The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia celebrated the opening of its new national arena, the Filip II Macedonian Stadium, on Sunday, with UEFA having contributed to the upgrading of the venue.
Senior officials from the Football Federation of Macedonia (FFM) joined top political figures in Skopje in attending the opening ceremony for the 32,580-seater stadium, which is a major redevelopment on the site of its predecessor, the Gradski Stadium.
"This is a footballing holiday for us as we proudly announce that we have opened our most modern football stadium," said prime minister of FYROM Nikola Gruevski. "I hope we will see many successes at this arena and that thousands and thousands of fans will enjoy these wonderful stands."
"We have got a national stadium to be proud of, which I am sure will be an additional motivation for our national teams and the clubs who will play their matches here to achieve better results and bigger successes," added FYROM Under-21 coach and one-time international defender Boban Babunski.
The stadium features 494 VIP places, 245 commentators' seats and room for 141 journalists. The FYROM government invested €50m in the works with UEFA providing a further €625,000 through the Win In Europe project, which aims to ensure that mandatory infrastructure requirements are fulfilled in order to allow stadiums to host national team games as well as fixtures in Europe's top club competitions, the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League.
Work on the new arena began in early 2008, with the building of the main North Stand, with the stadium being used throughout the reconstruction process; the partially-completed arena hosted the finals of the 2010 UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship and will see its first international match following its official opening when the Republic of Ireland visit for a UEFA EURO 2012 qualifier on 4 June.
Named after an ancient king, the father of Alexander the Great, the Filip II Macedonian Stadium will also be home to Skopje's most famous clubs, FK Vardar and FK Rabotnicki. "We have built a modern stadium for future generations," said venue director Vladimir Bahcovanovski. "I hope our players and fans have more moments of joy than sadness when we welcome major European clubs and national teams with pride."
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