Last night, Kosovo – at its first ever Olympics – won its first ever gold when the amazing judoaka, Majlinda Kelmendi, beat a young Italian, Odette Giuffrida, by a single point.
Majlinda’s victory also meant that, about ten minutes later, the world got to hear Kosovo’s national anthem for the first time: a soaring instrumental bizarrely called Europe, by the composer Mendi Mengjiqi.
My book about national anthems – buy it now! – starts with a prologue all about that song, in which I largely go drunk-driving around the beautiful Kosovan countryside with Mendi. At one point, a friend of his told me Mendi was “the most important man in Kosovo”, to which I drunkenly replied, “But no one likes his song.”
I was being honest. No one I had met, including Majlinda, did like it. They hated its name (“Our country’s Kosovo. Why’s our anthem called Europe?”). They hated the fact it had no words. They hated the fact it wasn’t Albania’s (most Kosovans are ethnically Albanian).
But Mendi’s friend was unfazed. “They will,” he said.
I hope Majlinda’s victory is the moment he’s proved right.
You can read my book’s opening on Kosovo here.