Kuqi is under no pressure to impress

15 February 2011 11:37
SHEFKI KUQI does not feel any pressure after being asked to fill the void left by Andy Carroll at Newcastle United for the next four months because he has had to deal with worse in his life - far worse.

Kuqi will head for Birmingham City tonight hoping for more of a part than the seconds he received in the latter stages of the goalless draw at Blackburn Rovers on Saturday.

After last week receiving the chance to end the season in the Premier League with Newcastle, the 34-year-old is not concerned about what lies ahead and just hopes to make a favourable impression.

Kuqi is not the type to worry about what life may throw up, having had to endure horrendous difficulties during his childhood and still has the horror stories to reflect on.

He was born in Kosovo, a centre-piece of the Balkan conflicts during the 1990s and he is from a family of ethnic Albanians, whose dispute with their Serbian rulers eventually led to Nato's war with Yugoslavia.

It was when one of his brothers received army call-up papers which persuaded the family to flee the country; travelling by train from Kosovo to Budapest in Hungary without a change of clothes before his parents took their five children to Finland.

While he successfully started a new life in Scandinavia, where he established himself as a professional footballer with HJK Helsinki in the Champions League before heading for Stockport in 2000, the horror stories from his native homeland have followed him around. 

"I left Kosovo when I was 12," said Kuqi. "Without moving to Finland, I probably wouldn't be here now. I certainly wouldn't have had this opportunity to play for Newcastle United.

"It would have been a very different life for me if I had stayed in Kosovo. People ask me about the pressure of football, the pressure of coming to Newcastle United. There is always pressure, whatever job you do, but for me what happened in Kosovo outside of football, football pressure is like a pleasure. Nothing in football gets you down.

"I had friends and family there when the war was going on. All my family were there and my wife's family were there. She was there, she was in the middle of things. 

"In her village, of Vushtrri, hundreds of people were killed in the space of a couple of minutes in the war. She was in the middle of that, she had to walk past it, all the dead bodies lying around the place, people she knew. 

"She had to walk past like nothing had happened. They were dead in the street, kids and everything. Those things, you cannot understand them until you have lived through them, seen it and experienced it."

Had the Kuqis not escaped from Kosovo when they did, Newcastle's new striker accepts he is likely to have been called up to fight at some stage during the years of conflict.

Instead, though, he was able to concentrate on developing his love for football, which earned him championship medals in Finland before heading to England to join Stockport.

From there he joined Sheffield Wednesday for £1m, which brought a successful stint at Ipswich Town two years later and that led to him becoming an international with Finland. 

After spells with Blackburn, Crystal Palace, Fulham, Derby County and Swansea, Kuqi has now ended up at St James' Park purely as a result of Newcastle's failure to reinvest any of the £35m raised by the sale of Carroll on deadline day.

At 34, having been through what he has been through in his life, the robust striker, well known for his belly-flop goal celebration, has no fears about spending months at the biggest club of a career which has taken in many miles.

"I'm probably one of the happiest footballers in the world right now," said Kuqi, whose deal runs until the end of the season. 

"I'm not thinking about a new contract. Honestly, that isn't in my mind. I'm here for six months. I'm not here to make a name or try to prove myself to anyone, I'm just really happy to be here and I will do everything I can to help my teammates while I'm here. 

"There aren't words big enough to express how delighted I am and I've got to thank the gaffer for that. I haven't thought for one second maybe I can get another year here. I'm here to help this season, I'm not looking for a career here."

Source: Northern_Echo