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Three Sporting Setbacks in One Week for Mayor Kostovski

May 23, 2005

(Balkanalysis.com Research Service)-  Business magnate and new Mayor of Skopje Trifun Kostovski has suffered three sporting setbacks in just over a week, one more existentially demanding than the others.

On Friday night, 2,000 Macedonians assembled in front of giant screens in City Park watched with disappointment as Kostovski’s Kometal women’s handball team was defeated for the European women’s handball championship by Slagelse of Denmark. But that was just the beginning.While this makes perennial contender and one-time champion Kometal the second-best team in Europe, it was not enough for either the fans or the team’s owner, who had expected a victory on their home turf in Skopje. However, after blowing a four-goal lead in the final three minutes in the two teams’ previous encounter in Denmark, Kometal seemed to suffer from a collapse of morale. Despite strong individual performances, Slagelse led from the beginning and remained stronger throughout.

While this defeat deprived Kostovski of a victory that would have run in his tenure as mayor with fanfare and celebrations, it was not as disturbing as the one he suffered the Sunday before in Tetovo. Along with the handball team, Kostovski also sponsors a football and basketball team under the Kometal banner.

In a first-division game last Sunday against the home team, Albanian Shkendia 79, the new Skopje mayor had to be rushed out of the stadium by police after coming under attack from vengeful Albanian youth mobs.

According to weekly magazine Fokus on 20 May, in the first half of the match Kostovski, who often comes to watch his teams’ performance, got involved with a “verbal duel” with the home fans. At halftime, 30 hoodlums calling themselves ‘Ballists’ after the WWII Albanian Nazi collaborator paramilitaries, started “to beat everything that was Macedonian in the stadium.”

According to the magazine, the group is widely known as “the street gang of [Ali Ahmeti’s] DUI” directed by local tough Isair Samiu, nicknamed, ‘Baci,’ a prominent former NLA commander. Samiu became infamous following the war for taking over the Tetovo tobacco factory, expelling its owners, and handing it over the new “Tetovo University.” For this bit of thuggery, Samiu was arrested. However, he was soon released by the judge, claiming that he had to go to an urgent (and non-existent) head operation in France. There was a general outcry following the incident, but today Commander Baci remains in power in Tetovo.

The specter of the ‘Ballists’ he allegedly controls highlights the importance that directed but nonetheless anarchic youth factors have in carrying out the political will in Macedonia.

Heeding “friendly advice” from the Shkendia 79 leadership, Kostovski vacated the premises via a police cordon. No details were given regarding the “verbal duel” Kostovski had had with the fans or why the police had done nothing to prevent the rampaging mob from attacking the Macedonians. Apparently, they had been out to “lynch” Mayor Kostovski and it is likely that they would have had given the chance. That’s the beauty of youth mobs: too anarchic for anyone to have to take responsibility, and too young to prosecute.

It’s wonderful to see that even sports has become a playground for ethnic intimidation by other means in Macedonia. But really, could anyone imagine the scandal if, say, Silvio Berlusconi was attacked by fans during an AC Milan game?

The whole sickening affair seems to have had territorial intimations. “…We understand it as a provocation that Trifun is always there in Tetovo Stadium when our team plays against his,” was the “monstrous” explanation given by the Shkendia 79 F.C. bosses, according to Fokus. The Football Association of Macedonia is apparently investigating the incident, though this will not likely amount to much.

Humorously, as Vremereports today, a situation with similar possibilities for tension occurred in yesterday’s match in Prilep between Rabotnicki Kometal and the Macedonian team Pobeda, which was also attended by Kostovski. After a Kometal player slid into the Prilep team’s goaltender, breaking the latter’s rib, Kostovski hurriedly exited the stadium. Uproariously, the home fans started to shout, “don’t leave- we don’t want to attack you like those Tetovo fans!”

 

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