“Alban Meha is unbelievable. He has a unique shot. I have immense respect for him. He has again made a great and decisive contribution to victory”
– SC Paderborn defender Florian Hartherz after Meha’s two-goal performance against VfL Bochum
“Snaiper” may seem an insensitive nickname to give someone whose family was compelled to flee their homeland due to the outbreak of war, but when you see the precision with which Alban Meha targets from a free-kick spot, you can have no doubt as to the appropriateness of the moniker, insensitive or not.
SC Paderborn’s free-kick specialist long ago earned his reputation as a marksman with deadly accuracy from set pieces. Now, with his club emerging as a sincere combatant in the 2. Bundesliga promotion battle, Meha has Germany’s top flight in his sights.
Meha’s brother, Feriz, believes there is a “good chance” Alban stays at Paderborn, should the club earn promotion, but that “his goal is the Bundesliga, with or without Paderborn.”
“The guy has a dream,” says Feriz. “and that is to show his skills in the Bundesliga.”
Neither the Ostwestfalen club nor their offensive midfielder with the dangerous right foot have ever appeared in the Bundesliga. When Paderborn opened the current season with just nine points from their first nine matches, the 3.Liga seemed a much more likely potential home to the club’s future than the Bundesliga.
Incidentally, Meha missed the first eight matches of the season with a torn meniscus.
“Alban Meha has an outstanding shooting technique. He actually practices it every day after training; he shoots from the distance on goal. I think he is known across Germany as one of the best set-piece shooters and to that end he provided an impressive bit of proof.”
-Andre Breitenreiter, SC Paderborn head coach referencing Meha’s two goals against Bochum
Currently on an eight-match unbeaten run, SC Paderborn finds itself not only a current holder of the promotion playoff spot at third in the table, but also just one point behind second-place SpVgg Greuther Fürth.
Meha has contributed seven goals during Paderborn’s current run. Four have been converted directly from a free kick. Another was scored from a corner kick. Meha had the lone goal in an upset of table leader 1. FC Köln to start the year. Last weekend he single-handedly. . .er. . .footedly erased a 0:1 halftime deficit to visiting VfL Bochum connecting on a pair of free kicks to put the home side in front for good.
When Bochum arrived to Paderborn for the match, Peter Neururer’s club had not conceded an away goal in five matches. Meha’s goals decisively closed that streak and sparked his team to roll to a decisive 4:1 victory, leaving the Bochum coach understandably frustrated.
“I hope that I don’t come here again,” said Neururer of Paderborn after the match. “I wish the Paderborners all the best in the battle to the Bundesliga.”
Whether Paderborn makes the leap to the Bundesliga at the end of this season, Meha’s attention-grabbing success in set-piece scoring could open the path for Meha to fulfill the dream of playing on Germany’s biggest stage. Meha’s current contract with Paderborn is set to expire in the summer of 2015. If the club is unable to make its Bundesliga debut in 2014-15, it will likely have to make a decision on whether to move one of their key players and reap the fiscal rewards of his risen stock, or risk losing him on a free transfer should he not agree to an extension before the current deal expires.
Feriz Meha says several cubs have expressed interest in securing the services of his brother, but nothing that would seem to be on par with the abilities Alban has shown, at least in the eyes of his brother.
“He works hard and has a right foot like no other in the Bundesliga, if not all of Europe,” preaches Feriz to the choir. “His standards-shots are a weapon in football; he can decide a game any time. But sadly, no Bundesliga club sees is or is giving him a chance.”
While making it to one of the top leagues in the world is one dream of every serious footballer, another is becoming an international player and representing your country. Though Meha grew up a bit south of Stuttgart, where the German national team hosted Chile on Wednesday, Meha’s international duty called for him to travel quite a bit further south from Paderborn than even his home state of Baden-Württemberg or Stuttgart’s Mercedes-Arena.
Meha was just five years old when he first arrived in Germany. The Meha family fled Mitrovica, Kosovo in 1991 during the early stages of civil war in Yugoslavia and landed in the small town of Ostfildern with nothing in the way of material possessions.
Sometimes, it’s a lot of nothing than can fuel the fire to burn hot enough to make dreams come true.
On Wednesday evening in the coastal city of Durrës, Meha delivered a dream-like goal from distance while wearing the bright red jersey of Albania, his second goal in six appearances for the national team that has become home for several Kosovars. While the focus in Germany was primarily on how much the Nationalmannschaft struggled with Chile, Meha’s arcing effort for the final goal in Albania’s 2:0 over Malta was making the rounds on social media channels.
While the focus for Meha will continue to be on helping Paderborn keep their momentum and make a play for promotion, delivering highlight-reel goals while adding more spots to his direct free kick goal-scoring chart will continue to make heads turn. It seems only a matte of time before some Bundesliga club decides they’d rather pay to bring him to their roster than have to face him in free-kick situations next season.
Then again, like a sharp-shooter honing their accuracy, perhaps it’s little more than a matter of perfecting one’s art through repetition. That’s what a sniper might have you believe. He might even have a disarming smile on his face as he told you all this. He might make it seem as if it’s the most-natural and simple thing in the world, even as you still are shaking your head in wonder at the goals scored not an hour beforehand, knowing full well you simply don’t see things like that happen regularly, despite the amount of football you watch.
Beware the smiling assassin.
“I have to hit the ball optimally. A bit of technique goes along with it, and a lot of training, and then they fly as in like they did today.”
– The Snaiper