difficult moment was the match of October 2015 , against Armenia. ‘’ It was a ‘’live or die’’ kind of match- says the coach . – We were only one step away from our dream to qualify in the European Championship. We needed a win at all costs’’. De Biasi declared that , that was the happiest moment as coach of the Albanian national team. ‘’ When the referee signaled the end of the match , I was thrilled’’. Winning the match against Armenia , which gave Albania a spot in the ‘’Euro 2016’’, served as a step forward for the career of De Biasi.
The Albanian fans gave their huge support for Albania towards the finals of ‘’Euro 2016’’ and beyond. In less than two months from the first match in the European Championship , De Biasi is calm and full of trust. The coach is studying the opponents and is working for the selection of the Albanian players, for the big games , noting their physical and technical abilities.
The success of De Biasi , spread rumors for his next challenge. The Italian media speculated that De Biasi can be the next coach of the Italian national team , and this had a huge impact in the Albanian media. But he refuses to talk or thing about this. ‘’ The wisest thing to do now is to focus for the championship ahead, – says De Biasi. – This was a first experience for me , the team and Albania. We should focus there’’. The coach will turn 60 on 16 June , during the matches of the group state in France. His contract with the Albanian Football Association terminates in 2017. ‘’ We have an agreement with the head of the Albanian Football Federation , and we should sit down and talk after the championship , and take the decision,’’ – declares De Biasi. Albania is preparing the first match of the group , against Switzerland on 11 June. De Biasi called for a calm match , without useless pressure. ‘’ We should play freely and without the weight of the responsibility , like the big teams. We should give 100 % of our potential , but I don’t think we should define now what kind of success we will achieve’’.
The Italian coach believes that the Albanian team is in a favorable position to achieve success , for at least the next four years. ‘’We have created an important team , and we need patience , in order to grow up , and always remembering to play as a team , and take care for the others’’.
The rumors for an a new national team of Kosovo , do not bother De Biasi. ‘’ Every Kosovo national that player with us , can freely choose where to play. But I believe that those who play for our team , will not go away , despite a couple of players that do not play regularly, and want to play more. In the future , the national team of Albania might have a narrow field of selection , when the team of Kosovo is created , but now there is a base of Albanian players , and I don’t think there might be a problem.
Albania has achieved an important moment , says the coach , and preserving it requires investment in infrastructure and continuation in the techniques of coaching , in order to grow a new generation of players. ‘’ The example of the national team is really inspiring , he says. If you work in the right direction , the success will come. Young Albanians are not only fans of Cristiano Ronaldo , but also of Lorik Cana , Gashi , Abrashi , Berisha and many others , and this means a lot.