Nothing was said about the Albanian national team until they arrived at Heathrow Airport in London. They made a stopover there on their way to Iceland and the players could be expected to have found it quite a novelty to venture beyond their country’s borders.
It was a sunny Sunday afternoon in June. No news reached Iceland until the evening, when it was reported that the Albanian football team had been taken into custody at Scotland Yard. The players were suspected of shoplifting duty-free goods by the armful.
During questioning, the Albanians referred to the “Duty-Free” signs that where hung up everywhere in the terminal, besides which it was a Sunday and various goods there, for example beer, were free in their country that day. For all they knew, this was the custom in other countries as well.
But even though the Albanians escaped the clutches of Scotland Yard, their dealings with eagle-eyed authorities were far from over. Upon the Albanian team’s arrival in Iceland, an extensive customs search was made through their luggage and they were kept almost under house arrest afterwards until the time for the football match. So the Albanians’ weak attempt to break their isolation with the rest of the world took on a very peculiar form.
Nonetheless, the football match began. The teams entered the pitch and lined up to hear their national anthems being played. But no sooner had the stadium brass band played a few notes than a naked Icelandic male came running out from the spectators’ stand and started hopping around in front of the Albanian team.
At once, six brawny policemen appeared on the scene. They rushed for the naked man, rugby-tackled him and piled on top of him in a heap. But the naked man was slippery as an eel and slipped out of their clutches. He ran past the Albanian football team, waving his genitals at them. At that point the police managed to overpower him. They were last seen carrying him away.
But at that moment everything went wild. The brass band had stopped playing and one of the stadium groundsmen had switched on the microphone and was reciting an impromptu verse in celebration of the incident.
I have often wondered what it would have been like if an Albanian writer had been sitting in the capital city Tirana, a year or two before the football match, imagining it taking place and describing everything that actually happened.
He would have smashed every rule known to socialist realism and imposed by the Albanian Writers’ Union on its members, because reality often outdoes fiction, and nothing is so poetic that reality has no place in it.
This Albanian writer has suddenly become very real.
I visualise him and his position demonstrates two things. Firstly, how ridiculous it is to subject mental activity to rules, or rather, to social goals; and secondly, how unrealistic it is to intend to be realistic, in particular when a predetermined definition of reality is used as a yardstick for truth.
Reality is always catching realism by surprise.