The Language Barrier That Saved An Albanian Soccer Team

In 1990, the Albanian national soccer team didn’t have much luck as they attempted to qualify for Italia 1990. After a dismal run of matches in 1989, including two losses to England, they didn’t make it past the qualifiers. So, instead of getting ready to play in the World Cup, the team was off to Iceland to play in more qualifiers, this time for the 1992 Euros. However, there was a slight hiccup on the way to Reykjavik, when the team had a 3-hour layover at Heathrow Airport in London. Passing time, some of the team members decided to check out the duty-free shop. Unfortunately, they walked out of the store with nearly $3,100 worth of goods without paying. It turns out that because of the language barrier, the players mistook “duty-free” for “all free.” Police were not sympathetic, locking up 30 members of the 37-member squad. Fortunately for the team, the charges were dropped and the team members released after police were unable to find a translator. The players were escorted to their plane and ushered out of England. Meanwhile, their streak of bad luck continued when they failed to qualify in Iceland.