Afrim Taku

Afrim Taku (born 4 August 1989) is an Albanian professional footballer who plays as a midfielder for Tampa Bay Rowdies in the USL Championship.

Afrim Taku
Personal information
Date of birth (1989-08-04) 4 August 1989
Place of birth Tirana, Albania
Height 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in)
Playing position Midfielder
Club information
Current team
Tampa Bay Rowdies
Number 26
Youth career
2004–2010 Tirana
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2008–2015 Tirana 111 (4)
2008–2009Skrapari (loan) 11 (0)
2016–2017 Tirana 34 (9)
2017–2018 Skënderbeu 14 (5)
2018 Tampa Bay Rowdies 15 (0)
2019 Charlotte Independence 26 (0)
2019– Tampa Bay Rowdies 4 (1)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 24 October 2019

Club career

Early career

Taku began his football career as a 13 year old when he joined the KF Tirana academy, where he progressed through the ranks before eventually being loaned out to Albanian First Division side Skrapari for the 2008–09 campaign in order to gain first team experience. He made his professional debut in the First Division with Skrapari, where he featured in 11 league games as he helped the side narrowly avoid the relegation playoff places by a single point.[1]

Tirana

He returned to his parent club Tirana but did not feature at all in the club's 2009–10 campaign, but he was promoted to the first team by head coach Nevil Dede ahead of the 2010–11 season, and he made his debut for the club in the Albanian Cup against his former side Skrapari on 20 October 2010 in a 1–0 away win in which Taku played the full 90 minutes of.[2] He made his Albanian Superliga debut on 20 November 2010 in a 3–1 home win over Elbasani, where he came on as a 76th-minute substitute for Mladen Žižović.[3] Dede left the club soon after and Mišo Krstičević took charge of the team, and the Croatian coach handed Taku his first Superliga start on 30 April 2011 in a 2–1 loss to Flamurtari Vlorë.[4] He made five league appearances in his debut season with Tirana as the club finished in a disappointing 5th place, and he made four cup appearances as Tirana went on to beat local rivals Dinamo Tirana in the final to win the trophy, which was the first major trophy of Taku's career.

Breakthrough

When Spanish coach Julián Rubio took charge of Tirana in June 2011, he placed his faith in the 21 year-old Taku, and he was handed his European debut in the club's season opener in the UEFA Europa League qualifier against Slovakian side Spartak Trnava, which ended in a goalless draw as Taku played the full 90 minutes.[5] He also played the full game in the second leg, which Tirana ultimately ended up losing 3–1 on aggregate, as they were knocked out of the competition.[6] He then played in his first ever Albanian Supercup against Skënderbeu Korçë on 18 August 2011, where he was substituted off in the second half of the 1–0 win as he won the second trophy of his career.[7]

Taku's career took off when coach Julián Rubio came in charge of Tirana in June 2011. He was part of the senior squad almost on every game of the Albanian Superliga for the 2011–12 season except for two matches. Taku's best performance was in the Albanian Supercup for 2011–12 season, a match where the two best football teams in Albania compete to win the ultimate trophy. He scored his first official goal in this decisive match which he dedicated to his coach and the national coach Gianni De Biasi.[8]

On 11 August 2014, Taku agreed a contract extension with the club, signing a contract for the 2014–15 season.[9] Following the end of the 2014–15 season, Taku moved to the United States to live with his wife, but he did not join a football club during his time there.[10]

The return

On 5 July 2016, after a year abroad he returned to Albania as he agreed play for Tirana, signing a one-year contract.[11] He was presented three days later along with Ansi Nika, and was handed his old squad number 26.[12] He made his return debut on 7 September in the opening league match against Teuta Durrës, playing full-90 minutes in a goalless draw.[13] Under the coach Ilir Daja, Taku was placed as a right-winger, moving him closed to the goal. He scored his first goal ten days later in the matchday 3 against Kukësi, helping his side to earn the third consecutive draw.[14] On 2 October, Taku scored two goals in the 3–0 home win against Flamurtari Vlorë; it was the first win of the season after four draws in the first four matches.[15][16]

He was declared Albanian Superliga Player of the Month by the association “Sporti na bashkon”.[17] He was considered to be an unexpected "hero" with his goals, leaving behind the strikers on the team.[18] He had been activated every game for full 90 min, never suspended, substituted or on the bench. On 10 March 2017, during the match against the rivals Skënderbeu Korçë at home, Taku was replaced for the first time this season by the coach Josa in the last minute of regular time with the score tied at 2–2.[19] Taku, however, was not happy with the decision of missing the last few minutes, waiting by the sidelines for the game to finish. One day later, during the match analysis, Josa asked the players if any of them had anything to say, and Taku was the only one who talked, asking the coach why he was replaced, if he made a mistake. Josa replied by saying that he was not irreplaceable.[20] Based on unverified reports, Taku answered back, which led the coach to exclude him out from dressing room.[20] He also added that he asked the president to leave the club given how negative the situation at KF Tirana had become.[20][21] Then, he was suspended for 10 days. While suspended, attempts were made by other teams in Superliga to obtain Taku, most notably by Partizani Tirana who are "enemies" with the "White&Blues".[22] After meeting with the club, Taku returned in training on 22 March.[23] Taku apologized to the coach and teammates for the incident and promised that was not going to happen again.[23] Overall, Taku did not make any public comments or official announcement about what actually happened. He went on to join the Albania national team within 3 days.[24]

He returned on action on 31 March by playing full-90 minutes in the 1–2 home defeat to Vllaznia Shkodër.[25] On 19 April, in the second leg of 2016–17 Albanian Cup semi-final against Besëlidhja Lezhë, Taku scored a penalty kick in an eventual 2–0 home win, which sent Tirana in the Albanian Cup final for the first time since 2011–12 season.[26] Later on 10 May, Taku scored the second goal in Tirana's 2–0 home win over already relegated Korabi Peshkopi, helping the White&Blues to return to winning ways in league after 15 matches.[27]

On 27 May, Taku played full-90 minutes in the final matchday against Vllaznia in Shkodër which finished in a goalless draw, meaning that the club finished the season in 9th place which relegated them for the first time in history, leaving Vllaznia as the only club not to be relegated.[28] Four days later, he was an unused substitute as Tirana won the Albanian Cup for the 16th in history, beating Skënderbeu 3–1 in the final.[29] Taku finished the season with 9 goals in the league and 4 goals in the cup, playing 42 matches. In June 2017, Taku left the club after deciding not to extend his contract, becoming a free agent in the process.[30]

Skënderbeu Korçë

On 17 June 2017, Skënderbeu Korçë president Ardian Takaj confirmed that Taku was going to play for the club for the upcoming season.[31] One week later, Taku was officially presented at Skënderbeu Korçë, penning a temporary contract for the Europa League games, with the possibility to extend for the season, rejoining his former Tirana boss Ilir Daja.[32][33] On 4 August 2017 Taku solved his contract with Skënderbeu by mutual consensus and he went back to the United States for documentations case.[34] Taku returned to the team on 30 August and signed a contract for the 2017–18 season.[35] He scored his first goals of the season on 15 October in the matchday 6 of championship in the 4–1 home win over Lushnja.[36]

Taku officially left the club in mid-March 2018 after failing to return from the United States due to documentation issues.[37] Despite leaving midway through the season, Taku still received a winner's medal for Skënderbeu's triumphs in the championship and cup.[38]

Tampa Bay Rowdies

On 20 June 2018, Taku signed with the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the USL. He was one of two midseason signings for the Rowdies on that day, along with Dominic Oduro.[39]

International career

After an impressive season with Tirana, on 7 June 2015 Taku received his first international level call up in the Albania national team by coach Gianni De Biasi for the friendly match against France on 13 June 2015.[40] He was an unused substitute during the entire match, as Albania beat France 1–0 at Elbasan Arena to receive a historic result.[41]

Taku rejoined the Albania national team in March 2017, where among Keidi Bare was invited by coach Gianni De Biasi to replace Taulant Xhaka and Amir Abrashi which left the gathering for the Friendly match against Bosnia and Herzegovina on 28 March 2017.[24] He didn't managed to play in the game which finished in the 2–1 loss.[42]

Personal life

Taku has stated that his role model and favourite footballer is former Argentine footballer Javier Zanetti.[43]

Career statistics

Club

As of 23 December 2017[44][45]
Club statistics
Club Season League Cup Europe[lower-alpha 1] Other[lower-alpha 2] Total
DivisionAppsGoalsAppsGoalsAppsGoalsAppsGoalsAppsGoals
Skrapari 2008–09 Albanian First Division 11010120
Tirana 2009–10 Albanian Superliga 000000
2010–11 50400090
2011–12 2501402010420
2012–13 251404011342
2013–14 22241263
2014–15 34173414
2016–17 349844213
Total 14513418602119422
Skënderbeu Korçë 2017–18 Albanian Superliga 145309[lower-alpha 3]0265
Career total 170184581502123027
  1. Including continental competitions, such as UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League
  2. Including other competitions, such as Albanian Supercup
  3. Appearances in the UEFA Europa League

Honours

Club

Tirana

Individual

Albanian Superliga Player of the Month: November 2016.[17][48]

References

  1. "Summary - 1st Division - Albania - Results, fixtures, tables and news". Soccerway. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
  2. "Football - Match Kupa e shqipërisë : Skrapari vs. KF Tirana". Football Database. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
  3. "Tirana vs. Elbasani 3 – 1". Soccerway. 20 November 2010. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
  4. "Flamurtari Vlorë vs. Tirana 2 – 1". Soccerway. 30 April 2011. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
  5. "Tirana vs. Spartak Trnava 0 – 0". Soccerway. 14 July 2011. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
  6. "Spartak Trnava vs. Tirana 3 – 1". Soccerway. 18 August 2011. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
  7. Fation Shehu (19 August 2011). ""Luftë" në Korçë, Tirana fiton Superkupën" ["War" in Korçë, Tirana wins the Supercup] (in Albanian). Gazeta Panorama. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
  8. "Tirana fiton Superkupën" [Tirana wins the Supercup] (in Albanian). Shqipëria.com. 20 August 2012. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  9. Adela Merko (11 August 2014). "Arrihet akordi, Taku: Edhe për një vit te Tirana. Nuk është pak që tifozët të të duan" [The accord is reached, Taku: Another year at Tirana. It is not a bit that fans love you] (in Albanian). Panorama Sport. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  10. Adela Merko (21 June 2015). "Nga Kombëtarja drejt Amerikës, Taku: Kam oferta nga SHBA, dua t'i bashkohem të fejuarës" [From the national team to America, Taku: I have offers from USA, i want to join my fiancée] (in Albanian). Panorama Sport. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  11. "Tirana zyrtarizon Afrim Takun" [Tirana formalizes Afrim Taku] (in Albanian). Sport Ekspres. 1 July 2016. Retrieved 29 June 2016.
  12. "Ditë prezantimesh te Tirana, firmosin Afrim Taku dhe Ansi Nika" [Presentation day, Afrim Taku and Ansi Nika signs] (in Albanian). Panorama Sport. 8 July 2016. Retrieved 8 July 2016.
  13. "Teuta-Tirana, start me barazim" [Teuta-Tirana, a draw start] (in Albanian). SuperSport Albania. 7 September 2016. Archived from the original on 10 September 2016. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  14. "S'ka fitues në "Selman Stërmasi", Tirana-Kukësi 2-2" [There is no winner at "Selman Stërmasi", Tirana-Kukësi 2-2] (in Albanian). SuperSport Albania. 7 September 2016. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  15. "Tirana e bukur, vjen fitorja e parë" [Beautiful Tirana, the first win arrives] (in Albanian). SuperSport Albania. 2 October 2016. Archived from the original on 4 October 2016. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
  16. "Tirana kthehet 5 dekada pas, start i dobët si në vitet '60" [Tirana turns 5 decades back, a worst start like ’60] (in Albanian). Panorama Sport. 27 September 2016. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  17. "Shpallet lojtari i muajit nëntor" [Player of November in announced] (in Albanian). Minuta90.al. 13 December 2016. Retrieved 3 June 2016.
  18. "Taku, "gabimisht" hero te Tirana" [Taku "by mistake" becomes the hero at Tirana] (in Albanian). Sport Ekspres. 20 December 2016. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  19. "VIDEO / Spektakël pa fitues, Tirana ndal Skënderbeun, "asist" Kukësit e Partizanit" [VIDEO / Show without a winner, Tirana stops Skënderbeu, "assist" to Kukësi and Partizani] (in Albanian). Panorama Sport. 10 March 2017. Retrieved 12 May 2017.
  20. "Sherr Josa-Taku, ja debati që çoi te pezullimi i mesfushorit" [Josa-Taku brawl, the debati which led to midfielder's suspension] (in Albanian). Sport Ekspres. 14 March 2017. Retrieved 12 May 2017.
  21. ""Këtu vendos unë!" Zbardhen prapaskenat e debatit Taku-Josa" ["I decide here!" The debate Taku-Josa is unveiled] (in Albanian). Panorama Sport. 14 March 2017. Retrieved 12 May 2017.
  22. "Partizani synon Afrim Takun, ofertë për "rebelin" e bardhebluve" [Partizani has offer for the rebel Afrim Taku of White&Blues] (in Albanian). Panorama Sport. 20 March 2017. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  23. Alfred Lleshi (22 March 2017). "Afrim Taku rikthehet te Tirana, mbyll pezullimin 10-ditor" [Taku returns to Tirana, 10-day suspension is up] (in Albanian). Telesport.al. Retrieved 12 May 2017.
  24. Rinald Bregasi (25 March 2017). "Taku dhe Keidi Bare në kombëtare" [Taku and Keidi Bare in the national team] (in Albanian). SuperSport Albania. Retrieved 12 May 2017.
  25. "Tirana vs. Vllaznia Shkodër 1 – 2". Soccerway. 31 March 2017. Retrieved 12 May 2017.
  26. "Kupa, Tirana-Skënderbeu në finale" [Cup, Tirana-Skënderbeu at the final] (in Albanian). Top Channel. 19 April 2017. Retrieved 12 May 2017.
  27. Andi Deçka (10 May 2017). "Tirana kthehet te fitorja pas 15 javësh" [Tirana returns to victory after 15 matches] (in Albanian). SuperSport Albania. Retrieved 12 May 2017.
  28. "Tragjike, Tirana bie nga kategoria" [Tragical, Tirana relegated from superliga] (in Albanian). SuperSport Albania. 27 May 2017. Archived from the original on 13 June 2017. Retrieved 21 June 2017.
  29. "Tirana fiton Kupën e Shqipërisë, sezoni 2016-2017" [Tirana wins Albanian Cup, 2016-2017 season] (in Albanian). FSHF.org. 31 May 2017. Archived from the original on 6 June 2017. Retrieved 19 June 2017.
  30. Adela Merko (6 June 2017). "Vijnë 3 largimet e para nga Tirana, e ardhmja mbetet peng i "Etikes"" [The first 3 departures at Tirana arrives, the future remain "hostage" of Ethic] (in Albanian). Panorama.com.al. Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  31. "Vjen goditja e paralajmëruar nga Takaj, Taku te Skënderbeu" [The announced strike from Takaj, Taku at Skënderbeu] (in Albanian). Sport Ekspres. 17 June 2017. Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  32. "Zyrtare, Taku firmos për Skënderbeun" [Official, Taku signs for Skënderbeu] (in Albanian). Sport Ekspres. 24 June 2017. Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  33. "Asnje oferte nga Tirana, Taku: Me skenderbeun kam firmosur vetem per ndeshjet e Europes, me donte trajneri Daja" [No offer from Tirana, Taku: With Skenderbeu have signed only for the European games, coach Daja wanted me] (in Albanian). Panorama Sport. 26 June 2017. Retrieved 26 June 2017.
  34. ""Firoja" e parë te Skënderbeu, largohet mesfushori Afrim Taku" [The first departure at Skënderbeu, mifielder Taku leaves] (in Albanian). Panorama Sport. 4 August 2017. Retrieved 4 August 2017.
  35. "Skënderbeu/ Radhë lojtarësh për të zënë vendin e Latifit, rikthehet edhe Taku" [Row of players to fill Latifi's place, Taku returns] (in Albanian). Sot.com.al. 30 August 2017. Retrieved 30 August 2017.
  36. "Mision i suksesshëm, Skënderbeu mposht Lushnjen dhe gjen golat e sulmit" [Successful mission, Skënderbeu beats Lushnja and finds the attack's goals] (in Albanian). Sport Ekspres. 15 October 2017. Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  37. "Marrin fund pritjet, Skënderbeu ndërpret me marrëveshje kontratën me mesfushorin Afrim Taku" [The wait is over, Skënderbeu terminates with consent the contract with midfielder Afrim Taku] (in Albanian). Sport Ekspres. 16 March 2018. Retrieved 18 May 2018.
  38. "EKSKLUZIVE/ "Ëndrra amerikane" e Afrim Takut: Titullin e fiton Tirana, Skënderbeun e falënderoj që… (E PLOTË)" [EXCLUSIVE/ “American Dream” of Afrim Taku: Tirana wins the title, I thank Skënderbeu for… (FULL)] (in Albanian). Panorama Sport. 13 August 2018. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  39. "ROWDIES STRENGTHEN MIDFIELD WITH SIGNING OF TAKU AND ODURO". RowdiesSoccer.com. Tampa Bay Rowdies. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  40. "De Biazi shpall listën anti-Francë, mungojnë Agolli, Kukeli, Xhaka dhe Shkëlzen Gashi" [De Biasi announces anti-France list, Agolli, Kukeli, Xhaka dhe Shkëlzen Gashi absent] (in Albanian). Panorama Sport. 8 June 2015. Retrieved 1 July 2015.
  41. "Kaçe free-kick gives Albania win against France". UEFA.com. 13 June 2015. Retrieved 1 July 2015.
  42. "Albania vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina 1 – 2". int.soccerway.com. Soccerway. Retrieved 23 October 2017.
  43. "EKSKLUZIVE/ Rrëfimi i Takut: Do kthehem, Korça të më ruajë medaljen. Ja pse nuk ika te Partizani" [EXCLUSIVE/ Taku's confession: I'll come back, Korça has to save me the medal. Here's why I didn't go to Partizani] (in Albanian). Panorama Sport. 18 May 2018. Retrieved 18 May 2018.
  44. Afrim Taku at Soccerway. Retrieved 23 December 2017.
  45. "Afrim Taku profile" (in Albanian). FSHF.org. Archived from the original on 1 December 2017. Retrieved 23 November 2017.
  46. "Tirana shade Dinamo in Albanian Cup final". UEFA.com. 22 May 2011. Retrieved 24 May 2011.
  47. "Tirana fiton Superkupen e Shqiperise me rezultat 1 – 0 kunder Skenderbeu". Sdsnews.wordpress.com. 18 August 2011. Retrieved 28 November 2014.
  48. "Zgjidhet lojtari më i mirë i muajit në Superligë, festojnë në kryeqytet" (in Albanian). Newsport.al. Archived from the original on 17 October 2017. Retrieved 2 June 2017.

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