This afternoon the Macedonian handball team hosts Greece in the final qualifier of the European Championship. Macedonia already secured its place in the championship, but a win or a draw will make Macedonia number one in the group, and avenge the defeat in Kozani in October.
The game comes at a time of heightened emotions, after Vardar won the EHF Champions League, and the subsequent celebration when players denounced the name “North Macedonia” imposed by Greece. A crowd estimated at 100.000people who gathered in Skopje to welcome the Vardar team was chanting “Never North – Always Macedonia” in an act of open rebellion against the Prespa treaty. The shock was such that Government supporters even called for the prosecution of those celebrating the title.
In a move likely meant to avoid a repeat of those scenes, the game against Greece was set in Strumica, the city which serves as the political stronghold for Prime Minister Zoran Zaev. The sports hall in Strumica seats only 1.500, and even these seats may remain empty as many sports fans are complaining that they can’t get tickets. A number of media outlets have reported that only Zaev loyalists will be allowed entry, to avoid embarrassing the Prime Minister.
Vardar’s fans, the Komiti, demanded that they are given tickets and called on those Strumica who will be allowed inside the sports hall not to be cowed and support the team as patriots.