UEFA, Panajot Pano chosen as Albania’s Golden Player

Ledio Pano and Panajot Pano

To mark UEFA’s Golden Jubilee in 2004, each of the 52 member associations was been invited to nominate its most outstanding player of the past 50 years. The 52 Golden Players selected, listed below, will find permanent recognition at the House of European Football in Nyon. A specially created display within UEFA’s headquarters will feature all 52 stars, thus ensuring a permanent presence for each country’s top player.

While each of the 52 European national associations has nominated its own Golden Player, football fans worldwide were also invited to make their voice heard through the 50-50 vote to identify the fans’ choice of the 50 best European players of the past 50 years.

The UEFA Jubilee 52 Golden Players

Pano interview after winning award

Panajot Pano ” The Master of the Goal” and the greatest Albanian soccer player of the Century, looks back on his career and recalls some of the glorious and memorable moments of his modest past.

Panajot Pano was born in Durres on March 7, 1939 and is the son of Thomai and Jasilika and the brother of Kaliroi and Kristofer. His native town is Delvina, Saranda.

Soon after he was born, his family moved to Tirana, where he would pas most of the time on “Fortuzi” road, watching all the good and popular Albanian players of the time play. Spending too much time playing with his would be fellow peers, like sulejman Maliqati, Gani Xhafa, Gani Merja, Bert Jashari, Skender Halili left very little time for studying. “My parents were tottally against me spending time playing and staying away from books”remembers Pano or Joti as all friends and family called him. He started his education at elementery school ” Hasan Vogli” and then middle school “10 Korriku” ” I remember my first teachers, great teacher, Myftar Marku and Ljubica Vejanika, who always encouraged me ” he said.

You have played close to 700 matches, over 100 of which are international (friendly matches included), over 400 domestic goals and over 50 international goals. You have been delcared publicly “The greatest soccer player in Albania”. Do you feel honored ?

Correction. I am voted the Greatest player, but the Albanian bureaucracy would like to name me “Master” a tittle which I have received decades ago. I would like to be noted as I am voted “The Greatest”, then I will feel really honored and respected”

When did you become aware of your ever growing passion for soccer?

“Ever since I was little, 4-5 years old, the only thing I would do or thing about was play football”

When did you first start playing with a team and which was your first club?

I started playing in the early ¨50s, with SK Tirana. Actually was Spartak with coaches Iliaz Dingu and Fadil Bakalli and the team wasn’t in any youth league competition. Then in 1956, I moved at Tirana with coach Xhavit Demneri. On the first match he activated me as a goalkeeper.

Then how did you Become a forward player?

One player was missing, so the coach decided to put me as a right forward. We lost to Partizani 0-4. Since that match, coach Demniri must have liked my skills, because he decided not to put me back as goalie again.

When did you start Playing with Partizani?

I left Tirana, but before I joined Partizani (The Albanian Army team) I served in the Army for a few months as a marine, in the seaside city of VLORA, Then prior to start of 1960 season, I was asked to join Partizani in a feq of their International activities and then signed up for the “Red” team. After that, it’s history.

Your most emotional International match?

As they say “We always remember our first” (Smile) and I do remember my first match with National Team against Bulgaria in Tirana, June 6,1963. I was very emotional and my adrenaline was pumped up.

Your most memorable International Match?

Against Germany, no doubt. Particularly the match in Tirana, in 1967.We won the game, we knew it, the Germans knew it and the referees knewit, even though in the papers it appeared as a tie 0-0.

Your most Important International Goal?

Going back, definitely My first. It was the goal I scored against Denmark in Tirana and thanks to my goal we won 1-0.

Your most Important Domesctic Goal?

Tough. I have scored many in very decisive times. But, only one tops them all. The goal that gave me my first trophy. After 2 matches and 5 extra times Partizani was playing against Dinamo for the Championship match. First game ended up 1-1 after regulation and 2 extra times. Then the second match was played 0-0 after refulations and 2 extra times. Then was my turn. I scored and the winning goal us the Championship.

Your “Lucky” Goal ?

I scored from the penalty spot once. The opposing keeper Teli Ciko and saved the kick but the ball rolled slowly under his arms into the net. That was a lucky goal.

What do you consider the best time of soccer in Albania?

Years 1970-1975. I played in 50s, 60s, and the 70s, but the latter years were the best ever. Then, there were the best ever. Then, there were the 80-es, but of course, Id have to pick the years I played.