Team North Macedonia hoping to live the EuroVolley dream a second time

Skopje, North Macedonia, December 20, 2020. The victories over Belarus and especially against the eventual European silver medallists Slovenia taken at the historic CEV EuroVolley Men maiden appearance last year still have a strong echo in the Macedonian volleyball circles. That "summer breeze" brought such freshness and great enthusiasm among the clubs and the Federation, and even the pandemic only strengthened the determination of everyone to finalise the complete calendar this season, as it is usual under normal circumstances.

Despite all restrictions, in close cooperation and communication with all actors involved, the Volleyball Federation of North Macedonia just completed the autumn section of both the men 's and women’s First Senior Leagues. With minor changes and adjustments, it was possible to deliver all planned matches, the media partner Macedonian Radio and Television broadcasted one match per each round in the project called ‘Volleyball Monday’, so this has provided a further boost of energy.

“Having in mind the challenges the Federation and our club colleagues have faced, I can express my satisfaction with how the first half of the season went. Besides football, we were the only team sport in our country that managed to achieve everything that we had planned, which shows that we had excellent cooperation and discipline. That is why I want to publicly express my gratitude to the clubs and the players,” said the Secretary General of the Volleyball Federation of North Macedonia, Zoran Karanovic.

However, this does not mean it is time for rest. On the contrary, the memories of CEV EuroVolley 2019 evoke feelings of fulfilment, but at the same time of responsibility that the European journey should continue next year. In the small Balkan country with big goals, no one even thinks that the red and yellow national team will not be in the company of the continental elite again, but even in a sport where non-expected results are sometimes rare, you can only achieve your goals with serious work, and maybe then with well-deserved luck.

The Macedonian players have started the preparations for the EuroVolley 2021 qualifiers with the characteristic modesty. The players and the coaching staff wish to deserve the honours from Ljubljana again. There, on their maiden European appearance, with two wins in five matches and a narrowly missed eight-final spot, they set the bar higher than ever and now everyone expects consistency in the company of the European elite. To achieve that, it is necessary to pass the group with the better ranked Turkey and Bosnia and Herzegovina at the tournament in Skopje from January 11 to 16. In the meantime, North Macedonia will play four friendly matches against Bulgaria - a team from the first world volleyball echelon, on the 29 and 30 of this month in the Macedonian capital and on the Orthodox holidays of Christmas Eve (January 6) and Christmas (January 7) in Sofia.

In the first week of the preparations, head coach Nikola Matijasevic works with players from the domestic championship, and the internationals who are the basis of the team - Nikola Gjorgiev, Gjorgi Gjorgiev, Aleksandar Ljaftov and Filip Despotovski - will join after completing their club duties. Middle blocker Filip Madzunkov is injured, but he will be ready soon, so the Macedonian team should have the same quality as last year, with the bonus of additional experience from a major competition.

The Macedonian players have a new source for the same inspiration – a second straight CEV EuroVolley appearance. Although nothing is over until it is over, the goal seems achievable, and if achieved, it will mean that Macedonian volleyball continues to flourish in accordance with its motto "living the dream”!