FK Kukësi is an Albanian professional football club based in Kukës, Albania. The club currently plays in the Kategoria Superiore, the country’s highest football league in Albania.
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FK Kukësi History
Shoqria Sportive Kosova was the name given to the club when it was established on March 4, 1930 in Kukas. This was about at the same time that football was beginning to gain considerable popularity in Albania. In the beginning, the club was comprised of young men from Has, Lum, and Gora. These young men competed in a variety of sports, including athletics and wrestling, in addition to football, which rapidly became the most popular sport to watch and participate in across Kuks. On April 20, 1930, the club played its inaugural match against Internati Krum, which resulted in a scoreless draw between the two teams. The club suffered its first defeat on July 13 against Dibra in Peshkopi, in a match that finished with the opponent winning 4–1 against the team.
In August of 1931, the club took part in a competition in their local area, in which they faced off against teams such as Kallabaku (Borje), Shklzeni (Tropoj), Internati Krum, and teams from the military. After the formation of the Albanian Football Association in 1932, Shoqria Sportive Kosova became officially recognized as Sport Klub Kosova. This occurred simultaneously with the adoption of the name. On the other hand, they did not take part in any of the national championships that were being hosted during that time period. After the conclusion of World War II in 1949, the Albanian Football Association picked up where it left off with its championships. The first time that Shoqria Sportive Kosova took part in a national competition was in 1953, when they competed in the Albanian Third Division.
At the same time that the club was elevated to the Albanian Second Division for the first time in 1958, they also changed their name to Klubi Sportiv Prparimi. The club won its first major trophy in 1967, when it was crowned champion of the Albanian Third Division. With this victory, the club was promoted to the Albanian Second Division for the very first time. They remained in the league for ten years until 1977, when they won the title of the Second Division, which was the club’s most significant accomplishment since it was founded in 1930. In 1982, despite having been demoted relatively rapidly, the team won the Second Division championship and was consequently promoted back to the second tier of play in Albania. Many people believe that the period between the late 1970s and the early 1980s was the club’s “golden era.”
As a result of the fall of communism in Albania in 1991, the club encountered significant financial difficulties. For many years, the club had been dependent on money from the state in order to remain operational. After the fall of the communist dictatorship in Albania, the city of Kuks and local businesspeople started providing financial support for the squad. Despite this, the club was unable to achieve any level of success for nearly two decades after the fall of communism due to a lack of financial resources.
The club underwent a comprehensive makeover in 2010, during which it also changed its name for the third time, this time to Futboll Klub Kuksi. Fatos Hoxha, who represents Kuk in the Albanian Parliament and is a member of the Democratic Party of Albania, was chosen to lead FK Kuksi after running unopposed for the position. The club’s goal for the 2010–11 season was to win promotion from the Second Division and earn a spot in the Kategoria Superiore, which would mark the first time in the club’s history that it would compete at that level. Shahin Berberi was signed on as the club’s manager by Fatos Hoxha and the Municipality of Kuks, and they provided him with the financial support necessary to make a large number of signings in order to earn promotion. At the conclusion of the 2010–11 season in the Albanian Second Division, Berberi accomplished just that, and FK Kuksi was proclaimed champion of the league. FK Kuki achieved their goal of playing in the top flight of football at the end of the 2011–12 season by finishing in second place in the table and receiving automatic promotion to Kategoria Superiore for the 2012–13 season. The following season, the club made significant investments once again, this time to achieve their goal of playing in the top flight of football.
The club’s very first-ever match in the premier division took place on August 26, 2012 at the Zeqir Ymeri Stadium against Lufttari Gjirokastr, another team that had recently been promoted to the top level, and the match finished in a goalless draw in front of little over 2,500 fans. They maintained their perfect record in the league through the first ten games, which included a victory away from home against KF Tirana, the most decorated team in Albania’s history. Their perfect start to life in Kategoria Superiore came to an end on November 17, when they suffered a loss against Flamurtari Vlor by the score of 2-0. At the end of the season, they finished in second place, behind Sknderbeu Korc, whom they had beaten with a score of 4–3 on the very last day of the season.
FK Kuksi’s season was regarded a fantastic success, considering the club’s lowly past. However, this did not prevent them from collecting noteworthy wins throughout the course of the 2012–13 campaign, including a 6–1 victory over Flamurtari Vlor. and a victory over Shkumbini Peqin by the score of 5–1. They were referred to as UEFA’s surprise package because they were the only team to finish the season unbeaten at home and their second-place result earned them a spot in the UEFA Europa League first qualifying round. In addition, they were the only team to end the season unbeaten overall. At the end of the season, they finished with a record of 15 wins, 7 draws, and 4 losses. They also finished with a total of 52 points and a goal differential in their favor of 24.
Midfielder Gerhard Progni scored an equalizer for FK Kukosi in the 79th minute of their debut European match, which took place on July 4, 2013, and was an away match against Flora Tallinn in Estonia. The game ended in a 1–1 tie.
The second match, which took place at the Qemal Stafa Stadium in Tiran, concluded in a scoreless tie; as a result, FK Kukosi advanced to the second qualifying round of the Europa League based on the away goal rule.
In the next round, FK Kuksi faced the Bosnian team FK Sarajevo, which they had previously beaten 3–2 in the first leg at the Qemal Stafa Stadium thanks to goals from Yll Hoxha, Lazar Popovi, and Igli Allmuca.
The second leg of the competition, which was played at the Asim Ferhatovi Hase Stadium, concluded in a scoreless draw, which meant that FK Kuksi advanced to the third and final qualifying round of the competition.
In the next round, they competed against Metalurh Donetsk from Ukraine, and they stunned the Ukrainians by claiming a 2–0 victory in Tirana. The goals that won the game for them were scored by Lucas Malacarne and Renato Malota.
FK Kuksi suffered their first loss in European competition in their sixth match, which was the away leg of their tie against Metalurh Donetsk. Despite this, they were able to advance to the play-off round because they won the tie 2–1 on aggregate after both legs of the match.
In the play-offs, they were matched up against a much larger club in the form of the Turkish team Trabzonspor. The first leg of the match took place at their stadium, and the result was a foregone conclusion: a loss by a score of 2-0.
During the second leg of the match, which took place at the Hüseyin Avni Aker Stadium, FK Kuksi was able to take the lead thanks to a goal scored by Lazar Popovi in the 11th minute. However, they were unable to hold on to the lead and ended up losing 5–1 overall.
The club’s success in Europe was widely covered in the media in Albania as well as the rest of the area; as a result, the players were hailed as heroes for prevailing despite being the underdog in both their country and on the continent.
They got off to a terrible start in the 2013–14 season, losing their first game to the team that had just been promoted, KF Lushnja, and then getting routed at home by Vllaznia Shkodr by a score of 3-0, which put them in the relegation zone and second from the bottom after the first two games were played. However, they swiftly got back on their feet and defeated the defending champions Sknderbeu Korc by a score of 3–1, after which they played Teuta Durrs to a draw and then defeated Kastrioti Kruj to move themselves out of the relegation zone. They went on to lose the next game they played against Partizani Tirana, which led to the head coach Armando Cungu being replaced by Naci ensoy. Naci ensoy’s tenure at FK Kuksi began with two draws and a loss, which put the club back in the zone for being relegated. However, beginning in week 10, they embarked on a run of four consecutive victories, which lasted until they played Sknderbeu Korc to a 1–1 draw. However, the head coach ensoy quit immediately following a goalless draw at home against Bylis Ballsh because he was under pressure from both the supporters and the president Safet Gjici. Ensoy only won one of his next four league games, and he was under criticism from both the fans and the president.
The technical director of the club, Sulejman Starova, has assumed the role of head coach till the conclusion of the season. His most recent managerial position was in 2010 with KF Tirana, when he worked as the head coach. Starova started off with a disheartening loss of 2-0 against a team that was destined for relegation in Besa Kavaj, but they bounced back with consecutive wins over Flamurtari Vlor and KF Laci to reclaim some momentum for a late title challenge. Despite only losing once in their last eleven games, which saw them win seven times, to finish comfortably in second place, four points behind Sknderbeu Korc and three points ahead of KF Laci who finished first and third respectively, hopes of winning the title were dashed after a 3–1 loss to KF Tirana in week 22. Sknderbeu Korc finished in first place, while KF Laci finished in third place. In addition, they had a successful run in the Albanian Cup, where they defeated Naftari Kucov, Apolonia Fier, Bylis Ballsh, and Teuta Durrs on their way to the final against Flamurtari Vlor, which they ultimately dropped by a score of 1-0 due to a goal scored by Arbr Abilaliaj.
FK Kukësi Stadium
The Zeqir Ymeri Stadium is the home field for Kuksi. It is a stadium with a capacity of 9,500 seats and is situated close to the city center of Kuks. The current stadium was finished in 2012, and prior to that, the club had played on a field that was located in the same position that the stadium was built over. The previous ground was known as the Prparimi Stadium until 2010, taking its name from the club’s name at the time, which was the Prparimi Kuks. The current stadium was built over this field. As the club has spent the great part of its history playing in lower leagues of Albanian football, there was no obligation to build a stadium for a small local team. Therefore, the facility traditionally consisted of a playing field surrounded by grass where people would watch games from.
Construction on the stadium began in July of 2010, and it was funded equally by the Albanian Football Association, the Municipality of Kuks, and UEFA. Together, these three organizations invested the 800,000 euros that were necessary to get construction on the stadium started. The stadium was officially opened on November 30, 2010, with a friendly match between FK Kuksi and Partizani Tirana, which FK Kuksi won 1-0. The ground was given the name Zeqir Ymeri in honor of a former footballer for the club. As soon as the club was promoted to Kategoria Superiore in 2012, the stadium did not meet the requirements necessary to compete in the top flight. This resulted in additional investment on the ground, which resulted in an intensive reconstruction program during the summer of 2012 in order to get the stadium ready for the 2012–13 season. The stadium was given a seated capacity of more than 9,000 spectators, and all of the required amenities were added in order to meet the requirements of the league. It was reopened on October 1, 2012, with a total reconstruction cost of €1,076,000, and it was able to meet all of the league’s requirements.