January 7, 2020
Durmisi’s five countries
“I’m Danish, with Albanian blood.” A dual-national, who has lived in Spain and Italy, Riza Durmisi arrived in the most beautiful ‘Païs’ last December. His life has been a rich tapestry of travels. In between two training sessions, the left-footer talked to us about his career; a symbol of modern football and multiculturalism. Via his travels, we will get to know his kind personality, and his powerful style of play, that Allianz Riviera got to see first-hand last Sunday against Fréjus Saint-Raphaël (2-0).
DENMARK, WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
He first fell in love with the round ball in Denmark: “I began playing football when I was five years old with SB50 Eshøj. At first, I was a forward and scored a lot of goals because I was very quick.” Very, very quickly, the young Riza thought long and hard about becoming a professional footballer and doing everything he could to make it happen: “I saw that I should focus on left-back to make sure I could play for my club and my country. I made that decision when I was 15, based on how I felt. I thought and saw what position I could play my best. Albanians all say they want to be attackers and when they don’t make it, they stop playing football. This part of me (pointing to his head) is Danish.”
Playing for Brøndby IF from November 2013 to the summer of 2016, he became a professional having worked his way through the club’s youth ranks. When we ask him about football in his homeland, he laughs, “In Denmark, it’s all long throws and long balls and uneven pitches!”
While his Albanian grandfather immigrated to Denmark, both Riza and his father were born in the Kingdom. A dual-National, he represented the country of his birth at youth level. I am born and raised in Denmark, so that was my choice. But I feel very strongly for both countries. As fate would have it, on 4 September 2015, he earned his first senior cap for Denmark against… Albania!
SPAIN: AN IMPORTANT STEP
The first time he quit his homeland was for Spain where he fell in love with the region and the country. Playing for Real Betis between 2016 and 2018, the international full-back talks freely about “an important time in my life. I was 22 years old and I learnt to live on my own. I learnt a lot. There was a lot of pressure at the club and the fans were very passionate. Real Betis will always hold special place in my heart,” he declared, stating he will retire to Andalusia when his playing days are over. In two seasons, he played under several coaches: Gustavo Poyet, Quique Setién and Víctor Sánchez (Nov 2016 - Mai 2017), who brought the best out of him: “I played my best football under Sanchez. He gave me a lot of freedom and told me to enjoy myself.”
It was during this time that the first contact with OGC Nice was made: “After my first year in Seville, Nice wanted to sign me. I was very excited by the idea because it’s a big club in France with a great history.” In spite of everything, the marriage didn’t happen then. “There are always things in football that you can’t control.”
ITALY: TACTICS, TACTICS, TACTICS
In 2018, his travels took him to Italy and its capital Rome. “At that time, I saw this transfer to Lazio as a real step forward in my career, to keep improving in a championship known for its defence.” Durmisi was stunned by just how different Serie A was from La Liga: “Italy is tactics, tactics, tactics! The first 45-50 minutes of a match are just tactics. You have to wait for a goal or the final minutes to really see a match open up.”
NICE, WITHOUT A DOUBT
While other options in Italy presented themselves, the talks back in his Betis days returned: “Mr Vieira and Mr Fournier were the main reasons for me signing here. Mr Fournier came and saw me in Rome and, from that moment on, I never had a doubt. It’s different when you speak to real people, face to face.”
Durmisi also spoke to his former teammate in Spain, Didier Digard, who reassured him of his decision: “French football suits the type of player I am. Athletic, powerful and quick. Nice is an ambitious club that is growing quickly. It’s the perfect club for me."
After a month’s training, the full-back, loaned from Lazio, had to wait until 2020 to be able to play. His debut came in the Coupe de France against Etoile FC: “I was very honoured to make my debut for Nice,” smiled the Dane. “I hope to play a lot of matches for this great club. The supporters gave me a superb welcome that was really nice.”
“I will be ready in a few matches, but I already feel good,” explained Durmisi, who hit the post with a free kick midway through the second half (68'): “It would have been incredible to start with a goal! I hope i twill go in next time. But the most important thing is the team and that we continue on our way in the Coupe de France. I can’t wait to play in Ligue 1 next!
M.S. / F.H.
CALL HIM BABY
On the Côte d’Azur, Rizi’s settling in has been helped by the presence of compatriot Kasper Dolberg, a player he saw make his professional debut: “Kasper’s first pro match was against my team and we won (Silkeborg 0-2 Brondby on 17 May 2015). He was very young. I didn’t know him then and we went on to play for the national team together.”
The attacker even calls him by a rather unusual nickname, picked up in Spain: “To get the ball, I always used to call ‘baby’ and they ended by calling me that. It followed me to Lazio and maybe here in Nice too (laughs).” Unless he finds something else in French, which he’s already started learning, to add to the five other languages he already speaks!