Population: 3.4 million
Official Language: Albanian
Borders: Serbia and Montenegro (North), Macedonia (East), Greece (South)
GNP per Capita: $760 (131st in world)
Main Airport: Tirane Rinas – Tirana
Lying at the south eastern end of the Adratic Sea, opposite the heel of Italy, Albania is a mountainous country. It was part of Turkey until 1912, and was a communist state from 1944 until 1997. It has had issues with migrant Kosovians flooding the northern borders. Very pleasant climate on the coast, with snow in the eastern mountains.
The Albanian Superliga (Albanian: Kategoria superiore) , the highest level of association football in Albania, was born in 1930 with the name Kategoria e Pare (First Division).
At its inception, six teams fought for the league title. In the 1998-1999 season it became the ‘Kategoria superiore’ with sixteen teams participating; in 1999-2000 that number was reduced to 14. Since the 2006-2007 season, 12 teams played in the Superliga. Like many countries though, a Premier Division (Superliga) has been founded since then and First Division is now the second level in Albanian football. This became the case in 1998. The league has been dominated by clubs from Albania’s capital city, Tirana, with only 14 titles going elsewhere in the country and 9 of those 14 have gone to Vllaznia Shkodër.
Champions since 1990
1990-1991: Flamurtari Vlorë
1991-1992: Vllaznia Shkodër
1992-1993: KF Partizani Tirana
1993-1994: KS Teuta Durrës
1994-1995: KF Tirana
1995-1996: KF Tirana
1996-1997: KF Tirana
1997-1998: Vllaznia Shkodër
1998-1999: KF Tirana
1999-2000: KF Tirana
2000-2001: Vllaznia Shkodër
2001-2002: Dinamo Tirana
2002-2003: KF Tirana
2003-2004: KF Tirana
2004-2005: KF Tirana
2005-2006: KS Elbasani
2006-2007: KF Tirana
2007-2008: Dinamo Tirana
2008-2009: KF Tirana
Tirana won the league with a last day victory over 2nd place Vllaznia. Elbasani, champions just a few seasons ago were relegated after losing out in a five team battle to avoid the drop. The Cup winners were Flamurtari who stopped Tirana completing a domestic double with a 2-1 victory and featured the talents of Franc Velju who was being tracked by a number of big European clubs.
Albanian Superliga 2008/09 – For fixtures, click here
For more details on where teams play in Albania, go to Footiemap.com
Teuta Durrës – Durrës – Stadiumi Niko Dovana – Capacity: 12,000. Last season’s runners up in the league and cup. Durrës is one of the finest cities in Albania, located on the Mediterranean sea, 20 miles from the capital Tirana.
Shkumbini Peqin – Peqin – Stadiumi Peqin – Capacity: 6,000. 5th place last season was a good return from one of the smallest teams in the Superliga. The town of Peqin is home to around 10,000 in the south of the county.
Besa Kavajë – Kavajë – Stadiumi Besa – Capacity: 8,500. 3rd place finish last season was enough to earn a place in the Intertoto Cup, although they went out at the first hurdle to Grasshoppers of Zurich. Kavajë is located on the western coast of the country.
Flamurtari Vlorë – Vlorë – Stadiumi Flamurtari – Capacity: 8,500. Once ran Barcelona close in a UEFA Cup game in 1986, losing in the end on away goals. The following season they managed to win three rounds of games before losing to Barcelona again – the best performance ever by an Albanian team in Europe. Vlorë is one of the oldest coastal cities in Albania.
KS Lushnja – Lushnjë – Abdurrahman Roza Haxhiu Stadium – Capacity: 12,000. Three times champions, they are probably best known for once having Argentinian legend Mario Kempes as a manager. Lushnjë is located in the centre of Albania, north of Tirana.
KS Bylis Ballsh – Ballsh – Stadiumi Agush Maca – Capacity: 6,500. Promoted to the top division last season, they play in the industrial city of Ballsh in the south of the country.
KS Apolonia Fier – Fier – Stadiumi Loni Papuçiu – Capacity: 6,000. Another team promoted at the end of last season. Their only honour was a win in the Albanian Cup in 1998. The town of Fier is in the west of the country.
Stadiumi Selman Stërmasi – Capacity: 12,500
Home to KF Tirana, Dinamo Tirana and Partizani Tirana. KF are considered the most successful club and have played in European football every season since 1994. Dinamo occasionally play at the 25,000 Qemal Stafa national stadium. Partizani were originally the team of the Communist party.
KS Elbasani – Elbasan – Stadiumi Ruzhdi Bizhuta – Capacity: 13,000. 4th last season after being champions in 2007. The city of Elbasan was one of the jewels in the Ottoman empire crown although years of neglect have taken their toll.
Vllaznia Shkodër – Shkodër – Stadiumi Loro-Boriçi – Capacity: 16,000. Last seasons cup winners have also won the national league on 9 occasions. Located in the north west region of Albania on Lake Shkoder, and with miles of the border with Macedonia.
Currently no budget airlines fly to Tirana, and there are no plans to see it enter the European Union officially, which normally signals the opening up of international air routes. Albanian Airlines are the only airline to fly direct from the UK departing from London Stansted.