Football idols have changed over the years but, when it comes to Florian Kamberi’s real hero, that has remained constant.
Hibernian’s January signing, who made his debut against Motherwell on Tuesday night, talks with pride of parents who left Kosovo in a bid to escape poverty and growing ethnic tensions, saying they have worked tirelessly since to provide a better life for themselves and their children.
“My parents are both from Kosovo,” said the 22-year-old who has represented the Swiss at under-21 level. “But it was difficult there. There was no money and [my uncle] went to Switzerland and then my father went there and they worked very hard to create something for us, for his children, in Switzerland. It has been hard work.”
A job assembling bed bases has helped provide a better life for his family and the efforts have not gone unnoticed nor unappreciated by his son, who made a positive impact on the Hibs team that carved out only their third win in nine games. An opening goal provided the foundation for the victory, while the quality of his all-round performance even surprised Easter Road manager, Neil Lennon.
But all Kamberi was interested in after the match was speaking to his father, Pashk, whom he knew would be desperate to hear all about his endeavours.
“I think he has been about 30 years in Switzerland,” said Kamberi. “It was not easy to come to a new country where you don’t speak the language. It was very hard for him. I have to say a big thank you to my parents and my brother, but especially to my father who came to all my games when I was a child and now supports me and calls me every day. He is my idol, my father. He has not had an easy life but everything he does has always been for me and for my brother.”
On the field, Kamberi grew up admiring Ronaldinho but then he was an aspiring midfielder. But, having moved to the tip of the team, the Swiss striker says he studies the strengths of Cristiano Ronaldo, pictured. “I like the whole package. He has a great body, he is good with the head, good with left and right foot and five times he wins the Ballon d’Or. I want to look at what he does that is good but I don’t want to be the second Cristiano Ronaldo, I want to be Florian Kamberi. I want my own style.”
That style is suited to the Scottish game, he says. He marked his first goal for the club by sprinting to the technical area, fuelled by emotion, to celebrate with the management, grateful for the chance to be playing again, even if he will have headed back to his hotel sporting a few more bruises than has been the case in recent months.
A player who got his breakthrough at Grasshoppers of Zurich, his career has stuttered after a promising start. “In the first half of the first season there I didn’t play alot but the second half I played very well. In the second season I went on loan to Karlsruhe and it was a difficult situation because the team was not in good spirits. We had four coaches and lost many games so it was difficult for a striker to score. Then I got a knee injury and was out for four months and that was even more difficult because the team was still losing and I was out injured.
“Then I came back to Grasshoppers because they told me ‘we need you’ and stuff like that so I was very motivated, but when I came back, from the first day I was not given a chance. I played one game, in the cup, like your Scottish Cup and I scored three goals in three minutes and everybody thought ‘now they have to give you a chance’ but it was not like that. I trained hard every day but I did not get a chance. It was not easy months for me but I know that hard work always pays off and now I have the opportunity with Hibs.”
On trial at Hibs for two weeks, he watched his new colleagues in the derby at Tynecastle and was at Celtic Park at the weekend and now cannot wait to head to Ibrox this weekend, ready to play his part.
“I love to play in an atmosphere like that,” he said. “In Zurich, at Grasshoppers, we played in front of 4,000 people so even the atmosphere on Tuesday, for me, was very, very crazy. I had a big atmosphere when I played against Stuttgart last season, when we played in front of 58,000 and I am a player who likes to play in front of many people. As an away team, to go there and show them all what kind of club we are, I like that. So I am very excited and looking forward to this game.
“These are the games that you want to play in. There is no pressure. It was very important that we beat Motherwell but now that we have those three points, we are more confident and it will be easy to just go there and play our football. We know we can beat them so there is no pressure on us.”