||More to Sakiri than a corner
Aug 29 2003
By Hyder Jawad, Birmingham Post
Surprisingly, Artim Sakiri is not bored of being famous for one goal.
He has been well known in Macedonia for years but only since he scored from a corner against England last October has he become part of the football vernacular.
A “Sakiri” could easily be a noun that means “embarrassing David Seaman with an outrageous shot”. Then again, so could a “Ronaldinho” or a “Nayim”. The choices are seemingly endless.
Sakiri, the West Bromwich Albion midfield player, will have a chance to repeat his feat when Macedonia play the return game against England, this time in his home city of Skˆpje, on September 6.
“Some people knew me for a long time, long before the game against England,” Sakiri said. “This will be my 55th cap for my country. In England, people might know me more for scoring that corner. I am happy with that situation, yes.”
Macedonia drew 2-2 with England at St Mary’s Stadium, Southampton, but it was Sakiri’s performance that really caught the eye. Of medium height, balding slightly, with an athletic physique, he dominated the midfield and helped to make it a night of embarrassment for England.
Ten months on, having secured a move to The Hawthorns and brought his hairstyle into the 21st century, Sakiri is a man in demand.
If he repeats his feat next Wednesday, he could damage England’s hopes of qualifying for the European Championships. Even if he does not, he has already added new possibilities to the once humble practice of taking corners.
Before England in Skˆpje comes a match for Albion away to Derby County on Saturday. Having overcome a minor bug, he is fighting fit and fit to fight.
“I feel good,” Sakiri said. “First I am looking forward to Saturday and the game against Derby County. There are ten days to England. Saturday is very important. From Saturday night, then the England game is important.
“I like this football and I am here because I like it. I enjoy this game in England. It is quick, yeah.”
Sakiri, aged 29, unsuccessfully tries to play down his role in the Macedonia national team. His best memory from the game last October is not his corner, as impressive as that was, but the result. The draw was a catalyst for a night of celebration through the country.
“I cannot say what the reaction was like back home because I was in Southampton,” Sakiri said. “But you can imagine, if you win the World Cup or if you are a champion, the reaction there was more than a champion. The people really celebrated this.
“I did my best for the national team in that game against England. The best thing was that we got a point from that game. I practised my corners three or four times before the game in the warm-up.
“I have time from Monday to practise corners. For me, it doesn’t matter how I score, so long as I do. A lot of things have happened in my career, not only the goal against England.
“We want to play football against England and we are playing for a win. We should have done better in this group, from the first game when we drew against Liechtenstein.”
As the most prominent member of the Macedonia team, and certainly the best, Sakiri’s knowledge will be required when the squad meets up in Skˆpje on Monday.
“My knowledge of the English game will be a help when I talk to my manager,” Sakiri said. “We know that England played Croatia last week and we know all about England. I hope there will be a lot of surprises but I am not going to say how we will play this match.”
“People know about Macedonia. We played in the Champions League and there are a lot of agents who watch the games.”
If the game in Southampton last October was the biggest game in Macedonian history up to that point, this one will be bigger. When he was born, Macedonia was part of the old Yugoslavia.
He does not like discussing the political implications of the break up in the Balkans but he is intensely proud of his background. Macedonia is a new nation in football but old in terms of its status in the Balkans.
Playing England means a lot, much more than a game against Turkey or any of the other teams in their European Championship qualifying group seven.
“England, rather than Turkey, is the bigger game for Macedonia,” Sakiri said. “We have played Turkey a few times before so England is bigger. If you want to get a ticket, you have no chance. You can imagine what the atmosphere will be.
“It will be friendly. There will not be any problems because they love football; even if the English supporters will come there, no problems.”
There might be for England if Sakiri takes the corners from the left.