You’ve heard countless sports stars talk about how competing is like a drug and is hard to give up, and that is particularly true of former Eintract Frankfurt footballer Ervin Skela.
The 40-year-old earned 75 caps and scored 13 goals for Albania between 2000–2011 – making him their fourth most capped international – while also playing in Germany, Poland and italy. he still plays today, combining coaching duties at Frankfurt’s academy with turning out for FC Hanau 93 in Germany’s seventh tier.
Skela spoke to Sport360° during Die Adler (The Eagles’) winter training camp in Abu Dhabi.
You have played for a host of clubs, but Eintracht Frankfurt is where you spent the most time. You are a coach here now too, so is the club special to you?
It was my best time during my career, at the club. I love the club. I’ve been living in Frankfurt too since the end of my professional career so I feel comfortable in the area too. I’m always surprised that people still recognise me now even after all these years.
It gives me a good feeling that I played well in the past. I’m very happy now being a coach with the football academy. It’s my club.
What is your career highlight?
There were a lot of positives and negatives. At Frankfurt the best moment was getting promoted from the second division to the Bundesliga in the 2002/03 season. It was a very special game where we scored in the last minute. We beat SSV Reutlingen 6-3 on the final day, but it was the sixth goal that was so important for promotion as it meant we finished with a goal difference of +26, meaning we were promoted ahead of Mainz, who finished fourth, who had a goal difference of +25.
At a national team level there are a lot, but matches against Greece when they were European champions after winning Euro 2004, and we beat them 2-1. Also playing against Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo. We won 1-0 so it was a great success.
You played 75 times for Albania. They are a small nation but appeared at Euro 2016. Do you think the future is bright?
The future is quite good. Nowadays a lot of Albanians live abroad, in Switzerland and Germany and across Europe. They have the chance if they are talented to play for big clubs. It gives them a good football education so this way is good. They are playing in team academies from a young age.
The local league in Albania still has problems regarding the level, infrastructure. Now it is easier to travel across borders, so it’s getting easier for young players to get noticed.
During your career, who is the best player you played against?
I played against Maldini, Seedorf and Inzaghi at AC Milan. The best player was Kaka during my time in Italy. I was fascinated by his technical skills. It was like he was flying over the ground more or less.
And the best player you played with?
Marco Delvecchio while I was at Ascoli. He had a good eye, great technical skills and was very experienced. He knew exactly what he had to do.
Despite leaving professional football a few years ago, you still play at a competitive standard?
Yes. I still play in the seventh division in Germany, just for fun. It’s a team near Frankfurt, Hannau 93. I’m still fit and I can have a drink afterwards too, it’s just a bit of fun.
Players always say they find it hard to give it up. Have you found it difficult to hang the boots up?
Since I started playing aged seven, it’s always been 24 hours football. I don’t know any different. It’s also not good to totally cut out doing something. Whatever it is. Your body needs to settle so it’s a slow curve downwards.
I’m still having fun playing with those young boys so it’s just the fun factor. I’ll keep doing it as long as I can and as long as I’m enjoying it. I’ve been lucky with injuries throughout my career so why wouldn’t you (carry on).
As a coach at Eintracht, you’ve visited Abu Dhabi during the Bundesliga’s winter break the last few seasons and held training camps with kids playing in the National School League tournament. What have you made of the talent on show?
There were two kids with advanced skills and very good talent this year. If you had more time you’d maybe see a bit more. It’s very important for them to repeat the excercises. Even the coaches had a lot of fun. The kids were polite and really wanted to learn. They were keen for any advice or tips.
Do you think perhaps there might be a player from here playing for Frankfurt one day?
There was a case last year where one player at a camp in Europe is now playing for a club next to us in Germany where we have a partnership with them. He’s playing for their youth team. It’s a step like this that young players can take to playing for Frankfurt perhaps one day.
And as a club we’re building our links and cooperation with other clubs too. It makes sense for the youngsters to participate here, you’ve always got a chance.
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