Tuesday, August 30, 2016


Macedonia Soccer Movie Kicks Off Controversy

A screengrab from Macedonian director Darko Mitrevski's World War II soccer drama "The Third Half"
A screengrab from Macedonian director Darko Mitrevski's World War II soccer drama "The Third Half"
Soccer has always been a sport that lends itself to drama and it has been the source of many great stories that resonate beyond the field of play.

In addition to the frenetic thrills and spills of the game itself, the universal popularity and cross-border appeal of association football means that many stirring moments in the sport's history also end up being celebrated as part of a nation's folklore.

For example, the infamous "death match" between prisoners of war, who were former professional soccer players with Kyiv teams, and soldiers from the Nazi Wehrmacht, has become the stuff of legend in Ukraine and beyond.

The gripping story of how some local footballers paid the ultimate price for having the temerity to thrash a Nazi soccer team has become a source of national pride in Ukraine.

It's such an enthralling story that it has easily lent itself to movie adaptations -- inspiring a number of films such as "Escape to Victory," starring Sylvester Stallone, as well as the controversial "The Match," which sparked a major controversy ahead of the Euro 2012 finals, which Ukraine co-hosted.

Now, a Macedonian filmmaker has given the cinematic treatment to one of his country's most-venerated soccer stories, which has also sparked a row.

Darko Mitrevski's "The Third Half," which premiered at a festival in Bitola this week, tells the tale of the short-lived Skopje football club FC Macedonia.

Playing in the Bulgarian league at a time when Macedonia didn't officially exist, and coached by Jewish trainer Illes Spitz, this team defied all the odds to reach the Bulgarian national league final of 1942.

Bulgarian Outrage

Mitrevski's movie is essentially a love story based on the life of Macedonian Holocaust survivor Neta Cohen.

"The Third Half" depicts how a young Jewish girl from an affluent family defies her parents by dating a poor Macedonian football player. But their love overcomes this parental hostility and even saves the girl's life because she manages to escape being deported to the Treblinka death camp by eloping with her boyfriend.

With high production values and a classic Romeo-and-Juliet plotline set against the tumultuous backdrop of World War II, the film has every chance of being well received internationally. 

It's not surprising, therefore, that "The Third Half" has already been nominated as the Macedonian entry for this year's Best Foreign Language Oscar.

WATCH: International trailer for "The Third Half"

In neighboring Bulgaria, however, the film has sparked outrage, with many saying that it paints a skewed picture of the deportation of Macedonian Jews to Nazi death camps.

Late last year, three Bulgarian members of the European Parliament called on the European commissioner for enlargement, Stefan Fuele, to censure Skopje for the movie, which they said was an "attempt to manipulate Balkan history" and "spread hate."

Bulgaria has often been praised for refusing to deport its Jews to its ally Germany in World War II. Nonetheless, it did deport Macedonian Jews after it occupied the region following the collapse of Yugoslavia in 1941.

According to Balkaninsight.com, only 2 percent of the Jews from Macedonia survived the Holocaust and some historians have intimated that Bulgaria handed them over to appease the Germans for protecting their own Jewish population from the Nazis.

Mitrevski has denounced the Bulgarian allegations, which he described as "foolish reactions." He has also slammed the use of what he calls "Goebbels-like production machinery" to deny Bulgaria's role in the Holocaust.

Old Sense Of Injustice

Ironically, despite the heated debate surrounding the movie, the real controversy for most hardcore football fans has nothing to do with historical accuracy.

For Macedonian soccer supporters, the film has reawakened an old sense of injustice because they believe FC Macedonia was robbed of the Bulgarian championship in 1942.

To this day, there are many people who still feel that the Skopje club was denied victory in the league final against Levski Sofia because of biased decision-making by referees who had conspired to ensure that a "non-Bulgarian" team would not win the national championship.

In 2010, FC Macedonia's last surviving member, goalkeeper Vasil Dilev, indicated that there was no doubt his team was by far the better side, thanks to the tutelage of the legendary Spitz.

"There are no more coaches like that," he said. "He turned Macedonia into a club that made the whole of Bulgaria shiver."

WATCH: Interview with FC Macedonia goalkeeper Vasil Dilev

-- Coilin O'Connor
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Kris from: Australia
September 22, 2012 03:25
Why dose radio free europe just report negative and bad news. There are massive improvements in living standards, business investments, human rights ect, but yet again radio free europe puts the focus on something negative.
In Response

by: K from: Macedonia
September 24, 2012 08:23
And why do you think this is bad news?

by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
September 22, 2012 09:30
Dear RFE/RL -ers,Bulgaria didnt deport Jews from Macedonia,or Greece-they were deported by German army units which is the main point of controversy in this not so cheap anti-bulgarian `movie`.You could also say that the jewish coach of the Skopje team was murdered after the war by yugoslav titoist communist bandits for his supposedly pro-bulgarian inclinations.The macedonian komintern loonies ,now in power falsify all history from the region,to cure their inferiority complexes,just like the azeris and any new-fangled artificial states nowadays do with the full support of their super-duper powers` backing.Finally,glad to see RFE/RL turning into an Anonymouse haven-no need to sign the authors of such articles-is it good old Nickolaycho Krastav,or any other bright young hack???-well it doesnt matter really-the bulgarians, as the proud and freedom loving komintern macs say are bloody fascists-never mind they saved their jews from the Holocust-this is what they get as a thank you film in return.As the mac proverb says:Што е маке све jе ....-meaning all macs are....!!!
In Response

by: istvan from: in Camel's tent
September 22, 2012 22:53
Aha, the most inscrutable Camel is Bulgarian! Funny, I didn't think Kurdistan stretched so far north...
In Response

by: Vakhtang from: Moscow
September 23, 2012 05:59
Yes Istvan, сamel developed rigorous activity on the waves of Radio Liberty...positioning itself as a know-it-all "mr"-)))))..now wants to join the football theme...
I have heard that there, where he came from, recently was the match between team of dromedarys and team of bactrians...
What was the score,camel?
In Response

by: Kaktus from: Sahara
September 24, 2012 09:03
"Bulgaria didnt deport Jews from Macedonia,or Greece-they were deported by German army units which is the main point of controversy in this not so cheap anti-bulgarian `movie`."

That's not what Neta Koen says, contrary she said: the bulgarians arested us, the bulgarians prisoned us, the BULGARIANS took us to the deportation camps!!!

It's not truth, it's propaganda??
See for yourself:
In Response

by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
September 24, 2012 21:44
Dear kaktus,there is not a single shred of evidence bulgarian soldiers rounded evicted or sent to camps a single jew from Macedonia-some policemen did and the pics fron the Koen video are from Greece.The pics shown by the UDBA / serbian kgb / director show german soldiers deporting the jews while the udba guy says says they are `bulgarian`-a cheap kgb trick-there are many faults and discrepancies in the old goalkeepers video,which are shown in the clips following his,but they are in bulgarian only.The main issue here is that no single bulgarian citizen was deported from Bulgaria which makes the zionists very unhappy-thats where the slurs against the bulgarians come from.When the macedonian jews were deported their property was confiscated and after the war the titoist bandits inherited it.When the artificial `state` of FYROM was created,the state donated it for a holocaust museum funded jointly by a zionist organization.In this case the zionist interests coincide with those of the serbian UDBA Komintern red fascists,hence all this anti bulgarian vomit pouring all over,as a thank you bulgarians for saving your jews from holocaust.No good deed goes unpunished!!!

by: Vakhtang from: Moscow
September 23, 2012 01:45
I would advise the author to learn more about the game between the Germans and Ukrainians during the war which is called-death match...t is well known that for Ukrainian team to play also individuals who cooperate with the Nazis..This was more match of friendship than match of death....
t is clear that the film about which the author of article writes here is a fantasy of group of representatives of small ethnic group seeking the opportunity to express themselves through falsification and distortion..

Speaking generally about the problems in the world of football,so
I think that we should have to ask Blater who has presented to Mr Putin the World Cup and that after Putin recognized аbkhazia bandits who killed thousands of women, children and the elderly and created a bandit place with elements of racism and nazism after the murder of Magnitsky, Litvinenko and torture of political prisoners..
We have to demand the arrest of Mr. Blater and trial him and his corrupt helpers at the Hague Tribunal...

by: mitsoa from: gr
September 23, 2012 11:57
What is more peculiar in this FYROM-Bulgaria dispute about who was a nazi cooperator or not , is the historic fact that slav-macedonians in fyrom , better known as (bulgari) bulgarians in the past years,were welcoming in 1942 the Bulgarian army and the nazis as liberators in Vardarska banovina with grand parades and banners with united nacedonia !!!Ofcourse in 1944 they had change side to yugoslav Tito anti-nazi resistance,But blaming today their ex-brothers as philo-nazis is an excess
In Response

by: Igor from: Macedonia
September 24, 2012 09:06
mitsoa where do you get your historical facts from?
The same source that says that there are no minorities in greece?
The same source that said that greece was not in crisis?

Maybe bulgarians are your brothers, but they will NEVER be Macedonian brothers!
In Response

by: mitsos from: gr
September 24, 2012 15:07
my sources are from scholars but for ordinary people you can see the film documentaries and the pictures of this era i will atache for you some internet links to see your people in skopia and ochrid waving "united macedonia" banners and making grand parades welcoming the nazis http://arxidamos.pa-sy-a.gr/2010/04/23/02-00/fyrom_nazi_1_(x570x).jpg http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D60DZ2_n428 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TVgkCrTWNs&feature=related http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPaOP1EiG8k&feature=related

by: ynwa from: mkd
September 24, 2012 08:12
!The Truth!

Nice movie...
In Response

by: Ace from: Melbourne
September 25, 2012 09:09
Dear Mitsoa,
Instead of trolling the web and spreading hate, focus on your economy.
In Response

by: mitsos from: greece
September 25, 2012 11:35
mr Ace . If you were a self-lumimous person , you should try to debate the attached pictures and videos from 1942 nazis era! and not accusing me, using verbalistic words, like trolling the web .spreading hate ect. ,the question you should ask to your self is ,why those ordinary people in the old documentaries from skopia ,ochrid and other cities in vardarska banovima (today fyrom) were so enthusiast with nazis and bulgarians !!!

by: mitsos from: Greece
September 25, 2012 06:56
The relevant movie is undoubtedly an anti-bulgarian political motivated edition ,using the method of "half truth" . During the last years the Skopian elite is using fake historic facts and symbolisms to brainwash the public mainly for 2 major myths first the "macedonian" distinct nation in balkans, when historically is know that such nation with such name ,never existed in the past in any kind of archives (roman-byzantine,ottoman) ,but only Bulgarians,second the non slavic nation or the mixture with slavs "indigenous ancient macedonian" nation !!! (antiquisation) . I expect more films with same philosophy in the near future i would like to see Aristotle writting the demotic text on rosetta stone epigraphy in pro-slavic language for example

by: Risto from: Bitola
September 25, 2012 17:18
Look what fun them American Macedonians are having;


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