A moment with…Mirkulovski and ManaskovArticle
«Go back

A MOMENT WITH: A Metalurg stalward and a rising star speak of their lives on and off the court and explain the philosophy which makes the club loved by all Macedonians

»EHF CL Channel »2014-15 Men's News

A moment with…Mirkulovski and Manaskov

The night prior to the game between Metalurg and PSG, I meet with Filip Mirkulovski and Dejan Manaskov in a downtown cafe. There is an air of optimism about the coming season, which in hindsight may have been a little optimistic, and the boys talk of their lives, loves and dreams. Amidst all the current talk of monetary problems, there is no doubt that their hearts beat for a team that is fully supported by a nation as a whole.

“The spirit is different”

They both agree that Lino Cervar has brought a new dimension to the club. “He has magic glasses,” says Dejan. Lino sees things. The bulk of Metalurg's players are Macedonian and this is a philosophy within the club. For a country whose national sport is handball, it means that the nation as a whole supports this team. Vardar's fans are mostly from Skopje. Mirkulovski has grown up with the “veteran” players through junior national teams and 12 years at the club, and despite his tender twenty two years, Manaskov has been a teammate of his for six years. Metalurg, they both say, is in their hearts.

“Vardar is maybe a better team on paper”

They relive the victories against their mighty neighbours. They explain that everything is different when the teams come on the court. Last year they won the championship back from Vardar and they are quite happy that their near neighbours are raising the profile of the sport. True to their love of handball and country they see it as a positive that competition will only make their sport and club stronger. Even though Metalurg have a smaller budget, they couldn't see themselves playing for Vardar. Even Dejan's dad, Pepe, is a coach over there, which doesn't always lend itself to Sunday dinners.

“Always pressure to be as good as my dad”

Dejan's dad is hero worshipped in the country. He explains that his life was handball from an early stage and that is one of the reasons he is as good as he is. The players from Metalurg themselves, are passing on the knowledge, as regularly, they attend coaching session for the club's academies that are littered throughout the country. “We show them our finesse,” says Filip. He goes on to say that he is excited about the future of the club with all the new young players coming in. They admit that it is a big difference between themselves and Vardar that each year Metalurg invest more and more in youth academies and young players.

“Most players in Metalurg are studying”

Filip is studying a master’s degree in law, Dejan is studying economics. It's incredible that nearly all the team is working on their education outside of handball. Considering Filip is now a daddy as well, you wonder where they can fit it all in. Include in that, their addiction to video games and there aren't enough hours in the day. Dejan jokes that Filip has one hand on the console and the other is feeding the baby. Filip says his woman, correction wife, (laughs) helps him a lot. He cannot see himself in a handball role when it's all over.

“Year by year, step by step, everything is possible”

They are very funny guys and we laugh a lot. From Dejan's nights on the town with Stoilov (when he is free) and Dimovski's weight loss as new sporting director they laugh and talk about their role in a club that means everything to them. In a country where handball is king and players are regularly voted sportsman of the year (Filip has won it) they admit that this season will almost certainly be tougher than last year. Prophetic words indeed! As if to put our minds to rest about where they rank in the handball world they tell me never to underestimate them. They are a different team with their own fans. There everything is possible.

There is a great sense of camaraderie between these two players despite their age gap. They make fun of each other and of teammates in a warm way that shows a great team spirit. Perhaps for those of us on the outside, it gives a glimpse into the foundations that exist in a club that has over the past number of years deservedly found its place at the top table of handball.

Listen to the full interview here

TEXT: Tom O'Brannagain, ehfTV commentator