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Meet KF Skënderbeu Korça — the Wannabe Arsenal of Albania

They look like Arsenal and they're struggling in a Champions League qualifying round, so surely it must be... KF Skënderbeu Korça.
August 20, 2015, 12:37pm

The Champions League play-off saw some of the biggest names in European football vying for a place in the competition's group stages, including Manchester United, Valencia, Shakhtar Donetsk, Lazio, Bayer Leverkusen, Celtic and Sporting Lisbon.

Albanian champions KF Skënderbeu Korçë would not necessarily class themselves among this calibre of sides. But while they may not have the history of an elite club, they certainly have the look of one. When they took on Croatian champions Dinamo Zagreb on Wednesday, it would have been very easy to mistake them for Arsenal.


KF @arsenal Korça
— Toni Lukic (@Sopranovic) 19. August 2015

Not only are Skënderbeu playing in last season's Arsenal kit — a change from their traditional Stoke-like red and white stripes — their badge also bears a suspicious resemblance to the Gunners' modern crest. Unfortunately we're not likely to see English Arsenal clash with Albanian Arsenal, with Skënderbeu losing 2-1 at home to Zagreb. They'll need to win by two clear goals in next week's return leg if they're to have a chance of facing Arsene's lads.

Image via K.F Skenderbeu Korce on Facebook

Kit copying aside, the history of the club is pretty interesting.

Located near the Greek border, Skënderbeu is the oldest club in the Albanian League and had its original heyday in the '30s, winning the title in 1933. However in the decades that followed they became a classic yo-yo club, and in the spring of 2010 were once again facing relegation.

They then got a new president, Agim Zego, who is also the general manager of Red Bull Albania. He brought with him a few powerful friends, and helped the club avoid relegation. Money was invested and for the next season the league title became the target — and it was duly achieved.

Since then the club have won the league every season, notching up five in a row, and are now looking to become the first Albanian team to reach the group stages of the Champions League. As such Zego could manage a goal that his Red Bull bosses have been trying for years (though the club isn't a Red Bull-owned team in the mould of New York Red Bulls or Red Bull Leipzig).

The question then is where the money comes from. It has been assumed that the source is Rezart Taci, an Albanian oil tycoon who once tried to buy AC Milan. That didn't work out, but he did briefly own doomed Italian side Parma. Back in Albania, he wanted to purchase the biggest club in the country, KF Tirana, but was unable to do a deal.

He therefore decided to make KF Skënderbeu Korçë a European football power, and now at least has his club kitted out like a Champions League regular. Unfortunately we don't know where they got the idea to copy the London club, but we wish them luck in Zagreb next week.