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This story was published by FIFA.com. It is being shared as part of the Together Through Sport campaign, under the UN TOGETHER banner.
Lorik Cana is a fighter. Anyone who has seen the Albanian give his all in the colours of Paris Saint-Germain, Marseille, Sunderland, Galatasaray, Lazio and now Nantes knows that the tag, which has been applied to him since his early days in the game, is hardly a cliché.
The defender is never anything less than fully committed when playing for his national team either. Capped 89 times in all, the 32-year-old Albania skipper is the heartbeat of the side, and will soon be leading them out at UEFA EURO 2016, where the eastern Europeans will be making their first appearance at a major international tournament.
Cana and his troops will go into battle on 11 June against Switzerland, 13 years to the very day after his international debut, which also came against the Swiss, in Geneva, a mere 60 kilometres away from where he grew up. “It’s a lovely quirk of fate,” smiled the veteran, who spoke to FIFA.com about all the battles he has faced in life and on the pitch.
A fight for survival
"I am from Kosovo. I left with my family in 1990, when the first war with Yugoslavia broke out. Kosovo was part of Yugoslavia at the time and like a lot of our Albanian compatriots who came from there and Macedonia, we found refuge in Switzerland and Germany. I spent ten years of my childhood in Switzerland until I left for France in 2000 to start training with PSG."
"My father was a professional footballer and he played in pretty much the same way as me. He put a lot into it and he was a real winner. He was also very hard on me when I was growing up, both on a personal level and when it came to football. He always pushed me to the very limit to succeed, because he could see that I had what it took. He instilled his values in me and taught me to never give up. My motivation to succeed was also fired by the journey my family had taken and the tough times faced by the people who stayed back home. All that has shaped the player that I am today."
"When I played for PSG reserves, I had this real desire to succeed. Antoine Kombouare was the coach at the time and he helped me overcome all the mental barriers. The war, which was just coming to an end in my home country, also spurred me on to succeed and to make it at Paris. It’s a club where it’s always been difficult for young players from the training academy to break into the first team, which is why I always put a lot of energy and commitment into everything I did, and a lot of physicality too. That’s where I forged the image that’s followed me around everywhere."