From Albania to Weston - meet the Seagulls' new striker Irnti Rapai
PUBLISHED: 10:38 19 October 2017 | UPDATED: 10:38 19 October 2017
Few managers turn to Albania when searching for a new striker, but a burgeoning talent from South-East Europe is making a big impact for Weston.
Irnti Rapai’s quest for a career as a professional has taken him from his homeland to North Somerset, via a stint in Greece – and he has made a flying start to his time in BS24.
The striker netted three goals in his first month at the Woodspring Stadium, including late equalisers in his first two games for the club against Chelmsford City and Oxford City.
And the 24-year-old is enjoying his stint with the Seagulls.
He said: “I have hooked up with the lads and I’m fitting in well with them on the pitch.
“It has given me a good feeling that I have scored three times already. I am thankful for having the chance to play for what is a great team here at Weston.”
Rapai moved to Weston from Olympiakos Lavriou after a stint with fellow Greek outfit Panelefsiniakos AO, and he believes the English game suits his style.
He added: “The game played here in England is physical one. It fits with the way I play and it was one of the reasons I came to England.”
The striker is based in London, racking up the miles as he travels between Weston and the capital for training and games – but the Albanian believes it demonstrates his ambition to forge a fruitful career in the game.
“Two days a week is manageable but if it was every day I would definitely look to move closer to the club,” said Rapai.
“It is a bit of a distance to travel twice a week for training plus for the matches but I’ve been taught you don’t get to realise your goals without making sacrifices. I will always give my all for whatever club I may be playing for.
“My goal is to give my all for Weston. I want to score as many goals as possible and to settle in to the way the game is played here. I want to work in partnership with my team members.”
Weston boss Marc McGregor told the Mercury the arrival of Rapai has bolstered the Seagulls’ attacking threat.
He said: “Iddy gives us really good options. He’s very quick and direct.
“He struggles with the language barrier, so we may have to bring in someone who speaks Albanian.”
Rapai is not the only international import to ply his trade at the Woodspring, with recently-recruited French defender Papis Mendy, Bulgarian playmaker Tsvetan Filipov, Greek striker Ioannis Varouxakis, and Russia-born Guinean Naby Diallo all turning out for Weston in recent seasons.
And Rapai will be hoping to add to his tally when the Seagulls travel to Essex to face Concord Rangers on Saturday.