Arsic Leaves F.Y.R. Of Macedonia Bench

30 September 2009
From Branko Cupeski, Skopje
"Goodbye, I wish you all the best. Thank you for the great memories."

Those were the farewell words of Jovica Arsic, the coach that led F.Y.R. of Macedonia to their historic success at this month's EuroBasket in Poland.

It had been in the air for some time that Serbian coach was going to leave and now it's official.

Arsic is leaving a chair, he says, that was an honor to sit in.

Vrbica Stefanov (F.Y.R. of Macedonia)
Vrbica Stefanov helped lead F.Y.R. of Macedonia to the Qualifying Round.
"We have made a serious and concrete result by almost reaching the Quarter-Finals," he said.

"We leave a legacy for the coming generations to upgrade and for the present to praise."

Getting to the EuroBasket by topping their EuroBasket Division A group ahead of Latvia was an accomplishment in itself.

Once  there, the Macedonians advanced to the Qualifying Round and defeated Germany before almost upsetting Russia to reach the last eight.

The team returned home as heroes.

"It was a positive match of circumstances," Arsic said,

"But it was also a result of the self investment of all national team players and especially of the Macedonian Basketball Federation staff.

"I can say that I have never had such a cooperation with the leading people, also with my assistant Marjan Lazovski who was my domestic right hand due to the fact that I didn't spend so much time in Macedonia."

Some of us understood him and his way, others didn't.

Some will celebrate his achievement, some will say he could have done better.

But this is the Balkans and it can't be any different.

There is always someone smarter.

One thing is for sure and it is clear as a teardrop.

Arsic was a rational coach and he squeezed the best out of a basketball nation that was desperate for some success on the international stage.

"As a Serbian, I thought the story of (Serbia great) Dejan Bodiroga being "the one and only" was true, that was until I met and worked with (Macedonia captain) Vrbica Stefanov.

"Measuring his playing abilities and the attitude towards the country that he represents, his teammates and the journalists, leaves me speechless.

"He is an icon of his own kind."

Arsic had a word for the journalists.

"I also hope that you had no trouble translating my Serbian and I will always be available to help my successor in any way possible," he said.

"I thank you all, but time itself commands us to make necessary changes."

Stefanov will continue to work as a team manager of the senior men's team. He  will try to use his reputation to lift Macedonian basketball to even higher grounds.

"I just couldn't stay away from basketball, although I announced that I will be out of this business for a year or so," said the charismatic Stefanov, whose last games as a professional were at the EuroBasket.

Another who has played a vital role is Daniel Dimevski, the president of the country's basketball federation.

"This is the end of a circle but we feel that it needs to grow, and we will do all that is in our power to at least keep it at the present level, with God's help maybe even to go a step upwards," he said.

The Macedonians are no more always underdogs and regular outsiders.

Now they are more like dark horses or hidden favorites, and there will be a question mark on the outcome of almost every single game that the senior team plays in the future.

The next episode of this basketball tale will be EuroBasket 2011 in Lithuania, or maybe even the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey.

They will need a wild card to go east and there are other countries hoping for one as well.

Life is full of surprises, though, so who knows?



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