A fan of the Albanian soccer team KF Skenderbeu Korcë poses outside the Elbasan Arena, on August 5th, ahead of the team's tie against a Moldovan team.

A fan of the Albanian soccer team KF Skenderbeu Korcë poses outside the Elbasan Arena, on August 5th, ahead of the team’s tie against a Moldovan team.
CREDIT PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY SEAN WILLIAMS

On August 5th, in the ancient city of Elbasan, KF Skënderbeu Korçë became Albania’s first soccer club to reach the group stages of European competition since Communism fell, in 1991. The Albanian national side, too, having collected players from a huge diaspora, now finds itself above France, Mexico, and the U.S.A. in FIFA’s global rankings—it stands a fair chance of qualifying for next year’s European Championships. It would be the first major international success for Albania since it won the Balkan Cup, in 1946. Locals are beginning to hail a soccer renaissance.

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