By Yarone Arbel
One of the nicest scenes from the Preliminary Round was the team of F.Y.R. of Macedonia and their fans who supported them for the games in Group A in Poznan.
There was no doubt which team had the most fans among Greece, Croatia, Israel and F.Y.R. of Macedonia - it was evident by the noise level and color.
500 supporters arrived to Poland to push their team to a historical moment when they won their first ever EuroBasket Final Round game, and in the process climbed to the final 12 of the competition.
Several fans arrived with the flight of the team itself, some live in near-by countries but dozens made the whole trip from their country by a bus ride that takes nearly 30 hours.
|The team from F.Y.R. of Macedonia celebrated their first ever EuroBasket Final Round win in Poznan.|
Coming to the event the fans from F.Y.R.O.M. got to see their team play two big rivals in Greece and Israel.
"Everybody wanted the team to beat Greece so we were a bit disappointed after we saw a big loss but kept pushing our team," says Martin Jovanoski, a long time supporter of the national team, who already followed the Handball national team earlier this year in the World Championship.
"In the second game against Israel we were very-very tense.
"The last seconds of the game were so intense, I couldn't watch what's going on because I was so nervous," he reveals.
"I only understood we won when I heard the other fans around me jump and sing.
"I don't have the words to describe such a divine feeling, when we won a EuroBasket game for the first time in the history of our country."
The victory over Israel released a lot of pressure around the team and among media and fans as well.
"The sun on our nation's flag is shinning over our basketball now," said Branko Cupeski, providing commentary for the game on TV.
"We didn't have any other choice but to beat Israel, after all those years of anticipation.
"The fact so many fans came with the team shows how much it means to our country and our basketball," he added.
The diversity of the fans is what makes them special. While most fans who travel big distances are fan clubs or Ultras groups, the fans from F.Y.R.O.M. consist of families, men and women, old and young people.
One of them is Ivica Georgievski, member of the parliament in F.Y.R. of Macedonia, who has followed the team for many years.
"The reactions we get from back home about the team following the debut win are amazing and thrilling.
"Lots of people were following the games on TV and this achievement created a big buzz in the country," he said.
With the success of the team a lot of people showed big desire to join the present fans and increase the support of the team, but the need for a visa makes it impossible.
"I believe that if there was no need for a visa we would have had at least 1,500 fans already in Poznan and much more in the Qualifying Round," says Georgievski.
"I get so many calls everyday since the win with people who want to come, it's unbelievable.
"I hope that people who used to live in F.Y.R. of Macedonia and now live in other countries where they don't need a visa will join us here in the next phase," he added.
Next up for his heroes are France, Russia and Germany in the Qualifying Round.
Despite carrying two losses from the Preliminary Round, they don't give up on their chances to make even further.
With the support of their warm and loud fans who traveled now from Poznan to Bygdoszcz, such high hopes could be translated to reality.