They dreamed of this moment for years, well aware that it may never come into fruition but it has and they are embracing it as they have always dreamt they would. "Lazio Fans Macedonia" are getting ready for tonight's game in Skopje where Rabotnicki will play hosts to Lazio in a Europa League qualifier, a fixture where Lazio hold the upper hand to say the least having secured a 6-0 victory in Rome. LazioLand spoke to Jovan Tikvaroski and Done Nikolovski about the game and what this moment means to our friends in Macedonia.
How are the preparations going for Thursday's game? What are you doing for the game and how many Laziali do you expect to be present?
Done: "It is a dream for us to see Lazio play in our country, so to make sure that everything goes well, we started with the preparations as soon as we learned that Lazio was coming to Macedonia. The whole group, "Lazio Fans Macedonia", had several meetings during this period to share ideas and thoughts about what would be the best possible way to welcome our players here in Skopje. About the organization so far, we’ve made two banners, which would be shown on the stadium in the first and second half of the game. Also, for the second time since LFM was formed, we’ve made t-shirts with our logo, which all of us are going to wear in the game. Having in mind that this is a rare occasion, and means a lot to us as Lazio fans, a couple of these t-shirts we are going to give as presents to our players. According to the sold cards for the game and some feedback of fellow Laziali in Macedonia, we expect to be somewhere in the region of 80-110 fans here. We had time to prepare for the game, everything is set and we are ready to welcome our boys."
What does this game mean to you personally?
Jovan: "I follow Lazio for more than a decade. Till now I still haven’t been able to go to Rome or to watch any Lazio game. Because of that I always felt like something was missing. Right now, I still can’t believe that Lazio will actually play in Skopje. In short, a dream come true. This game will inevitably be remembered as the game when all Laziali from Macedonia stand on the stadium side by side to support Lazio. That makes me feel proud especially when Lazio is facing an opponent from my country and there is no doubt who we should support. This is a moment that will be engraved forever in my memory. For me this is history."
The fear when the tie was announced was that the home leg could see the game ended as a contest before it reaches Skopje. As that seems to be the case, are the Macedonian fans disappointed or do they prefer what should be a party atmosphere?
Jovan: "Of course we would like things to be different, I mean it’s not like we wanted Lazio to lose but all of us knew that if Lazio beat Rabotnicki with a high goal difference they will come here with the “reserve team”. So we limit our wishes and we now hope that there is a possibility we could see Zarate or Ceccarelli get some playing time. I have a strange feeling that the first one won’t happen. Even though there is a slight disappointment, we are far too thrilled for the opportunity to watch our beloved Lazio. For us this is an unforgettable experience and the only thing that is important is that Lazio is playing. "
How was Lazio's 6-0 win received in Macedonian media?
Done: "Rabotnicki for sure didn’t expect to be defeated so heavily, but Lazio improved a lot since last year with some big names and mentally as well. The media wasn’t so harsh on them, having in mind that the boys who played were pretty young, some of them with good football potential, and without any experience in the EU cups or with the national team. Surely it was a bad thing for Macedonian football but, after this kind of defeat, their quality must improve, if they want to keep on the track with the teams from the strongest EU leagues."
It is frequently argued that Goran Pandev has single handedly put Lazio on the map in Macedonia but the fanbase seems too large for that to be the only reason. Why are there so many Lazio fans in Macedonia, do you think?
Jovan: "Italian calcio ruled the world in the nineties. It was by far the strongest league in the world. Giants like Inter, Milan and Juventus would continuously find themselves in the finals of the Champions League. Teams like Lazio, Sampdoria, Udinese, Parma, Fiorentina and Roma also have their bloom. In one word, Italian calcio was a pleasure to watch. This is probably the reason why many Macedonian football fanatics supported Italian teams. So, from where such support for Lazio? Well, there are few reasons if you ask me. Sergio Cragnotti is one to blame for sure. Lazio had its golden period in his time of presidency. We all enjoyed those years. It was easy to find an idol in the likes of Signori, Nedved, Nesta, Salas… etc. The Balkan connection could be another reason. The players like Boksic, Mihajlovic, Jugovic, Stankovic definitely contributed for the fan base to spread through the Balkans and hence in Macedonia. Another reason could be the ultras. Irriducibili were the greatest ultras group in Italy during that time. Believe it or not, some support Lazio just for the sky-blue colors. Try to understand them, they were just kids back then. Goran Pandev came too late for us. We were already Lazio fans but we were glad to have a Macedonian at Lazio. He could be the reason behind the new generation of Lazio fans in Macedonia. That will be ok as long as they support Lazio and not Pandev. We still remember: “Voglio trovare nuovi stimoli, voglio un’altra squadra.”, those words priced us like daggers. For mercenaries like him, there is no place at Lazio. This is the opinion from many Laziali from Macedonia."
What do you hope to get out of this game? What would you like to be able to say when the occasion has been and gone?
Done: "First of all we are going there to enjoy ourselves and have a good time watching our favorite team playing in Skopje. Also, we hope to make a connection with fellow Italian supporters, and if some opportunity arises to make a contact with the some of the SS Lazio staff members, we will take it. We hope to give them a good time here, to do everything we can so they will remember that here, they are always welcomed, and to know that in Macedonia many Laziali support them in every game."
LazioLand would like to wish everybody at "Lazio Fans Macedonia" the time of their lives tonight and we would like to thank Jovan and Done for taking time out of their busy schedules to speak with us. It is much appreciated, as always.
Pictures Lazio Fans Macedonia at Rabotnicki v Lazio : http://lazioland.com/GallerySub.htm?AlbumId=444