Albanian Eagles

The Albanian Eagles rafting team

The World Youth and Masters rafting championships starting at the end of August in the Czech Republic has been this year’s focus for many teams. We have saw the introduction of world youth competitions at the R4 world championships in Holland in 2010, but this year will see the first masters world championships. The master’s category is for competitors over the age of 40. Many of these paddlers will have a vast amount of experience under their belt, for some it may be the motivation to take the old paddle down off the wall and enjoy the thrills and excitement of again competing at a world level. There is no such thing as retirement in the raft racing world.

Not many of us will have heard much about rafting in Albania, but for over 15 years a few Albanians have been pioneering rafting in their country. Zamo Spathara was involved in the first exploration of the Osumi Canyon in 1985, this triggered a passion for rafting and after many obstacles and political barriers commercial rafting has been secured and opened up to the world on this beautiful river. Albania is now a full member of the IRF and Zamo and his friends will be coming to the Czech Republic, competing in the Masters championships and are excited to show the world what Albanian rafters can do. We caught up with Zamo to find out about his expectations of the up and coming competition.

Zamo Spathara, captain of the Albania Eagles team started our conversation talking about his passion for rafting and how it all started for him.

“The little adventure of the Osumi Canyon created the first group of Rafting in Albania” say Zamo.  “We do this sport not just for the fun but because I could not imagine life without rafting – It’s part of us,  It’s what we live for”. Zamo went on to explain that rafting for him is more than just the thrill of being on the water it is also about the parties, cheers, the long mini-bus rides, the friends that you make and all the memories. It is a way of life.”

I asked Zamo, would this be their first competition on the world stage of raft racing and what are his expectations of the competition?

“The victory…why else would we enter a competition.” – Theses first words being said with a big smile across his face. Zamo continued to say “It is not just about going there to try and win, we are looking forward to making new friends from different cultures, also we would like to learn from the experience with an aim to organise an international rafting competition in Albania.”

Zamo also went on to say how they are very proud of their participation this year as it is the 100th anniversary of Albanian Independence. “The Albanian flag will be waved in the World Rafting Championship and we are very proud of this, proud to present the Albanian spirit, the ‘Albania Eagle’ and our wonderful country.”

Zamo explained they have not had any experience on artificial courses before so the whole competition will be a huge learning experience.

But it won’t all be about the paddling as the Czechs put on a very good party and even have a specially designed beer glass for the occasion so as Zamo previously said, there is much more to rafting events than just the rafting.

I asked Zamo whether they would be able to stay on for the European championships and World Cup, but as for many of us rafting does not attract much financial backing therefore they have jobs and other responsibilities to head back home for.

With an increasing involvement with the IRF Albania is defiantly looking promising in the possibility of holding future international competitions. Zamo stated they are very proud of their culture and natural beauty of their Country and are very passionate about preserving and protecting this natural environment. They would love to share their rivers and culture with international teams from around the world.  So keep your ears open for future events in the beautiful Country of Albania, and good luck to Albanian Eagles team in the master’s world championships.

Written by Nada