In 2006 the European Hockey Federation (EHF) targeted the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia as a potential new member association. The EHF Development Committee asked South East European Zonal Hockey Coordinator Denis Jelacic to visit capital Skopje and try to find persons who would be interested in starting hockey.
Jelacic did a good job. Not only did he find a key action man Goran Nikovski, but they also sat down and agreed a two year action plan outlining a step-by-step approach to developing hockey in FYR Macedonia. Nikovski is a Professor in physical education for health at the University of Skopje and he agreed to translate the FIH Hockey Rules booklets into Macedonian and present this to selected graduates and other professors across Macedonia.
Step 2 of the plan required a “How to Start up Hockey” Coaches seminar. On Thursday 28 March 2007 CDO Norman Hughes flew to Sofia to team up with Bulgarian Executive Director Antonio Antonov. Together they went to FYR Macedonia to be met by Nikovski.
Early Friday morning 29 March 2007 meetings were held with Mr. Nase Nasev Sports Director of the Macedonian Olympic Committee, Mr. Aleksandar Tufekcijevski President of the Federation of School Sports, and Mr Zoran Gapic, IOC representative. They agreed to support the introduction of hockey in FYR Macedonia by offering access to school facilities and support for future seminars and exchanges. They would also support Nikovski to lead this project.
Mid morning the seminar was officially opened and the challenge explained to the 20 delegates selected by Nikovski. These delegates came from all over Macedonia and were a mixture of students and professors. One student gave a short presentation on the rules of hockey as part of his graduation. He passed with top marks and was awarded his Diploma by the Minister.
Then the CDO spelt out the size of the challenge ahead and the aims of the seminar. He showed the FIH DVD “Absolutely Everybody” and said that without FYR Macedonia it is impossible to claim that hockey is played by everybody. In spite of the big task ahead nobody left. There were still 20 people interested in finding out more about hockey and helping to spread hockey across the country
Antonio Antonov explained how hockey had grown in Bulgaria from 5 to 30 clubs in 5 years after it was reintroduced 16 years ago. During ‘Communist times’ hockey was frowned upon as a Middle Class elite sport and not supported. He explained that with the right people and good people anything is possible. He pledged his support and the support of the Bulgarian Hockey Federation to help grow hockey in FYR Macedonia.
Using the University seminar room and indoor basketball/Handball hall the group received instruction from Hughes and Antonov. They instructed the group about the basic skills for hockey for children.
All participants had to be active and at the end of each module the group played a game. The emphasis was on having fun and making sure that the future young hockey players in FYR Macedonia had fun through hockey.
On the final day the group were presented with their Certificates of Attendance. The positive energy in the group was fantastic and Nikovski is to be congratulated in selecting such a committed band. Hughes stated that he expected to see 100 children playing hockey in a minimum of 5 clubs by December 2007. Also a newly formed FYR Macedonian Hockey Federation with Nivkovski as the first President/Secretary General. He stated that the group should feel privileged that they would be part of history if they succeeded in starting hockey across FYR Macedonia.
Antonov invited the members of the group to Sofia in May for a hockey workshop and said that he would visit Ohrid in FYR Macedonia in April and bring sticks and balls. He also stated that he would encourage clubs in West Bulgaria to travel to Skopje to play fun festivals. Also a group of school children from FYR Macedonia could attend the EHF Summer Camp in August in Albana.
The challenge ahead is enormous as facilities and resources in FYI Macedonia are very limited. But with quality people such as Nikovski and his team anything is possible. The three friends will do all they can to support the team on the ground to make the dream come true.
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