Although Albania did not secure a place in the 2006 World Cup in Germany, the country's football fans are following the competition with interest.
By Erlis Selimaj for Southeast European Times in Tirana -- 30/06/06
Many cafes and bars in Tirana are showing the World Cup matches. [Gent Shkullaku]
Cafes, bars and restaurants in the Albanian capital are using the World Cup to attract more customers. In many of them, the owners offer large flat-screen TVs for viewing the matches.
"It is a chance for us to get more clients. We see that this period is very busy with the matches and we know that many people would like to watch them ... It's a good way for us to profit as well. They will watch the matches and also consume something from our bars," one Tirana coffeeshop owner told SETimes.
Some who are at their jobs during the World Cup action say they have found a solution by placing a TV set in their offices. Even though they can't follow the whole match, they can still enjoy the atmosphere.
Others have been using the Internet to obtain match commentary and results.
Among the country's busiest locations these days are the betting centres. They are packed with people putting various amounts of money on their chosen teams. "
Since the World Cup started, we got busier. Albanians like to bet a lot -- Italian Series A, English Premiere League, French League, Spanish, and so on. Now they have one more reason. It's the World Cup! That means more work for us," a teller at a bet centre says.
Emotions run wild, especially when the outcome of a match is decided in its waning minutes.
"I hold my breath until the end. We have had cases where the results changed in the last minute, ruining everything for some, and making others happy. It happened with Sweden-Paraguay, England-Trinidad and Tobago and Germany-Poland. But this is a game and it is all about luck for the teams," a football fan in Tirana says.
Along the capital's main boulevard, Deshmoret e Kombit, stands a huge screen which shows the matches. Normally, at this time of year, Albanians would have started their holidays, or at least be visiting the seaside on daily basis.
The weather this year has been unstable, with more rain and clouds. But when the sun shines, people along the Adriatic coast combine activities: lying in the sand, swimming in the sea, and making sure not to miss a single minute of the World Cup.
As one hotel owner put it: "people can come to the beach and of course use the flat screens and the TV sets we have put for the World Cup. Isn't that a brilliant solution: watching soccer games near the seaside?"