Historic night, different types of awards. Germany’s loss to North Macedonia is the latest development in a trend of atrocious performances.
But the fear of Germany’s performance or a rant about Joachim Löw is not what I am going to report on. Tonight is about learning about the newcomer to the European Championships. Tonight is about North Macedonia.
Der Kaiser: Darko Velkovski
The centerpiece in a resilient and perfectly drilled five-man North Macedonia defense. The commander of the red wall, the Rijeka player hailing from Skopje, was everywhere and epitomized the North Macedonian will against a lackluster German side.
Fußballgott: Arijan Ademi
Ademi is the type of footballer that every football romantic loves. A true warrior that has become a one-club player, Ademi has played for Dinamo Zagreb since 2010. He’s the pit bull that was born in Croatia to a Macedonian Albanian family. After not getting picked by Niko Kovač for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Ademi decided to play for North Macedonia. Kovač later changed his mind but it was too late, as Ademi had already given his word to the smaller nation, and didn’t want to break besa, which is the Albanian cultural precept meaning pledge of honor. A new favourite player of mine.
Der Bomber: Eljif Elmas
Technically not a striker, Elmas’s contribution today was defined by his excellent offensive playmaking. Only 21-years-old, the Napoli midfielder is a real talent. Today he, Arijan Ademi, and Enis Bardhi won the midfield battle against a stagnant Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka, and İlkay Gündoğan.
Elmas’s technical ability is impressive, and together with the more defensive-minded Ademi and Bardhi, he was crucial to North Macedonia’s victory as he brilliantly linked the low-positioned defense with the ever-running strikers.
Meister of the Match: Goran Pandev
It can be hard for people from bigger nations to completely grasp what it means to be a nation-wide sports icon. North Macedonia has a population just over the two-million-mark, Berlin is just shy of the four-million mark. It is the 5th poorest country in Europe, has never won a gold in the Olympics, and, until this summer, has never competed in a major international football tournament.
You would think that due to these circumstances, North Macedonia lacks a nation-wide hero. But you would think wrong. Because North Macedonia is the home to Goran f**king Pandev.
Breaking Bayern Munich’s fans’ hearts back in 2011, Goran Pandev became the oldest player to score against the German national team tonight, breaking a record from 1953. He made his national team debut in June 2001, almost twenty years ago, in another FIFA World Cup qualification match. Playing for both Inter Milan and Napoli, the greatness and importance of Pandev’s contribution to Macedonian football can be found at Fudbalska Akademija Pandev, an academy founded by the man from the small-village Strumica. The academy has gotten so successful, it today plays in the first division in the country.
On the pitch, he’s the all-around striker that is undoubtedly the greatest Macedonian player of all time. Today, at the age of 37, he was the talisman to the greatest Macedonian football victory of all time.