Altin Dodë Lala (born 18 November 1975) is an Albanian former professional footballer who played as a defensive midfielder and former manager. He spent his entire playing career in Germany and represented the Albania national football team.
|Full name||Altin Dodë Lala|
|Date of birth||18 November 1975|
|Place of birth||Tirana, Albania|
|Height||1.72 m (5 ft 8 in)|
|Playing position(s)||Defensive midfielder|
|2009–2010||Hannover 96 II||5||(1)|
|2012||Bayern Munich II||3||(0)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
He has also enjoyed a long international career, making 79 appearances for his country since 1998, the second highest in Albania's international history, being overtaken only by Lorik Cana in 2014. He debuted for Albania in January 1998 during a friendly match and then participated in the friendly tournament 2000 Rothmans, helping his team to win the tournament. He participated in overall seven qualifying tournaments of both UEFA European Championship and FIFA World Cup. He also scored three goals for his country. His first international goal came in March 2003 in a UEFA Euro 2004 qualifying match against Russia. Lala took over the captaincy of Albania national team in 2007, ever since Igli Tare was no longer capped by former manager Otto Baric during the UEFA Euro 2008 qualifying. He led his team as a captain in the next qualifying tournaments of the 2010 FIFA World Cup and the UEFA Euro 2012 until 2011 before announcing his retirement from international football.
Lala was born in the capital of Albania, Tirana, to Dodë and Pashke Lala who are both originally from Pukë. He grew up in the Tirana e Re neighbourhood of the capital with his parents, brother and sister, where he played football on the streets like most of the children in the area. His father wanted him to focus on his education ahead of sport, but eventually did sign up Lala to local side Dinamo Tirana.
He travelled to Germany at the age of 15 with the Albanian U-16 side in 1991, where they were staying at their training camp near the Port of Hamburg. However, Lala along with many of his teammates decided against returning to Albania and instead he sought asylum in Germany. He eventually settled at a refugee camp in Fulda, where he joined local side Borussia Fulda's youth team. As he could not speak anything other than Albanian, he relied on hand signals to communicate with the players and coaches, but after two years in the youth team he was promoted to the senior side.
After the first team of Borussia Fulda was promoted to the third tier Oberliga Hessen, he was often as an unused substitute during the second half of the 1993–94 season playing two matches. In the next season, the Oberliga Hessen was moved to the fourth tier of German football. Lala managed to play eight matches. He managed to establish himself in the first team for the 1995–96 season to play 24 games and to score his first and only goal in the whole season. Borussia Fulda reachted the first place in the table which meant promotion to the Regionalliga Süd in the next season.
On 21 July 1998, he joined newly promoted 2. Bundesliga team Hannover 96; making his debut on 30 July 1998, in a 1–0 victory over Karlsruher SC. Here, he helped the club win the promotion to the Bundesliga in 2001–02 and since has played over 149 Bundesliga games, becoming the longest-serving player within their squad. In all his time at Hannover 96, Lala has only scored one Bundesliga goal.
In 2004, he became team captain and remained so until the 2007–08 season, being popular both within the team and with fans (who have nicknamed him "The Battle Dwarf" (German: Kampfzwerg) due to his combative style of play).
In the 2007–08 season, he made 28 league appearances without scoring a goal. Lala did not make a great start to the 2008–09 season, he only managed to start in five of the opening games and to come on as a substitute in some of the other games. Hannover 96 did not make a good start either as they only managed ten wins this season. After 181 Bundesliga matches for 96 his career in the German top-flight ended with the 2011–12 season.
Bayern Munich IIEdit
Despite planning his retirement once his contract with Hannover ran out in the summer of 2012, Bayern Munich II were in talks with Lala in March about joining the club on a free transfer in the summer. The idea was proposed by Lala's former teammate Michael Tarnat, a youth scout at Bayern Munich. Lala made three appearances for Bayern's reserve team before being forced to retire due to injury in October 2012.
He recorded 79 appearances for Albania national team and is currently the second highest in Albania's international history, being overtaken only by Lorik Cana in 2014. He has also scored three goals for his country.
He debuted with Albania senior team under coach Astrit Hafizi on 21 January 1998 in a friendly against Turkey as a half-time substitute for Përparim Daiu; in Lala's presence on the pitch during the second-half, Albania managed to score three times to take an away 1–4 victory at İzmir Atatürk Stadium. Right after his debut he went on to participate in the 1998 Rothmans International Tournament in next month. He was ever-present in the whole tournament under coach Hafizi and Albania took two draws against hosts Malta (1–1) and Latvia (2–2) and lost to Georgia to end the tournament in the third place. He participated in the next edition in 2000, helping his team to win the tournament. He scored his first international goal on 29 March 2003 in a UEFA Euro 2004 qualifying match against Russia in the 79th minute; the match ended 3–1 for Albania and became one of the country's greatest ever achievements in football. His second goal came just three months later during the same qualifying tournament against Switzerland in the 22nd minute of a thrilling 3–2 loss. Lala became the captain of Albania during the UEFA Euro 2008 qualifying, since Igli Tare was no longer capped by former manager Otto Baric. His third and final goal was scored in his 50th match for the Red and Blacks against San Marino in 2006.
On 3 March 2014, Lala was presented as assistant coach of Albania national football team by head coach Gianni De Biasi, replacing previous assistant Angelo Pereni. On 12 August 2014, Lala was named as the Albania national under-19 football team coach, after the previous coach Foto Strakosha left to work for Olympiakos.
|Borussia Fulda||1993–94||Oberliga Hessen||2||0||—||—||2||0|
|Hannover 96||1998–99||2. Bundesliga||24||3||1||0||—||25||3|
|Hannover 96 II||2008–09||Regionalliga Nord||3||1||—||—||3||1|
|Bayern Munich II||2012–13||Regionalliga Bayern||3||0||—||—||3||0|
- All appearances in 2011–12 UEFA Europa League
|1.||29 March 2003||Loro Boriçi Stadium, Shkoder, Albania||Russia||2 – 1||3–1||Euro 2004 qualifying|
|2.||11 June 2003||Stade de Genève, Geneva, Switzerland||Switzerland||1 – 1||2–3||Euro 2004 qualifying|
|3.||16 August 2006||Stadio Olimpico, Serravalle, San Marino||San Marino||3 – 0||3–0||Friendly|
- "Altin Lala". National Football Teams. Benjamin Strack-Zimmerman. Retrieved 15 October 2014.
- "Altin Lala" (in German). hannover96online.de. 17 July 2002. Archived from the original on 5 January 2008. Retrieved 17 December 2007.
- Arnhold, Matthias (12 July 2017). "Altin Lala – Matches and Goals in Bundesliga". RSSSF. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
- Jetmir Halilaj (25 March 2012). "Ish-kapiteni kuqezi akord me bavarezët, Lala: Ja projekti im te Bajerni i Mynihut" [Former red&black captain accord with Bavarians, Lala: Here's my project with Bayern Munich] (in Albanian). Panorama Sport. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
- "Lala Javen tjeter firmos per Bajern!" [Lala Next Week I sign for Bayern!] (in Albanian). Shqipëria.com. 12 April 2012. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
- "Altin Lala terhiqet nga futbolli" [Altin Lala retires from football] (in Albanian). Shqipëria.com. 18 October 2012. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
- Hoxha, Florent; Mamrud, Roberto (12 June 2014). "Goalscoring for Albania National Team". rsssf.com. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
- "Turkey national football team lost to Albania 1:4, 21 January 1998". EU-Football.info. Retrieved 17 December 2017.
- "Rothmans Tournament 1998". rsssf.com. RSSSF. Retrieved 17 December 2017.
- Mamrud, Roberto (12 July 2017). "Altin Lala – International Appearances". RSSSF. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
- "Altin Lala". EU-Football.info. Retrieved 15 October 2014.
- "De Biasi: Januzaj ka zgjedhur Anglinë". aSport.al (in Albanian). 3 March 2014. Archived from the original on 13 May 2016. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
- "Altin Lala merr drejtimin e kombëtares U-19, Strakosha largohet". fshf.org (in Albanian). 12 August 2014. Archived from the original on 15 August 2014. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
- "Match Euro Qualifying : Albania vs. Russia". footballdatabase.eu. 29 March 2003. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
- "Match Euro Qualifying : Switzerland vs. Albania". footballdatabase.eu. 11 June 2003. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
- "Match Friendlies : San Marino vs. Albania". footballdatabase.eu. 16 August 2006. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Altin Lala.|
- Altin Lala – FIFA competition record
- Altin Lala at Soccerway
- Altin Lala at National-Football-Teams.com
|| Hannover 96 captain
| Albania national team captain