It may not be the biggest country nor a country that is noted for producing championship winning athletes at will, but what they have produced, in regards to rugby league, is an Albanian duo set to play for the London Broncos in their 5th Round Cup tie against the Bradford Bulls.
Erjon Dollapi from Tropoje and Olsi Krasniqi from Tirana arrived in England as youngsters, discovering the wonderful game of rugby league during high school, before they were spotted by the Broncos whilst playing for the West London Sharks .
When they both started out, the two were strangers despite hailing from the same country, but it was the game of rugby league that eventually brought them together.
“I only met Olsi at the Sharks but we get on really well,” said Dollapi.
“He’s a year older than me but we play the same position and do a lot of drills together.
“It is unusual for Albanians to be playing rugby league. There’s a young lad at Featherstone who is with their Under-16s but, apart from him, I don’t think there’s anybody else.”
Albania can be a tough place to live in, so for Dollapi and his family, the decision was made to move to England when he was just 6 years old – before discovering rugby league at the age of 15.
“They came in to our school to let us try out different sports and I did rugby league for a month and a half,” he explained. “Then I played in a tournament and I did quite well.
“Some of the guys asked me to go play for their team, the West London Sharks.
“I was 15 then and a year later I tried out for the Harlequins’ foundation academy. I didn’t get picked for the Under-18s that first year but the year after they asked me come down.”
Dollapi has some rep experience to his name, having played in the Under 16’s against France and has played in the Super League in a match against Warrington, a fortnight after his 20th birthday.
“I’m really pleased to be given my chance,” he said.
“Last year I missed a lot of the season with a few injuries.”
Dollapi managed to convert his parents into rugby league fans but his younger brother Ramazan is yet to be converted to the game.
“He’s not a big fan of rugby league,” he said. “I tried to get him into it but he doesn’t like it.
“He prefers football and was on the books at Brentford but it came to nothing and he now plays with his mates.”