The development of sports in historic Albania has more to do with the need to survive as locals honed their skills in fishing and hunting. However, with time, the country, like its counterparts in the region, has adapted to modernism and embraced western sports, including football, etc.
Albania has produced many talented sportspeople who have represented other nations in various disciplines as well. In present times, various team-based sports, including football, basketball, handball, and volleyball, are very popular in the country. At the same time, individual sports, including tennis, weight lifting, judo, karate, swimming, boxing, and chess, are also popular.
Here is a brief description of the five most popular sports in the country.
Football In Albania
Like most European countries, football is the most popular sport in Albania. The sport has been played in the country since the start of the 20th century, and today, it is not only popular as a spectator sport but also a participatory sport. The country has many indoor and outdoor football facilities where young and old like to play.
The Football Association of Albania was established in 1930 and became a member of FIFA in 1932 and UEFA in 1954. It was one of the founding members of UEFA. The national team made its first major appearance at the UEFA Euro in 1964. The team won the Balkan Cup in the same year.
Currently, the Albanian team ranks 66th in FIFA. The highest rank the team has achieved in FIFA was 22 in 2015. The women’s team was formed in 2011 and currently ranks 73rd in FIFA.
Albania also has a football league in the system, with the Kategoria Superiore as the top men’s professional league. The first season of the league was held in 1930. The league follows a promotion and relegation system with Kategoria e Pare, the second-tier football league in the country. The top club in the Kategoria Superiore is Tirana, the current league champion, and holds the record for most wins, 26 to be precise.
Volleyball In Albania
The second most popular and successful team sport in Albania is volleyball. The country’s women’s volleyball teams, national and clubs, have been more successful internationally. The club Dinamo Tirana played twice in the finals of the CEV Women’s Champions League in 1979 and 1989, which is regarded as the best sport achievement for any club sport in Albania.
The national women’s team has also been in the limelight for its sporting prowess. The most notable achievement of the team was their win in the Mediterranean Games in 1987. The team played in the European Volleyball Championship in 1991, the only time the team participated in the contest. The team participated in the European Volleyball League in 2018 and won a bronze medal after beating Estonia.
Albania also has a men’s volleyball league founded in 1946 and has 9 clubs. The women’s league has 12 teams.
Basketball In Albania
The third sport on our list is basketball. The Albanian Basketball Association, basketball’s official governing body, was founded in 1946 and joined FIBA a year later. Although the team has played basketball for a long time, it has yet to qualify for the FIBA World Cup and currently has a ranking of 99.
To date, Albania has participated twice in the EuroBasket, and that too in 1947 and 1957. The team played its first international match in 1947 against Italy.
Albania also has had a basketball league since 1946. There are currently two divisions, the Super Liga and the First Division, and each has twelve teams. The league follows a relegation and promotion system with the Albanian First League, the second-tier league in the country.
Like volleyball, the women’s basketball team is more successful. The team played in the Mediterranean Games for the first time in 1987 and won the tournament. The team also played in Championship for Small Countries. It secured gold once and silver twice in the series.
Boxing In Albania
Boxing is a highly popular and successful sport in Albania. Recently Alban Beqiri won bronze in the light middleweight category at the AIBA World Boxing Championship in 2021. Another popular Albanian kickboxer is Florian Marku. He won the WKU World Boxing Championship in 2014. He also won the IBF World title and became the world champion.
In 2018, Albanian boxer Krenar Zeneli won the silver medal in the Mediterranean Games. Albania’s success in the sport has made boxing one of the most followed sports in the country.
Athletics In Albania
Albania has achieved considerable success in athletics, leading to the discipline’s popularity in the country. Albanian male and female athletes have brought home numerous laurels from various championships. One such female athlete is Luiza Gega. She won a silver medal at the Summer Universiade in 2013 in 1500 metre run and again in the European Athletic Championship in 2016 in 3000 metre steeplechase run. The athlete recently won a gold medal at the 2022 European Athletic Championship. Luiza also represented Albania in Olympics in 2016 and 2020 in 3000m steeplechase runs. She also won silver in 2013 and 2018 and gold in 2022 at the Mediterranean Games.
Another notable athlete is Izmir Smajlaj. He won a gold medal in the European Indoor Athletics Championship in 2017 in the long jump category.