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Macedonians in form for second century

Published: Tuesday 5 January 2010, 12.27CET
The Football Association of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was awarded UEFA membership in 1994 and celebrated 100 years of football in August 2009.
Macedonians in form for second century
FYR Macedonia celebrate during their 2-0 win against Croatia in November 2007 ©AFP
Published: Tuesday 5 January 2010, 12.27CET

Macedonians in form for second century

The Football Association of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was awarded UEFA membership in 1994 and celebrated 100 years of football in August 2009.

Football in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia dates back to the early 20th century, with the first recorded match taking place in Skopje in April 1909. When the Napredak team defeated a side drawn from the ranks of the British army, a football-shaped monument was erected to commemorate the historic event.

The territory was then under Turkish rule. The year 1903 had seen, albeit briefly, the creation of the first Balkan republic in the region, the short-lived Krushevo Republic, yet by 1913 Turkish rule had ended and the country was split into three areas: Egeean, Pirins and Varders. From 1913 to 1943, FYROM was part of Yugoslavia; it became a republic in 1943 and an independent country in 1991.

The first football club to emerge were FK Vardar from Skopje in 1912, ten years before FK Belasica GC and FK Bregalnica Stip were founded. During the Second World War, Macedonian representative teams played against German army sides and against Bulgaria, yet there was no official national team until after independence in 1991.

However, local talent still caught the eye as a number of quality players tasted international football with Yugoslavia: Kiril Simonovski-Dzina, Dragan Vidinic, Metodija Spasovski, Andon Doncevski, Darko Pancev and Ilija Najdoski.

In 1945, football was represented for the first time at the All-Sports Community in Skopje, a state of affairs that lasted until the Macedonian Football Association was created in August 1948. This body became a member of the larger Yugoslavian Football Association until 1991, at which point, following independence, the Football Association of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FFM) was born.

The country's first championship was organised in the 1992/93 season, with 18 clubs entering the competition. Vardar finished as champions and completed a double by lifting the Macedonian Cup.

In 1994 further strides were taken to incorporate FYROM into the global football family, with the award of FIFA and UEFA membership. In addition, the country joined the Balkan Football Federation, enabling it to participate in Under-16 and U18 tournaments in the region. In 1995, Vardar and FK Sileks appeared in European club competition, with Sileks reaching the first round of the now defunct UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, losing to VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach.

The national side began their footballing odyssey in 1994, entering qualifying for EURO '96. Drawn in a group with Armenia, Belgium, Cyprus, Spain and holders Denmark, they kicked off with a creditable 1-1 draw at home to the Danes. Mitko Stojkovski of FK Crvena zvezda had the honour of scoring the country's first official goal.

The team posted further draws against Belgium, Armenia and Cyprus, also beating the Cypriots 3-0 at home. Since then football in FYROM has continued to move forward. Two noteworthy results were a 3-2 win against the Republic of Ireland in 1997, and an 11-1 landslide victory over Liechtenstein 12 months before.

In an attempt to encourage such positive momentum, the FFM has handed the national-team reins to foreign coaches such as Serbian trainer Slobodan Santrač and Srečko Katanec from Slovenia and Wales's John Toshack, following the earlier efforts of Andon Doncevski, Gjoko Hadzievski, Nikola Ilievski, Dragan Kanatlarovski and Boban Babunski.

Local coach Mirsad Jonuz was in charge when the FFM celebrated 100 years of football in FYROM by hosting a high-profile friendly against European champions Spain in August 2009, which the visitors edged 3-2.

Last updated: 11/05/14 6.16CET

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