After the first three rounds of matches, Albania have made a very laudable start to qualification for 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. Despite losing 2-0 to Hungary on Saturday, the Balkan side are only three points adrift of Group 1 leaders Denmark, and can still harbour hopes of springing a surprise. Ahead of their upcoming game against Portugal in Braga, the Albania and Energie Cottbus midfielder Ervin Skela gave an exclusive interview to Saturday’s encounter in Portugal will be your second straight away game. What were Albania’s aims going into these two matches?
Ervin Skela: Basically, to continue developing as a team, to play as a compact unit on the pitch and not to hide during the games. The team has matured.

Albania last played at a major tournament at the 1964 UEFA European Championship in Spain. What would you say needs to happen for Albania to grace a continental or world tournament once again?
Naturally, we’re lacking in experience and quality. Aiming to acquit ourselves well at international level is one thing, but actually qualifying for a major tournament is another matter altogether. Most of the players in our squad don’t play in the top leagues and, thus, lack the opportunity to pit themselves against the best on a regular basis. It’s this type of experience that we urgently need.

Things appear to be going well under coach Arie Haan. How much of the team’s improvement has been down to the experienced Dutchman?

The coach has played an essential role, which hasn't just been confined to training or tactical matters. He communicates a great deal with us, possesses a lot of experience and bestows confidence on the team.

Sharing Group 1 with the likes of Denmark, Sweden and Portugal is no easy task. What is your opinion of Albania’s opponents in a group that also contains Hungary and Malta?
It’s a very strong and evenly-matched group, as the results from the first few games have shown. We are only on the fringes, but it’s a status we feel comfortable with.

At 31 years of age, you are one of the more experienced players in the national team. How do you see your role now in the side?
Well, being part of the team, I try to pass on some of the experience I’ve gained playing in the Bundesliga to my teammates.

You have played for ten different clubs since starting your professional career 14 years ago. Do you view yourself as a bit of a globetrotter?
No, I don’t consider myself a globetrotter at all. However, I have experienced a great deal, both positive and negative, during the various stages of my career.

After having enjoyed a great season with Energie Cottbus last year, you have stuggled to find your form so far this year.

Well, the whole team is struggling to recapture the form we displayed in the latter half of last season, myself included. Our performances, though, have been picking up in recent games

Which sporting goals do you still have for the future?
I hope to remain fit and help Energie stay in the Bundesliga this year. In the fast-moving world of football, I prefer not to look too far ahead.

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