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Globalism Hits a Road Block in Macedonia as the World Cup Starts

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On 14 June 2018, the most famous globalist sporting event—the FIFA World Cup—kicked off with an epic clash between Russia and Saudi Arabia. Of course, the fact that this match (featuring Saudi Arabia) came on the eve of the Eid al-Fitr (the holiday celebrating the end of Ramadan in Muslim countries) is not a coincidence. Rather, it is an example of just how deeply globalist sentiments have become embedded in our daily lives; even sport is not immune to this form of ideological manipulation. While Russia’s 5-0 thrashing of Saudi Arabia did not pique my interest, a conversation over dinner regarding the possible name change of Macedonia did. The small Balkan nation is currently known as the “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (F.Y.R.O.M); the proposed new name is “Northern Macedonia”. In theory, this name change will resolve a longstanding dispute and serve to renounce the Macedonian nation’s supposed claims on the region of Northern Greece known as Macedonia.

On 12 June 2018, according to CNN, “Zoran Zaev, the prime minister of Macedonia, and Alexis Tsipras, the prime minister of Greece, had announced a surprise agreement to the new name. The move was to be a bridge in resolving longstanding tensions between Macedonia and its neighbor to the south”. As is so typical with globalist endeavors, the language is couched in utopian tropes, in this case “resolving longstanding tensions”.  After the “agreement”, Mr. Zaev Tweeted that “the name change preserved the Macedonian ethnic and cultural identity”. How acquiescing to the demands of the European Union and NATO could ever help a country “preserve” its ethnic and cultural identity is beyond me, and just one day later the president of F.Y.O.R. Macedonia responded to the absurdity. In the wake of the “agreement”, President Gjorge Ivanov said, in a video published by Reuters,

 

European Union and NATO membership cannot be an excuse to sign such a bad agreement which has unforeseeable damaging consequences for state and national interests of the Republic of Macedonia. My position is final, and I will not yield to any pressure, blackmail or threats. I will not support or sign such a damaging agreement.

 

While the conflicting positions taken by the Prime Minister and President of F.Y.O.R. Macedonia, respectively, may indeed represent an internal power struggle within the Macedonian state, by approaching the issue from a wider angle we can see that this small event is also indicative of an emerging struggle between globalism and nationalism around the world.

What is most ironic is that it is not just Macedonians who are angry at the proposed name change; Greeks are also incensed! According to John Psaropoulos of Al Jazeera, “the Greek government faces a vote of no confidence over its deal with the former Yugoslav Macedonia”. For Greeks, the name “Northern Macedonia” will “sanction the country’s Macedonian language and nationality, albeit with the proviso that they are of Slav, not ancient Greek, origin”. In short, the Greek side believes that any recognition of F.Y.O.R. Macedonia’s “Macedonian-ness” is a threat to Greek identity. By the same token, many Macedonians see this ”agreement” as an attack on their country and national identity as well!

 

What leaders on both sides of the issue fail to realize is what Pention University’s human rights professor Dimitris Christopoulos points out:

 

the name of a state can be the object of a diplomatic negotiation. The name of a nation – the identity of a people, where they feel they belong – cannot, because it is not a question of rules but of conscience.

 

While the European Union might herald an agreement as a diplomatic coup, allowing for the integration of the southern Balkans into the EU and thus expanding the European common market, it is certainly a loss for the people of both Greece and F.Y.O.R. Macedonia. It is the people of both states who, ultimately, will determine the fate of their political leaders. While many like to see nationalism as a divisive force, here we see that it can also make for strange bedfellows; in this case both Greek and Macedonian nationalists are strongly against the manipulations of globalist politicians. Hopefully, both countries will successfully resist these manipulations. May this serve as a reminder to readers that they should always stand up for their countries in the face of corrupt politicians who are only looking to profit at the expense of their own citizens.

 

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The Macedonians Are Not Happy . . . (Image Courtesy Of: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/opponents-criticize-greece-macedonia-name-deal/2018/06/13/66e3b81e-6ee5-11e8-b4d8-eaf78d4c544c_story.html?utm_term=.709ecce1b960).

 

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. . . And Neither Are the Greeks. So What Makes It Right? Image Courtesy Of: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/06/greek-government-faces-censure-macedonia-deal-180614182429517.html
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Yugoslavia World Cup 2014: What If Yugoslavia Had Stayed Together?

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What if the South had won the American Civil War? What if Archduke Ferdinand had never been shot in Sarajevo? What if Pearl Harbor was not bombed and the United States hadn’t entered World War Two? What if the Soviet Union had won the Cold War? Alternate histories are an interesting game to play in the study of international history. One could go on forever on these subjects, creating scenarios in one’s mind over scotch in the local pub. Here is one more, a scenario very pertinent to modern history: What if Yugoslavia had not fallen apart in the 1990s?

As a football fan it is hard not to bring this particular alternate history to mind (The Guardian mentioned it 7 years ago), especially during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Half a world away and twenty years removed from the violence in the Balkans, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina proudly represent independent nations on the green fields of Brazil. Both teams had monumental tasks in their first matches but can hold their heads high—Croatia fell victim to some questionable refereeing in their first match against hosts Brazil, while Bosnia put up a good fight before ultimately coming up short against an Argentina backed by Messi’s brilliance.

But the Balkan flavor of the 2014 World Cup does not end with the big names of Luka Modric and Edin Dzeko. They are merely where it begins. Take the unforgettable finish to yesterday’s meeting between Ecuador and Switzerland as an example.

 

 

Ecuador went up early through a headed goal by Enner Valencia and Switzerland were left looking lost through the first forty-five minutes, facing a 1-0 deficit at half-time. Switzerland needed a spark, and it came from the region many have termed the “powder-keg of Europe”—the Balkans. Just two minutes after coming on as a half-time substitute Admir Mehmedi capitalized on some poor Ecuadorian defending to level proceedings at 1-1. Mehmedi himself is an ethnic Albanian, born in Gostivar, Macedonia (in the northwest corner of the country, near the Kosovo border) in 1991, before moving to Switzerland at the age of two.

Then came the best finish to any of the matches so far. Ecuador looked to have a chance in the third minute of stoppage time when Valon Behrami dove in to block the shot, before gaining control of the ball. Behrami then orchestrated the counter attack, taking the ball across the half way line and setting up the play that eventually gave another second half substitute, Haris Seferovic, the chance to net the winner for Switzerland and settle the final score at 2-1.

Valon Behrami is an ethnic Albanian, born in what was then Titova Mitrovica (now just Mitrovica, a city has seen sporadic ethnic clashes between Serbs and Kosovars since Kosovo’s declaration of independence in 2008 and subsequent sovereignty in 2012) in present-day Kosovo before moving to Switzerland at age five. Meanwhile, the goal scorer Seferovic was born in Switzerland in 1992 to Bosnian parents who emigrated in the 1980s. What is especially remarkable is that of Switzerland’s World Cup squad of 23 players, an astounding 8 have some Balkan connection:

 

Granit Xhaka: The Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder was born in Basel in 1992 to Albanian parents.

Valon Behrami: As discussed above, the Napoli midfielder was born in present-day Kosovo in 1985 before emigrating to Switzerland in 1990.

Blerim Dzemaili: The 28 year old Napoli midfielder was born in Tetovo, current day FYR Macedonia to an Albanian family before emigrating to Zurich at age 4.

Xherdan Shaquiri: Bayern Munich’s star winger was born in Gnjilane, Yugoslavia (now present-day Kosovo) in 1991 before emigrating to Switzerland a year later.

Haris Seferovic: As discussed above, the Real Sociedad striker was born to Bosnian Parents in Sursee, Switzerland in 1992.

Mario Gavranovic: The twenty four year old FC Zurich forward was born in Lugano to Bosnian Croat parents who emigrated from Gradacac (now Bosnia-Herzegovina) in 1988.

Josip Drmic: The young Bayer Leverkusen striker was born in Lachen Switzerland in 1992 to a Croatian family.

Admir Mehmedi: As discussed above, the Freiburg striker was born in Gostivar, Macedonia in 1991 to an Albanian family before emigrating to Switzerland in 1993.

 

Sports Illustrated wrote an enjoyable article on the Bosnian team in the run up to the World Cup and I would argue that the story of Switzerland’s Balkan contingent is equally enthralling. Certainly it begs the question: what if Yugoslavia had not fallen apart and lost such athletic talent? Obviously sport has a nature vs. nurture element to it—would these footballers have been able to work their way up through the less developed youth systems in an intact Yugoslavia? How much of their progress was aided by having access to modern training facilities in Switzerland? Would they have chosen to represent a Yugoslavian team over the team of their adopted homeland (if their families had even emigrated in the first place)? And what about all the other variables that life throws at us, so far out of any individual’s control?

I argue that they would have had a fighting chance—after all, Yugoslavia was a respectable team before the dark days of the 1990s. They were semi-finalists in the World Cup twice and Quarterfinalists once, in 1990. And who can forget that strange twist of history—because of the wars Yugoslavia was disqualified from the 1992 European Championships after qualifying and was replaced by Denmark . . . the team that went on to win the tournament.

Twenty years on the reverberations of the conflict spread beyond just the teams qualified for this World Cup. The current captain of the Serbian national football team (which did not qualify) is Chelsea right back Branislav Ivanovic, one of the best defenders in the world today. Tiny Montenegro, a country of just over 650,000 and the size of the U.S. state of Connecticut, boast two Premier League players on their squad and gave England a run for their money during qualification for the 2014 World Cup after narrowly missing out on a spot in the 2012 European Championships in a playoff to the Czech Republic. And I won’t even count Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic—the mercurial striker who is currently one of the world’s best—since his Bosniak father (and Croatian mother) emigrated from the former Yugoslavia in the 1970s, long before the collapse. But, if an intact Yugoslavia had fielded a team in 2001 when Zlatan first made his debut for Sweden, might he have opted for the country of his parent’s birth? We will never know, but it’s worth a thought.

This year’s favorites may be Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Holland, and Spain to name a few but—if only for a moment—imagine the possibilities in this World Cup if modern history had taken a different turn.

Gradski Stadion Skopje/Skopje City Stadium (Now Philip II Arena), Skopje, F.Y.R. Macedonia – FK Vardar/FK Rabotnicki

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My visit to what was then the Skopje City Stadium came in the summer of 2007 on the eve of a concert appearance by the Turkish pop star Tarkan of “Kiss Kiss” fame. Macedonia was the last stop for me after a jaunt by train and bus across the Balkans through Moldova, Romania, and Bulgaria.

After the most recent renovations–and a name change to Philip II Stadium–the old Gradski Stadion has been transformed into a state of the art stadium with a capacity of 33,460. I was able to catch a random game during my visit–I still don’t know who was playing, but I assume it was a youth tournament since it was early June. It is interesting posting these pictures seven years later and watching the advent of Industrial football through major stadium projects in small cities like Skopje. I hope you enjoy the pictures below, and to get more of your Macedonian football fix please check out http://www.macedonianfootball.com which has some nice insights into the game in Macedonia:

 

The stadium rises out of Skopje’s park:

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Macedonia’s National Stadium:

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The Green Hills of the Southern Balkans Roll On In the Distance:

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A Handful of Specators:

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This Stand has since been rebuilt–bad news for the tenants of those soon-to-be-built apartments who could have caught some football from the windows:

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Vardar Fans Leave Their Mark:

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A Steep Slope:

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Its a precipitous climb at the Gradski Stadion:

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A Little Closer to the Action:

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