New York-based Albanians have no trouble rooting for DC
Tucked away in the highest rows of Red Bull Arena’s section221, a throng of fans decked out in black and red cheered heartily for D.C.United during the club’s 3-2 loss to New York over the weekend.
Not a single one of them, however, was from Washington.
In hopes of seeing fellow countryman Hamdi Salihi in action,nearly 200 Albanian fans from gathered in Harrison, New Jersey on Sunday night. The delegation was rewarded withSalihi’s ninth start of the 2012 campaign.
“I have goosebumps,” said Arnid Hoxha, who hails fromSalihi’s hometown of Shkoder and played for the same club – Vllaznia Shkoder –where United’s forward began his career. “I never thought I would see an Albanian player starting and being such astrong player for a big club like D.C. United. It’s really unbelievable, a dream come true.”
After the match, the Albanian international seemed takenaback by the support.
“This was really something special for me,” saidSalihi. “I knew from before that alot of Albanian people live in New York, but I didn’t know that they would cometo the stadium to support me. Today, I saw people in every part of the stadium with Albanian colorsand shirts… it was something really special.”
Salihi’s goal-scoring prowess has made him something of acelebrity in his native land. Thestriker’s Facebook page has more than 29,000 subscribers; a substantial numberconsidering Albania’s population is less than 3 million. In 37 international appearances the28-year-old has nine goals for his national side.
A majority of Salihi’s weekend supporters hailed from theNew York area, but on Sunday, the group proved Albanian blood runs thicker thanboth water and Red Bull alike.
“Before this we used to root for New York,” said Arnis Serhati,a Manhattan DJ who organized the outing. “But since Hamdi came to D.C. we will always support United.”