BLOG: Sign language will be order of dayArticle
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ehfTV commentator Tom Ó Brannagáin blogs the Match of the Week in Round 5 Metalurg vs. Kielce

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BLOG: Sign language will be order of day

Next stop is Skopje for the top of the table clash, in Group C, between Metalurg and Kielce. This is a clash of two teams that have been growing over the past year into great forces in the VELUX EHF Champions League. For Kielce as we already know, there have been many changes this season; for Metalug, bar the right-back merry-go-round, which ended up with Vugrinec in that position, they are much the same as last year. Both teams exited at the Last 16 stage so, if new and better recruits are a metre stick to success, Kielce should have a better chance of proceeding further in the competition due to the changes.

Skopje is the most difficult place, in all Champions League, to reach. Three planes there and back do not make for pleasant travelling. The team is a commentator’s nightmare. There are more ”skis” on the team than an alpine slope, and the pronunciation and length of the names means that the ball has probably left the hand of the player it’s in, before I get my tongue around it. It is a tough team to learn, but I have done my best to figure out the –ovs, the –skis and the –ovskis, not to mention the –evskis.

But it is a great place to visit with great hospitality. Nothing is too much for them to do and a platter is always waiting for you after a long journey, which starts at 6am and finishes at around 1am.

The hall itself is alive on game day, as thousands of Macedonians descend upon it. They are fanatical about their team. Last season, in the game against Zagreb, the game itself, was the leading story on the national news. That is incredible and prior to the game a giant flag, with the yellow sun on a red background covered one side of the stadium. It was enough to send shivers down your spine and I don’t believe the crowd went quiet for one second throughout the game.

I love the atmosphere on game day in all the halls around Europe. Here are people willing to pay the admission price and give up their Sunday afternoon to support their team, win or lose. But I have never felt anything like the atmosphere in Metalurg. Maybe, it was because they played a Balkan neighbour, and this added a little spice to the pot, but I sensed that this team has become an extension of their national pride and that, in itself, gave a depth of feeling to the support that I had never experienced before.

This is the welcome that faces Kielce. There is a barrage of support for their team in attack, and, a cacophony of booing for the opposing team when Metalurg defend. Forget about trying to make a call, sign language will be the order of the day. A lot will become clear about this Kielce team if they can face the storm of Skopje and survive.

A funny aside for you all is that Naumče Mojsovski and Zlatko Mojsoski are brothers, but their surnames are different. I asked someone at the game why two brothers differ by one letter from each other. He told me that it was laziness on behalf of the official that signed the birth certificates all those years ago.

It’s a good job for Macedonian handball that Červar, the coach, has great attention to detail and has led this team from obscurity on the European stage to a team that is feared, particularly on home soil at the “Avtokomanda”.

TEXT: Tom Ó Brannagáin, ehfTV commentator