West Ham United’s Switzerland international forward Albian Ajeti tells whufc.com his proud Kosovar Albanian heritage is all the motivation he needs to succeed…
Throughout the 1990s, the Balkan region of Southeast Europe was ravaged by war and suffering.
An estimated 140,000 people were killed during a series of ethnic conflicts and wars of independence which ultimately led to the breakup of the country then known as Yugoslavia.
In addition, around four million people of all ethnicities were displaced from their homes, with many fleeing the bloodshed and continuing their lives overseas.
Among those to depart were Afrim and Sylbije Ajeti, who left the ethnic Albanian city of Poduvejo in the north eastern part of modern-day Kosovo, which came under attack from Serbian forces in 1998.
Like thousands of other Kosovo Albanians, the Ajetis moved to the safety of Switzerland, settling in the centre of Basel, a picturesque city located on the borders with France and Germany on the banks of the River Rhine. There, the couple raised their three sons, Arlind and twins Adonis and Albian.
“When we were really young, we moved to Switzerland, before the Kosovo War [in 1999] and there I went to school, to the academy and started my football,” Ajeti explained. “So, my family and I grew up together in Switzerland.
“It was because it was not possible to live in Kosovo any more. If you imagine how it was during the war, it was impossible to stay in our own country, so that’s why people moved to Switzerland or many different countries.
“For me, it was quite easy to grow up in Switzerland. I think it was more difficult for my parents, as they came at an age when it was not so easy to learn new things. I came with my brothers when we were really, really young, so it was quite easy to grow up with the schooling, the language and the football, so it wasn’t that difficult for me.”
Among those other families was that of former West Ham United midfielder Valon Behrami, who was five-years-old when he left the Kosovar city of Mitrovica and settled in the Swiss village of Stabio and is a ‘very good friend’ of Ajeti’s, as well as those of Liverpool’s Xherdan Shaqiri and Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka.