Nov 7, 2022


Good evening. You are watching Top Tema. Our main topic tonight will be handball. We will discuss the organization of the women's EHF Euro 2022, partially played in Skopje, Macedonia. We have with us Zhivko Mukaetov, President of the Macedonian Handball Federation. Good evening.

Zhivko Mukaetov: Good evening, and thank you for having me. Good evening to Telma’s viewers as well.

Mr Mukaetov, thank you for taking the time. This is probably a rather hectic period before our group's matches officially start tomorrow in Skopje. Officially, the championship already started at 6 p.m. today.

Zhivko Mukaetov: Times are busy, indeed, but I think it's worth it to give our viewers a chance to hear how things stand with the organization and preparation for the women's EHF Euro 2022, which starts tomorrow in Skopje.

The championship is just a segment of the entire process of the organization.

Zhivko Mukaetov: Yes, there are a lot of activities...

We will be back with Mr Mukaetov after a short commercial break.

Mr Mukaetov, officially the women's EHF Euro 2022 starts tomorrow for the Macedonian national team, playing France. Let's start with the idea for the organization of this championship. Macedonia is hosting it for the second time. First, it was in 2008 when we were the sole organizer, and now we applied together with Montenegro and Slovenia. How did the Macedonian Handball Federation have the courage and confidence to organize such a big sports event?

Zhivko Mukaetov: The Macedonian Handball Federation has proven to be a good organizer and host of several international competitions in the past. Between 2013 and today, we organized eight junior and youth European and world championships. That built the federation team's confidence that it is capable to organize bigger competitions. Then, we started discussing among ourselves if we were ready to go a step further. Unfortunately, our country can't host finals and semi-finals because we have no arena that can accommodate more than 10.000 spectators, which is a must for such matches. Thus, we decided to look for some ways to be co-organizers. We discussed this option with several federations, found a common language with the Slovenian and Montenegrin and agreed to apply for the 2022 and 2024 championships. In 2017 we started preparing for everything required for the organization. Five years and eight months later, we can be proud to organize the seniors' European championship with the two countries I mentioned previously. That means that the top national handball teams will play in Macedonia, giving us another chance to see the best women's handball players in action again here at the Boris Trajkovski Arena in Skopje.

After five years of hard work and preparations for the championship, what confidence does the Macedonian handball enjoy in the eyes of the EHF and IHF?

Zhivko Mukaetov: I believe we are well-regarded and respected. We are among the fifteen federations that the EHF and IHF always recognize as good organizers. In the summer of 2024, we will be organizing the Women's World Youth Championship, which is yet another recognition. For us, this is a great honor but a tremendous obligation too. It is also a great chance to promote Skopje and the Republic of Macedonia because many foreign tourists will come to Skopje. All hotels will be packed, the foreign guests will spend money in our restaurants and see the beauties of our capital and country. Overall, I think we have a good chance to promote our country, Macedonia well.

This was mentioned today at the opening of the EHF EURO 2022 as well. Skopje has been a handball metropolis for years, ever since Kometal Gjorche Petrov won the European title. Later Vardar's men's and women's teams and the men's and women's national teams also brought plenty of joy.

Zhivko Mukaetov: Handball is the number one sport in Macedonia. It has been so for thirty years now. Our task today is to continue making handball the number one sport in the country.

We’ll talk a bit more about the organization of the women's EHF Euro 2022. We’ll hear the statement of the MHF secretary general Filip Milosevski, who has some interesting details about the organization and all the logistics of this tournament.

Filip Milosevski: The road to the women's EHF Euro 2022 started in February 2017, when the EHF invited all its members to apply for the organization. The experience of this federation's leadership with several European and world youth championships, and the recognition it received from international handball authorities for the organization, encouraged us to take the challenge. We officially applied in April 2017. Three months later, they already asked us to submit a complete strategy, detailed infrastructure, and project concept for the possible organization of the women's 2022 and 2024 European handball championships. All these official procedures were followed by additional negotiations and lobbying. Exactly five years ago, the Macedonian, Slovenian, and Montenegrin Handball Federations sent a joint application to the EHF's address in Vienna to organize the women's EHF Euro 2022. At the 14th EHF regular congress in June 2018 in Glasgow, Scotland, we had an extensive and successful presentation, and the EHF officially awarded the organization of this championship to us. That summer, the EHF began inspecting the proposed facilities in Skopje, and we had numerous meetings about the event's organizational and infrastructural aspects. The pandemic restrictions at the beginning of 2021 made us hold a virtual draw of the groups for the preliminary stage and handover of the winner's trophy between the presidents of the co-organizing federations of this championship. Since the summer of 2021, we had intensive communication with the Slovenian and Montenegrin organizing committees and the EHF office. We started with monthly operational meetings last summer and continued meeting monthly and even daily in the past several months. And now, right before the start of the championship, the federation team lives and breathes handball. In the past two months, we have organized human resources, accommodation, transportation, import and transfer of all necessary props and materials. We remodeled and set up the Boris Trajkovski Arena according to the prescribed criteria. We have conducted substantial technical and construction activities at the Boris Trajkovski Arena. Finally, I'd like to thank the federation's team for their selfless engagement and President Mukaetov, who was open to our high expectations. We managed to successfully go through them jointly and fully dedicated. And after working five years and eight months on the women's EHF Euro 2022, we are proud that Skopje will be the center of a European handball spectacle. I wish us a successful championship.

In his statement, the MHF’s secretary general Filip Milosevski mentioned that the Boris Trajkovski Arena will be the center of this tournament. It will host all national teams, many reporters, photojournalists, and handball fans. The arena definitely needed a facelift to meet EHF’s ever-tightening high criteria. As you said, Skopje cannot host the final of a major tournament because the arena cannot accommodate enough spectators.

Zhivko Mukaetov: I think the Boris Trajkovski Arena was quite refreshed lately. I'd like to invite our fellow citizens to come and see what it looks like now for themselves. I think the quality of everything that had to be improved increased. The arena can offer the spectators a really special experience, the same as all top-class arenas in Europe.

The price of tickets for the women's EHF Euro 2022 has been the focus of the public's attention in the past two weeks. For the average Macedonian citizen and family, fifteen euros for the cheapest ticket seems quite expensive. We know that handball is a family sport too. We often see people coming with their children. For a family of four, tickets cost a lot.

Zhivko Mukaetov: Let me first say that it was the EHF's decision. They first proposed the lowest ticket price of thirty-five euros. We and the Montenegrin federation explicitly stated it is unacceptable for us. We know the average salary of our citizens and their overall economic situation. We, therefore, insisted that such price levels are unacceptable. They, in turn, considered ticket prices for all previous women's or men's championships. Our citizens often attend European and world championships in large numbers, so they know that even the cheapest tickets can cost €20 or more. As tickets had to cost the same in all four cities, the most we could achieve was to set the lowest ticket price at €15, aware that it would be tremendously difficult to make the arenas full. However, all things considered, the federations' management and sponsors came up with the idea to have sponsors subsidise 40% of the price, and that's how we managed to arrive at a more or less decent price. We are aware it is still expensive, though. I'd like to remind you that when the Macedonian men's team played its crucial matches at the Boris Trajkovski Arena during the qualifiers when we were the organizers, tickets cost between 50 and 100, or 100 and 200 denars. We have never been in favour of expensive tickets, but, simply put, the EHF imposed this solution. With this in mind, I'd call upon again and appeal to our fellow Macedonian citizens to come and support the girls. This is a European championship, played in Macedonia, they need the support, and we should give it to them. On the other hand, we know that some Macedonians have no problem paying 800, 1000, or 1200 denars to attend some turbo-folk concert. I still think the girls playing for the Macedonian national handball team deserve to be cheered by an audience giving their maximum support more than any turbo-folk star.

The Macedonian public always considers ticket prices expensive for sports and cheap for turbo folk concerts.

Zhivko Mukaetov: Sad, but true.

Hopefully, we will see packed arenas for sports matches, not for turbo-folk stars. Do you expect full attendance at tomorrow's game at Boris Trajkovski?

Zhivko Mukaetov: I am optimistic because we have information that out of the four cities where the first round is played, Skopje has sold the most tickets. There is one more day left, and we'll see what happens. However, I am optimistic that our girls will get massive support tomorrow at the Boris Trajkovski Arena.

Our female players probably feel a bit strange now in the focus of the entire sports community and the general public. Except for Sara Ristovska, who played in the Champions League with Vardar, I don't remember any other player playing as a national team member in front of a full arena in Skopje. I think it will be the first time for most of the girls to feel the euphoria that Macedonian fans can make.

Zhivko Mukaetov: I think the girls absolutely deserve it. I myself told them they should believe in themselves, the team, and what they play for. Probably there is no greater joy and honour for anyone than to play for their country. I think that's their biggest incentive, and I'm confident they'll give their best.

Before moving on to the women's handball national team, I suggest that we hear what head coach Ljubomir Savevski and two of our handball players have to say.

Ljubomir Savevski: I have been at the head of this national team, including the youth and juniors, for precisely 13 months, and we tried to do something this year. There are currently five youth players in the national team. Out of 19 players, there would have been 7 youth players if two didn't get injured. These are players 15 to 18.5 years old. That's what I see as a treasure of this team and what makes me happy. If they click together and manage to lift the level of their game, maybe we stand a chance. In the matches with Slovenia and Norway, we saw that we play well for 40-45 minutes, and then we lose it because 6-7 players play all the time. They can't endure the pace of the game. You'll see what world handball looks like now. It's fantastic what I saw in the videos. I think women's handball has never been as progressive as it is now. What you and the MHF have done is a bit confusing for everyone. Even for someone as experienced as I am, let alone for the girls. They are interviewed every day, and they grow more nervous by the day. I hope it is a positive, sports anxiety. They are aware of who they have against them. I have told them that what matters to me is that they show character and a good game. Whatever will be, will be. It doesn't matter what it is because these national teams can beat anyone with a 10-15 margin if they want to. You saw how the Netherlands defeated the world, European, and Olympic champion Norway. 10 goals difference was like a joke. The Dutch and French national teams are big favourites. Yesterday we saw Romania play without four of their A-team players and had a draw with Germany. This is an extremely difficult group. I hope they will overcome the anxiety and show more than they currently know.

Leonida Gichevska: As the championship gets closer, the excitement and the anxiety grow, but that's normal. I think we'll overcome it when the matches start, as early as the warm-ups. I think we are well prepared tactically and physically. Those of us who play internationally are fit enough, and the players who play in the Macedonian league trained hard with our fitness coach Petar Brashnarov, who is one of the best. So, I think we are well prepared overall.

Jovana Sazdovska: To be honest, we know our opponents - Romania, The Netherlands, and France. None of them is weak or inferior. They are the crème de la crème of European handball. I am not sure we'll be able to put in the same effort in the first, second and third matches, but we'll try to give our best in all three games. As athletes and handball players, we hope to win, of course, and we won't give up. We'll give our best, play our game, and always go for victory. Why not!

We saw our national team players, Gichevka and Sazdovska. You are always in touch with the girls. You cheered them a bit more today, so tomorrow they can perform better against the giant of the world handball, France. Coach Savevski mentioned that France's current team may be the best in their women's national team history. In your firsthand opinion, what is the atmosphere like in the Macedonian team?

Zhivko Mukaetov: It is positive. I think the camaraderie and team spirit among the girls are really great. Our head coach is also very experienced. He is a strategist who brings the whole team with him. In my opinion, we are here to cheer them on. I think we provided them with the best conditions we could, and now it's up to them to prove how good they are on the floor. I'm sure they have the quality and will show it to our public and our nation.

This team of handball players is relatively young. There are many female handball players from the youth and junior national teams whose results got better in the past. The trend is upward because we remember that those youth teams failed to even register for the EHF championship qualifiers in the past. Now that the MHF's focus has changed a bit, I think they pay a little more attention to the youth national teams. Maybe this European Championship will show the first results of the past efforts invested in the youth national teams.

Zhivko Mukaetov: The youth national teams and youth categories come first for us. They are in the MHF's focus. So, in that regard, since we took over in 2013, the first thing we did, was to have them apply for all possible competitions and create a system where, for example, youth categories play the Super League. It is a fact that there was quite a rough change of generations in women's handball after Kometal Gjorche Petrov. There were several generations which, unfortunately, failed to bring out a level of quality that could carry the national team forward. I think we now have an excellent base for the A-team. I am sure teaming up some of the younger players with some of the already established national team players, such as Sara Ristovska and Sazdovska, will bring up synergies and help put together a team able to perform successfully for many years, even in the final rounds. This championship shouldn't be just an exception. We are the organizers now, and that's why our national team plays in the final rounds. However, I am positive that with continuous and dedicated work, this national team has a foundation, quality, and tremendous potential to progress year after year. They really are too young now, and we expect them to grow by the year. We haven't reached the top yet. Playing in front of their audience at a European seniors' championship, I think, will give them wind in their sails and serve as a great experience. They'll start bringing awards later.

Yes, feeling the pressure of performing at a major competition is probably a great experience for them.

Zhivko Mukaetov: This will be something new for them. Especially for the younger players. They'll be the focus of the public's interest, but that's something they must go through.

It will be a good experience for their future. Speaking about this national team being rejuvenated, my next question is about women's handball in general. How high is the participation in the younger categories of players in the Macedonian women's handball clubs? How interested are the young girls in playing handball? Do we have the base and the numbers to get talent from?

Zhivko Mukaetov: We’ve had a base and numbers among the young girls for some time now. Unfortunately, we’re facing a lack of sufficient funding. It's a fact that men's handball attracts more funds than women's handball, which is a global trend. I don't think it should be so. I believe funding should be absolutely balanced. Many girls between the ages of 14 and 17-18 decide to quit playing handball. They’re at a turning point at that age. Unfortunately, our league is weak. It’s difficult for us to organize more teams playing on a European team level. At the time, we had an idea to create a powerful national team/club. We asked some of the federation's sponsors to co-fund such a project. However, there is always the risk that this national team/club would also play in a league of insufficient quality. Seven or eight years ago, we tried to create a regional competition, but unfortunately, we failed. This would have been much more interesting for the sponsors. Maybe we would have been able to have two clubs from each country capable of competing at a higher level of quality. For example, there are two clubs in Croatia, one in Montenegro, one or two in Serbia, and one in Slovenia. Vardar and Metalurg were strong for some time. With all of the above in mind, it would be difficult with a league where one club beats the rest by 20-30 points. That would not be a system capable of bringing the compressed quality to a higher level.

My next question is about head coach Ljubomir Savevski. You have chosen an experienced strategist who has worked in men's and women's handball for many years but has been inactive, literally away from handball, for several years. He was the head coach of our U19 team at the World Cup last summer, which we also hosted. What qualities did you see in him that could make him lead women's handball?

Zhivko Mukaetov: Ljubomir Savevski is an experienced coach and strategist. He helped build many generations of Macedonian male and female handball players. In other words, he worked with many generations of experienced and hardened national team players during the nineties and the noughties. He has been with many of the players at a time when they were growing as athletes. I am absolutely positive that he deserves great credit for our country's current high level of handball. I was terribly regretful seeing that man uninvolved in handball for almost ten years but will not go into the reasons for his abstinence. We agreed that the federation would give him all the logistics he needs; that we'll make it a rule that neither I nor anyone else from the federation's management would interfere in the daily operations of coaches and professionals. We will provide our coaches and professional staff with the best conditions we can, and demand results, proactivity, new ideas, and want to see daily progress. I think we've found the right formula in that regard because someone who loves handball and wants to work day and night deserves the best support. I think we are a winning combination. Everyone knows their place in the system and gives their best anywhere they can and with everything they know.

Let's turn our attention now to the MHF's projects around the youth world and the European championships that are being organized. You said that at the beginning, and I think Secretary General Philip Milosevski also mentioned in his statement that the EHF has given the MHF an award as an excellent organizer. They rarely give out this award... if I'm not mistaken, only fifteen Federations in Europe have received it.

Zhivko Mukaetov: As I said, we have been committed to the youth categories since 2013. The first thing we did was to decide that our youth national teams must participate at all levels of competition. We also try to bring as many tournaments as possible here so that they can play in the final rounds. Failing to apply for several years, we came to a situation of having to start in the B division. This was because only the last five years counted when we didn't play, plus a couple when we had full-quality teams competing in European and world championship finals. When averaged, we couldn't get the points required to start in the A division. Then, it took many years of painstaking work to be able to proudly say today that all our youth teams entered the A-divisions of European and world championships. This was particularly difficult as we had to start from below. Just as an example, the year when we took over the federation, the generation of Kuzmanovski, Talevski, Nelovski, and others was not registered to compete.

...and, as we all know, now they are the pillars of the senior national team.

Zhivko Mukaetov: Now they are the core of the men's national team. We expect a lot from them in the coming years…

and if I’m not wrong, that generation shortly after was sixth at the World Cup in Algeria.

Zhivko Mukaetov: …yes, they were sixth, our greatest success in a world cup ever.

Probably, the results of the youth national teams are a sort of indicator for the future of the senior national team. As both the female youth and junior teams were very successful last summer, winning EHF championships, the seniors' expectations are probably now higher too.

Zhivko Mukaetov: Expectations are high, and it's critical to work on all fronts and support them the best we can. We should find how to motivate the clubs to work with the young as much as possible. Somehow, we must find a way to engage Macedonian players more, which is not easy. Give it some time, and the results will follow. I must say, I am happy that we managed to make a smooth change of generations in the men's national team. It happened gradually, and we managed to blend older and younger players and keep the continuity. I think we can be proud that we haven't missed a single European and world senior men's championship since 2012. Not many national teams in Europe have managed to do that. Even the best teams happened to miss a competition here and there.

I think Germany missed two tournaments.

Zhivko Mukaetov: Germany, Slovenia, Norway, and some others.

The next topic I wanted to touch upon was the men's national handball team. I'd like to ask you about Kire Lazarov. He started as a player and head coach, and now he is just a head coach. Was it difficult to convince him to stay and work in Macedonia? In my opinion, he is well known throughout Europe, so probably, he had coaching offers coming from handball giants, even national teams. Was it difficult to convince him to start his coaching career in Macedonia as head coach of the national team?

Zhivko Mukaetov: We’ve known each other for a long time. We’ve been working together throughout that time, and he was a pillar of the men's national team's game for years. Then we decided to go for this, and I am grateful that he agreed to simultaneously play and lead the national team. It's a fact that he is highly appreciated in the world of handball, in Europe or globally. Having him work with us here and pass his knowledge to the Macedonian national team and HC Alkaloid is invaluable.

If I may speculate a bit... Do you know if Kire Lazarov received and rejected offers from other clubs?

Zhivko Mukaetov: I know something about that, but I'd put it differently. What is better for Macedonian handball: Kire Lazarov at his age here, working and practising with young handball players and passing on knowledge day and night, or have him coach another team in Europe? I think everyone wishing well for Macedonian handball should welcome his involvement in Macedonian handball in as many areas as possible.

You mentioned your handball team HC Alkaloid, which plays in the Super League this year. You are probably happy with the results - with just one loss, right behind the champion Vardar, the last season's double-winner. How satisfied are you with the path HC Alkaloid is currently on?

Zhivko Mukaetov: I created the HC Alkaloid project because, as president and leader of the federation, I had many conversations with the leading clubs in Macedonia. We always stressed that it would be good to find a way to use and push Macedonian players forward. These clubs are private projects, and naturally, they are after quick results. No one has the right to blame them for building a team where international players carry the game. They are ambitious in that respect and kudos to that. At the end of the day, Vardar was a European champion twice, and that's the maximum a handball club can achieve. But, HC Alkaloid's strategy is to create young players and search for local Macedonian talent. These players will grow and later be the foundation of the Macedonian national handball team. It doesn't matter if the club ranks first, second, third, or fourth in the Macedonian league. Again, it must constantly build Macedonian players, who will be the pillars of Macedonian handball. The club must build a system, a modern handball game, follow all rules, take care of all handballers, and create new values. Those handball players should, firstly, be proper persons, well-behaved, and respectful. Secondly, they should spread the handball gospel and grow into personalities, serving as role models for children.

Would a championship title in Macedonia be the pinnacle of that project?

Zhivko Mukaetov: Not at all! We didn't start with the championship title in mind. We want to set up a system that would continuously produce good Macedonian players and build a foundation and a future, taking the quality of Macedonian handball to a higher level.

Do the current results and the level of the game justify your expectations?

Zhivko Mukaetov: Absolutely! I see them play quite a different handball than the other teams. The game is much faster and much more dynamic. The players' average age is 19-20, young guys who have yet to grow and give their best. And they do grow day by day.

Speaking about HC Alkaloid, it might also be good to mention the Macedonian championship. The quality has been steady in the past years. Vardar was the dominant club in the past. Now, Eurofarm, Pelister and Alkaloid are right behind. Butel has a good team as well. Prolet is also a good and ambitious team always present on the Macedonian and European handball stage. What does the MHF do to help the quality of handball and give sponsors an opportunity to invest in the clubs and in the championship, to ensure good conditions for the matches?

Zhivko Mukaetov: Since 2013, when I came to the helm of the MHF, most of the various clubs' dues went down by the year. The MHF took over most of those dues, and the clubs now have fewer costs than ever. Since I took over in 2013, we started modernization and digitalization. They used to type reports and everything else on typewriters, and it took ages for them to arrive at the federation. Things are different today. These are new and modern times, and they require new approaches. We are constantly trying to help the clubs in any way we can. On a different note, it is well-known that no club has ever complained about not being ranked as they deserve in the past nine years. There are no ranking scandals about having one club's interests over another. The first thing I insist on is that referees and officials must be top-notch. We pride ourselves on having many top international referees and officials. Dragan Nachevski is the head of EHF's referee federation. Our top priority in that respect is the regularity of all matches and will continue to be so. There can be no compromise on any ground on this issue.

We are coming close to the end of our conversation. We touched upon many topics - from the application for the women's EHF Euro 2022 to the organization and logistics of our women's and men's national teams. Then we spoke about the Macedonian championship. As the men's national handball team has been playing major tournaments for ten years, we can probably talk about handball for ages. But one of the burning issues in sports, in general, is the sports infrastructure. We mentioned that the Boris Trajkovski Arena had to get a facelift to maintain the EHF standard for hosting a European championship. The sports infrastructure has somewhat improved over the past years. There are more sports domes, but that's not very sustainable. Some domes are not good enough to host domestic matches, let alone international ones. What is the MHF's position about the clubs having to take more care of their domes? Maybe the national or local government managing the domes should take care of them? We have sports, but without the infrastructure, half of the equation is missing.

Zhivko Mukaetov: Macedonia definitely needs infrastructure and an infrastructure management system. We need more domes, especially more heated domes. Among some sports, the clubs have to start the second half of the season later because there's no heating in their domes. Many sports entities have no premises, and with all their enthusiasm they have to practice in the elementary schools' domes, at times inappropriate for good organization. I think we must start building new domes, but later we must maintain them. In this part of Europe, we can build domes, but maintenance is much more difficult to organize to meet all requirements. We all must do our best to have as many children as possible engaged in sports as early as elementary school. We must be able to motivate physical education teachers to work with children more. That's where the foundations are laid to build upon them later. I believe we should start building infrastructure and making sports more accessible for everyone. We all grew up in our neighbourhood, where we had more parks and played all the sports. Now that's gone. That's why we have to find a way to build more infrastructure and make it possible for those who want to practice sports to do it properly. That's the only way we can expect our nation and people to enjoy healthy development because sports are the foundation to achieve that. I think that investing in sports is absolutely the best investment any country can make. That's why I think all of us should be involved and agile. The federations, the Youth and Sports Agency, the Olympic Committee - that we hardly even notice what they do, if anything - and all the other authorities in the country. Let's create the infrastructure that will help build a healthy nation on the one hand and continuously create athletes and sports successes that will make us proud on the other. As the country's ambassadors, athletes represent the country in the best and fastest manner. We all know how much a victory in football against Germany or Italy helps promote our country. The same goes for our national handball team's continuous results. That's the formula for success.

So, do you think sports education from the youngest age is the key to the development of Macedonian sports?

Zhivko Mukaetov: Absolutely. We all have to join forces in increasing the number of people participating first and the quality next.

You said that all sports institutions should cooperate. Can MHF be the focal point? Can it bring all the other federations to work together? Maybe together with the IOC and the Youth and Sports Agency, they can help create a real sports strategy for moving forward?

Zhivko Mukaetov: I think it's unrealistic to expect the MHF to be the organizer. There are competent institutions in the country whose job is to initiate it. We stand at their disposal to provide all our contacts and bring international best practices for those in charge to see and decide how to move forward. We are open to cooperation or further support if needed.

You said you've been with the Handball Federation for nine years, and you've managed to take handball significantly forward in all aspects of logistics and organization. But, the smaller sports and federations are seriously coping to gain access to domes and good conditions.

Zhivko Mukaetov: That is absolutely correct! That's why I say we need infrastructure. Once you have it, everyone can get the place they deserve. In a small country like ours, you can't expect everyone to get all the needed funds and premises. They have to assert themselves with their results. Let's take taekwondo as an example – Dejan Georgievski won the silver, and our company found a way to sponsor and support the Macedonian taekwondo federation. They demonstrated they could be successful, and everyone was ready to help them. We must get together and help anyone who shows they have the potential to compete.

So, we should focus on success and help even more.

Zhivko Mukaetov: Everyone deserves a chance to begin, but because we can't help everyone, we need to focus on those who really show capacity and help them get a notch higher and compete globally, not only locally.

We touched upon another broad Macedonian sports topic. We can continue talking about the problems of Macedonian sports in the past thirty years. However, I think the results are much better than the investment made.

Zhivko Mukaetov: Well, it is hard, and it's all intertwined. Sports are impacted by the economy and by many other factors. We know it isn't simple at all, and the same goes for the different segments of society, and it's difficult for sports to bring their needs to the fore. Nevertheless, we have enthusiasm and love for sports, and we have to properly guide all of our country's talent and become more successful.

We are about to wrap up our tonight’s conversation. I’d like to finish by revisiting the women's EHF Euro 2022. We are playing France tomorrow at 18:00, the Netherlands on Monday, and Romania on Wednesday. Can you predict the outcome of these matches or the final ranking of the Macedonian national handball team?

Zhivko Mukaetov: We’ll fight to the end.

Quite a diplomatic reply!

Zhivko Mukaetov: We'll fight to the end. If the girls believe in themselves and the team and do their best, I think we can expect good news from the Boris Trajkovski Arena.

I hope so too. I hope that as sports reporters, we will only report on victories of the women's national handball team and, of course, of all other Macedonian athletes. I hope to see the women's national team playing in phase two in Skopje and final stage matches in Skopje played in a packed arena.

Zhivko Mukaetov: We cheer for Macedonia.

Thank you for being here and taking the time to come. I know how busy you must be with the EHF Euro 2022. I think we covered everything about the organization, the national team, and handball in general.

Zhivko Mukaetov: Thank you having me. Greetings to everyone watching, and I'd like to invite all handball lovers to the Boris Trajkovski Arena because it will be worth it.

I too would like to invite all sports fans, especially handball fans, to be at the Boris Trajkovski Arena tomorrow at 18:00 and see Macedonia play France. We may see a miracle. We've done it before, and we might do it again. Thank you for watching, and enjoy the rest of the evening.