11 August 2023



Albania is located on the South-eastern Balkan region of Europe. It is a small country with the population of 2.812 million (2021). The sum of 28,748 km² lays at the Adriatic and Ionian coastlines whilst the land topped with the Albanian Alps. The country has many castles and archaeological sites. The capital city of Tirana midpoints on the broad Skanderbeg Square and the site of the National History Museum. Approximately 70% of Albania is occupied by mountains, offering an extensive amount of nature. Korab mountain is the highest mountain with 2751m.

The Albanian Judo Federation was established in 1991 and obtains higher membership numbers than some with over half a century existence. Currently, there are 12 registered judo clubs with 420 active judoka. This mini but mighty nation is constantly working on the development of judo across all ages. The organisation took part at three Olympic Games starting off with Beijing 2008, where Edmond TOPALLI made history as the first Albanian judo athlete to step foot onto the biggest sporting stage world-wide. 

2010 marked the inauguration of the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, where AJF joined the premier with one judoka, Julanda BACAJ, who exited at the quarter-final stage in the -63kg category. 

Two years later, at the London 2012 Olympic Games, a living legend entered the field of play. Albania’s first female judoka, Majlinda KELMENDI. Although the Olympic title was still in progress at the time for Kelmendi, her name was already well established across the board. The latest Olympic attendance was delivered by Indrit ÇULLHAJ in Tokyo in the men -66kg category. Whilst European and World medals are still in the make for Albania, they have conquered several successful achievements at the Balkan Championships which gives strong perspectives for better results at a higher level. 

The Albanian Judo Federation in also actively cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Sports in developing the program “Judo in schools”, which has been successful in popularising the sport of Judo and discovering talents. One of the pillars of AJF is Mr Labo CAPO, who is not only co-founder of the organisation but completed several roles during past decades, as an athlete, coach and leader. Today, he fulfils the role of the general secretary at the federation. As an appreciation of his commitments to judo in Albania, in June 2022, he has been invited to the Boulevard of Martyrs in Tirana, the residence of Albanian President Ilir META, to receive the so-called ‘Grand Master of Sport’ title. Must complement, it is not an everyday occurrence to receive this award, whilst it is also considered as the highest title one can achieve in the local sporting world. 

In June 2022, Mr Labo CAPO received the ‘Grand Master of Sport’ title, from the President of Albania, Ilir META. © Albanian Judo Federation

Off the mat… Did you know?

Author: Szandra Szogedi