Kosovan man mountain Vedat Muriqi has become a beloved figure in Mallorca after just a year playing for their biggest side. His goals saved them from relegation last season, and together Kang-In Lee, he is responsible for half of Real Mallorca’s goals this season. Yet that’s not the only reason he is so beloved.
Muriqi has become a cult hero for his character and his kindness, as well as his spirit on the pitch. Giving everything he can for Los Bermellones, his work ethic makes much more sense when combined with his backstory.
Growing up during the Kosovan war, Muriqi and his family escaped to Albania when he was still a child, but was the main breadwinner for the family.
“I always say that no human being should see the things that I saw during those years.,” he told Marca.
“You had to escape from your house because soldiers came, they told you that they were going to plant some bombs and you had to run away. We went to Albania and it was a very difficult time. If I look at the positive side, living that makes me appreciate the little things much more now.”
Working as a waiter, Muriqi ended up quitting school.
“I started working in a restaurant owned by my uncles when I was nine years old. There I was doing everything: waiter, helping in the kitchen, etc. All this until I arrived in Albania at the age of 16. During that time, only I could work to support my mother and sister, since my father died in the war. I also had school and football; and that’s why I decided to quit school, because I couldn’t quit football, it’s my life. I know that it wasn’t good leaving school, and now I can say that I was very lucky.”
He also recounted how he got his chance.
“After the war the team from my city announced that they were going to take children to play and train. My mother, who really likes football, pushed me to go train despite being very far from our house. Never in my life did I think that I could become a professional player. Nor did I imagine going to Turkey, scoring goals, going to Serie A… I could never imagine it because it was very difficult to get out of there. In the end I made it thanks to my mentality, work and luck.”
Behind the grizzly target man is a tale that is in equal measures tragic and triumphant. It is easy to see why he has won the hearts of islanders, beyond his excellent form.