North Macedonia, located in Southeast Europe, first appeared in international sports after the country separated from Yugoslavia. After independence, the country established teams for various disciplines, and many kinds of sports became popular in the country.
This article offers a brief insight into the five most popular sports in the country.
Football In North Macedonia
Not surprisingly, football is the most popular sport in the country. The Football Federation of Macedonia administers the national team. When the country was under the Yugoslavian team, the football team was not eligible to participate in official events and was only limited to playing exhibition matches against other Yugoslavian republics.
When Macedonia separated from Yugoslavia, the team began to participate internationally. The federation became a member of FIFA and UEFA in 1994, and the team played its first international match against Slovenia in October 1993. Macedonia ended up winning the match and later went on to beat Estonia as well.
The first major tournament where the team participated was the UEFA Euro Qualifying Round 1996, where it finished fourth in the group. The team also participated in the World Cup Qualifiers in 1998 and finished fourth in the group. The team continued to compete in the qualifying rounds for UEFA and FIFA but was not able to qualify until 2020, when it qualified for the EURO Cup, which was to be held in 2021. This was the first major tournament in North Macedonia’s football history.
North Macedonia is also in the third division of the UEFA Nations League after it won in the league’s D group in the UEFA Nations League’s first edition.
Handball In North Macedonia
The next most popular sport in North Macedonia is handball. The men’s national handball team was formed when the country got independence from Yugoslavia. Before 1991, it had representation within the Yugoslavian national team only. Although the team was established, it did not get to participate in international events until 1996.
The team participated in the Euro 1996, and since then, it has regularly participated in the qualifiers. To date, it had participated in European Championship six times, out of which its most notable performance was in 2012 when it finished in 5th place. The team had also entered the World Cup 7 times and was most successful in 2015 when it finished in 9th place. The team has also played in the Olympic qualifiers twice, in 2012 and 2016, where it finished in 3rd and 4th place, respectively. However, the team could not secure second or first place and hence could not compete in the Olympics.
The women’s handball team appeared in the World Championship for the first time in 1997, where it finished in 7th place and which is also the team’s most notable achievement in the world to date. It has also appeared in the European championship five times, and its most notable achievement was 7th position in 2008. Macedonia also hosted the European Women’s handball Championship that year.
Handball clubs in North Macedonia have also been moderately successful in European competitions. Its club RK Vardar won the EHF Champions in 2017 and 2019.
Basketball In North Macedonia
Basketball is the third most popular sport in Macedonia. The sport is administered by the Basketball Federation of North Macedonia, which was established in 1992 and joined FIBA a year later.
The national basketball team played its first international match against Estonia in 1993. Earlier, it was a part of the Yugoslavian national basketball team. The team has participated in the EuroBasket five times, and to date, its most notable performance was in 2011, when it finished in fourth place. To date, the team has not been able to qualify for the Olympics or the FIBA World Championship.
One of the most prominent Macedonian players, who was also the first player to be a part of the NBA, was Pero Antic, who joined the Atlanta Hawks. He was also the captain of the national basketball team during his career and is currently the president of the Basketball Federation of North Macedonia.
Swimming In North Macedonia
Swimming is a popular recreational activity among the locals. As a professional sport, it is still regarded as a minor discipline but has gained popularity in recent years.
One of the most prominent swimming events is the Ohrid Swimming Marathon, an annual event organised at Lake Ohrid in the summer. It is a part of the FINA Open Water Swimming Grand Prix, a professional swimming marathon by FINA. The Ohrid Swimming Marathon is 30 km long and is one of the World’s Top 100 Open Water Swims. Some of the best swimmers from North Macedonia participate in the event.
Skiing In North Macedonia
While the summers are good for swimming, skiing is a popular activity as the winter sports centres are rife with skiers in the winter months.
North Macedonia also participates in the winter Olympics, and many alpine skiers have represented the country in various Olympics tournaments. These include Ivana Ivchevska, Gjorgi Markovski and Antonio Ristevski, among others.