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For Roma, "it would be like playing at home."  Mayor of Tirana speaks

For Roma, “it would be like playing at home.” Mayor of Tirana speaks

On Wednesday the final of the Rome – Feyenoord Conference. “An extraordinary event for the city, the new stadium is not the largest in the world, but it is central, a symbol of our philosophy: to experience the city without a car, to move by foot, to find everything within a small radius. We live in the stadium for seven days,” says Aerion Veliage. In the week”

“I expect 50,000 people, even without tickets, to experience an adventure.” The only mayor in the world who is not afraid to invade fans without reaching the final in a stadium with a capacity of only 22,500, called Aerion Villageborn in Tirana in 1979 and Since 2015 he is the 42nd first citizen of the Albanian capital. The first Albanian mayor to host the European Football Final, and Conference LeagueGrandmother in Modernity: Tomorrow at Arena Kombëtare (i.e. patriotism) Under the leadership of Jose Mourinho, Roma will face the Dutch club Feyenoord. An important date for the two clubs more for Tirana. “An extraordinary event for the city, the new stadium is not the largest in the world, but it is central, a symbol of our philosophy: to experience the city without a car, to move by foot, to find everything within a small radius. We live in the stadium seven days a week, it is not Just a green garden to look at for ninety minutes.” Village speaks the excellent Italian he learned after English. He studied in England, the United States and Grand Valley State University, Michigan, in April 2017, he was appointed by “Doctor Emeritus Koza” for his contribution to improving the quality of public services in Tirana. “How much our image has changed since the bad start of the ’90s – he comments proudly – now I see a clean, crime-free city, where you eat and drink as in Italy, but pay much less.” He laughs. The only problem is the few tickets. “It does not depend on us, but on UEFA. We offer hospitality. We have set up three fan zones: in the central park for Roma fans, in the pedestrian zone of Feyenoord, and then a neutral zone.”

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Villager also declared himself neutral regarding the typhus minefield. “I support the teams in the city, all of them. Albanian fans are divided between Juventus, Inter and Milan, but Roma and Fiorentina also have followers. I think those in Feyenoord will be in the minority.”

Irion Village (Photo by La Presse

Here, but how do you see Italy on the other side of the Adriatic? Thirty-one years have passed since the massive exodus of 1991, with tens of thousands of Albanians arriving on the Puglia coast. “Italy is close to us not only geographically, but as a reference point for culture, design and fashion. As stated in that film: idiot, racing. It is very important to have neighbors with whom you can establish close and friendly relations. Looking at what is happening between Russia and Ukraine, we understand better. We have come a tremendous journey in thirty years. Keep in mind that we went through 500 years of Turkish occupation and 50 years of an extreme communist regime, like North Korea, 550 years of the Middle Ages. We have grown, the presence of Italians has increased, there are almost 25,000 in Tirana. Who believes that? More Italians come here than the other way around.”

Mayor Veliage’s project is clear: “Tirana will be Tel Aviv and the Balkans. We are in a constant transition phase: in the 90s we made shoes and fabrics, in the 2000s we were the call centers, now there’s a digital leap. The Italians come for a reasonable cost of living, and after Milan and Rome , we are the most connected to other cities in your country, 51 flights.The final is another chance, We have all our hotels overcrowded, we are the most visited capital in the Balkans, with over a million tourists. We are not by the sea, but we are indigenous and all religions coexist with us.”

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Among the Italian coaches, after Di Biasi and Panucci, Eddie Riga is the Albania coach. “So good, it makes us feel like little Italy on the other side of the Adriatic.” But do you have a thing for the Dutch? “Bicycles. They were surprised by their number.”

In this Whatsapp profile picture, Erion Veliaj is surrounded by a team of kids. The city has more than 350 youth associations. Not everyone will end up playing outside but at least they don’t go to the streets. And they understand how the team works, they understand that in sports and in life sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. If Messi and Ronaldo get better, in the meantime you train yourself to become a good citizen.” We left the two most sensitive problems down. How do you see Italian politics?” If I have a problem, I call Pepe Sala in Milan, Dario Nardella, who are as good as a team Entire mayors. With the central government there is more effort, there is dispersion, they should coordinate better.” The latter is the most challenging: who will win between Roma and Feyenoord? “I don’t want to predict, but for Roma it will be like playing at home.”