- I visited Albania with a group from Athletes in Action. One of our jobs was to give soccer clinics to children from bad neighbourhoods. The thing that really blew my mind was the great contrast we saw everyday. Children live in dumpsters and play on dirty streets, right next to one of the richest areas of Tirana. They life of what they find in the trash of the villa's in the area next to their homes. This is upsetting. I have never seen such expensive cars on such dirty roads. Rumour has it the government is corrupted, taking bribes and only looking out for the wealthy.
Everywhere you look, you just feel the decay and how life in Albania is out of balance. We went there to spend time with the children and bring food. Albania loves soccer, and this proved to be a great way to reach the kids. I could not understand how many of the kids could be so happy. They teach a very valuable lesson. Watching them having fun with us in the soccer court was a great experience. But unfortunately you can never do enough if you only spend a week there. Tirana is a city in imbalance.
- FACTS ABOUT ALBANIA
Albania is a parliamentary democracy and a transition economy. The Albanian capital, Tirana, is home to approximately 600,000 of the country's 3,000,000 people. Free-market reforms have opened the country to foreign investment, especially in the development of energy and transportation infrastructure. Albania was chosen as the top country in Lonely Planet's list of ten top countries for 2011.
The communist regime collapsed in 1990, and the Republic of Albania was founded in 1991. The old communist party was routed in the elections of March 1992, amid economic collapse and social unrest. An economical crises spread in the late 1996 following the failure of some Ponzi schemes operating in the country, peaking in the 1997 in an armed rebellion, that led to another mass emigration of Albanians, mostly to Italy, Greece, Switzerland, Germany and to North America.
In 1999 the country was affected by Kosovo War, when a great number of Albanians from Kosovo found refuge in Albania. Albania became a full member of NATO in 2009. The country is applying to join the European Union.