8th edition of BALFIN Volley/ Will Neptun-ACREM hegemony be broken? The protagonists speak

BALFIN Volley, a real volleyball championship, has already become a tradition of the BALFIN Group, a conglomeration of businesses located in Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro, Northern Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Netherlands and Austria. The eighth edition of this all-inclusive activity has just begun. The championship was forced to stop from being organised last year, being the sole year since its founding, due to the pandemic and the state of emergency declared by governmental bodies.

In this year's edition, 12 teams and 179 players will participate, divided into two groups, with a winning team to be announced at the end of the activity.

This year's novelty is that the two finalist teams will further face the winning teams of BALFIN Volley in Kosovo and Northern Macedonia, and crown for the first time in Tirana a winning team of BALFIN Volley International.

The aim of this activity has been, since its very beginning, the strengthening of the team spirit within the companies, socialization of employees and their placement in situations of mutual cooperation and solidarity. Of course, even Fair-Play and especially partnership, as one of the basic values ​​of BALFIN, have always been at the centre of the volley championship.

Perhaps it is a unique case in the Balkans for a private company to carry out such an activity. As in any other field of business where it operates, BALFIN Group has paid also maximum attention and seriousness in the arrangement of this championship. Seeking the highest standard, Balfin has found the professional assistance of the "Superior Volley" association and of Artan Pogoni, a well-known volley personality.

Arrangements

Each BALFIN Group company has founded its own team. A criterion for the teams’ participation in this championship is that two female players must be active in the team during the entire game, to make it an all-inclusive activity.

As in professional activities, the maximum number of allowed registered players is 18 players per team.

In the first stage, the teams are arranged in Groups. The first 2 teams qualify from each group. The semi-final and final round take place with the play-off system. During the stage in groups, the teams all face each-other once and based on the accumulated points, is the ranking in groups determined.

This year, the championship arrangement will adhere to all anti-Covid measures that the professional handball championships follow in Albania. In addition, there will be medical staff in each match.

Rivalries

In recent years, the most iron rivals of the championship have been Neptun and ACREM (the company that manages the shopping malls of TEG, QTU and other entities).

The two captains of these teams, Blendi Dashi and Artan Picari, confess their emotions on the eve of the start of the championship.

We start with the reigning champion, ACREM.

Artan Picari, captain of the team and Vice Security Manager of ACREM reveals how the seven-year journey has been for his team until their announcement as its champion.

"We had a strange start, with scepticism on how we could play volleyball, as none of the staff had previously played with set rules, referees, but with the desire to do something. In the first two years we did not manage to get out of the group, but the will did not fade to catch the target, until in 2014 when we passed the Group level and were always in the semi-finals. In 2016, we reached the first final against Neptun. Then, in 2018 we were again in the final with Neptun, and only in 2019 were we crowned as champions of an electrifying match and atmosphere. This year, we realized that it is really difficult to be a champion, as you have no other goal but to defend the title. This activity has always been very important as it strengthens the discipline and spirit of the group. Especially after this pandemic and after two years of waiting it gets even more adrenaline, but I can quote a saying that motivated me a lot the year when we became champions: The impossible is about people without strength to change their destiny. When you say impossible you are not telling the truth, you are not thinking, you are not committing. Nothing is impossible!'”

A sports rivalry has been created between Neptun and ACREM over the years as they are the two teams that have faced one-another the most in the final. For this reason, the matches between them have often been labelled as "championship derby". The atmosphere of the "derby" is also felt in Neptun, where the gauntlet is thrown by the captain of this team, Blendi Dashi, being at the same time the Wholesale and Franchise Manager.

"A very beautiful tradition has already been created. BALFIN Volley is in its eighth year and will continue. It's a different competition between companies of the Group. This activity helps us to get to know and create a spirit of cooperation with all team members, which we reflect later on during the work processes. In 7 championships, the Neptun team has come out 5 times in the first place and has lifted the cup. Just like the market leader company we represent; our goal is to be the number one. Neptun has won that position with ambition but at the same time enthusiasm and the volleyball team will represent the same values. We have an important task, to return the cup back home, and for such we must work hard and show who we are. To the opponents, I have only two words: get ready! ;)”.

Even the tournament organizers talk with superlatives about the championship.


Sokol Kondi, Public Relations and Events Manager at BALFIN Group, ascertains: “The competition, the grit, the seriousness and the passion of the teams to this championship, has been surprising when I first saw it. It was unimaginable that there could be such sports competitive spirit even on non-professional levels, but what is even more important is that at the end of the tournament not only does everyone become even better friends than they used to be, but they even celebrate the closing of the championship together. It will be the same this year, a celebration organized down to the smallest detail for everyone, in compliance with the health care rules".”.

Artan Pogoni, Doctor of Sports Sciences, Pedagogue and Champion Coach for years in Albanian Volleyball, one of BALFIN’s collaborators in organising this championship, can confirm that: “BALFIN Volley has come as a novelty in the development of recreational sports’ activities in the Albanian reality, but now also in the international reality.

With an 8-year tradition, this activity has annually brought the pleasure of sports competition in the BALFIN Group, with the aim of creating conditions for the employees of this Group for a more active, recreational and social life. Through perfect organization, mass participation, spirit of cooperation and fair play, this activity remains in the elite of these arrangements in our country, as the BALFIN Group is itself. Very few businesses in Albania pay such attention to employees. This sets BALFIN Group apart from other businesses as it pursues highly stimulating policies for employees, creating opportunities for development and participation beyond work.”.”

The teams participating in this year’s competition are: Tirana Bank, Milsped/Stella Mare, BALFIN, AlbChrome, Mane TCI, Neptun, BALFIN Real Estate and Hospitality, Jumbo, Elektroservis, Acrem, On Solutions, Spar.