Kids hurt in Albanian quake meet footballers Ronaldo, Buffon

Tirana, Albania (AP/UNB) — Two Albanian boys who jumped from their apartments during an earthquake that killed relatives got a small reprieve from the tragedy Friday when they met their football idols.

Aurel Lala, 7, and Alesio Cakoni, 10, jumped from the balconies of their apartments to escape the collapsing building in Thumane, one of the hardest hit towns in the 6.4-magnitude earthquake that killed 51 people and injured more than 3,000. Aurel lost his sister and grandmother, while Alesio lost his father and sister.

The boys were taken to the hospital and then visited by Prime Minister Edi Rama, who learned of their dream.

Rama on Friday took them to Rome to meet Juventus players Cristiano Ronaldo and Gianluigi Buffon. Both boys received a signed jersey and took a photo with the players. They hugged and exchanged high-fives with the players.

Juventus plays Saturday in Rome with Lazio for Serie A championship.

“It is not only for them. It is for all the suffering people in the country,” said Rama.

At a dinner afterward together with the kids’ parents, Rama also gave to Cakoni a jersey signed by Milan’s goalkeeper, Gianluigi Donnarumma.

The Nov. 26 earthquake damaged more than 11,000 buildings and left an estimated 12,000 people homeless. Many have found shelter in hotels, public buildings, tents, with relatives or in neighboring Kosovo.

The European Commission had already sent 15 million euros ($16.6 million) to Albania and has pledged further commitment, including organizing an international donors’ conference.

Rama was optimistic, after returning from a NATO summit in London this week, about positive reaction to his plans for an international donors’ conference for earthquake relief.

Tirana has pledged to complete reconstruction of the quake-hit areas by 2020.UNB