The Lion and the Bull

Albanians everywhere know the name every single famous Albanian celebrity living abroad. This includes actresses, musicians, scientists, and writers, but sports stars are especially dear to us. It is for this reason that Luan Krasniqi is the only boxer I will ever know by name, only because he is as of yet the most successful Albanian boxer living- I have no choice in the matter at all. During a particularly damp and nasty winter, while my family and I were living in my grandmother’s tiny apartment in Prishtina, I watched him box for the first time.[1] Our nerves had been stretched to the breaking point from the lack of privacy anywhere in our one bedroom home, the hideous practical pyjamas my mother had bought us, and the noise the electrical heater made in the middle of the night. The match turned out to be an unlikely cure for our grumbles, at least for my father and I, who stayed up to watch Luan Krasniqi box against Sinan Şamil Sam, the Bull of the Bosphorus.

The Bull of the Bosphorus (who comes from Turkey) and Luan Krasniqi (whose first name means Lion in Albanian) were both immigrants to Germany who had unwittingly found themselves recreating an ancient, historical rivalry for their countrymen in the boxing ring. An Albanian boxing against a Turk! The Lion against the Bull! Our ancient enemies! It was quite something. It had all the ingredients for something Homeric, even. Apart from my father and I, no one else in our house I displayed any enthusiasm. A week in advance I started asking and double-checking with my father about the time and date of the match. I hoped that we would have no power outages that night. I calculated how long each blackout lasted, and compared it to the amount of time spent with electricity. That way I came up with a probability system, and determined that we would indeed be able to watch the match that night.

The match took place at 12:30 AM in our time zone. My little sister and mother slept in the small bedroom not to disturb us, while my grandmother refused to budge from her pullout couch in the living room. There was a slight anticipation to the whole affair. We had set out food and drink on the coffee table. We were doing the father-daughter equivalent of male bonding. My father explained Luan’s superior technique, his speed, his resilience, as he won round after round. We both swore at the commentator’s pointless remarks and went silent when Luan was either weakening or gaining on his opponent. I found the way the two of them hugged and leaned against each other touching, and almost too affectionate for a man’s sport. Both my father and I smiled when the Bull lost the third round, tired out by the Lion’s sustained assaults. We heard people cheering in the night, and some gunshots were fired too, out of joy.

[1] It was in fact the first time I had watched boxing, period.

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