Peter Vandenbempt is a curious man. When he heard that North Macedonia had qualified for the European Football Championship for the first time, he went to see how that country did that stunt. He talked about it – in his inimitable way – in our podcast De Tribune.
Against Armenia, Gibraltar, Liechtenstein, Kosovo and Georgia
All participants in the European Football Championship have been definitively known since last week. North Macedonia is there for the very first time. “So I did a bit of research into Macedonia,” said Peter Vandenbempt.
“The country has 2 million inhabitants, but I mainly looked up what the Macedonians had to do to get to the European championship.”
“They slumped in from Group D of the Nations League, you could call it the promotion of the Nations League where they won a group with Armenia, Gibraltar and Liechtenstein. Congratulations. Not the biggest opponents, but okay.”
“Then they had to play play-offs with a semifinal and a final. In it they beat Kosovo and Georgia, the latter with a goal from the most famous North Macedonian, Goran Pandev. A man with a really great career, who by the way, still playing football at the age of 37. “
“These are tricks”
The point Peter Vandenbempt really wants to make is that he is absolutely not a fan of a 24-nation European Championship. The European Championship with 16 countries was an event of only top matches, with 24 countries the tension is eroded.
“You can look at it in two ways. You can have sympathy for it. Like Northern Ireland was there before. That was a team that you can summarize as throwing in, long balls and Will Grigg’s on fire. I think those are countries that have little to teach football. “
“Or you can – like me – have major problems with it. A European Championship or World Cup is the highest you can achieve as a football player. To be allowed to participate in that you have to be of a certain level. That is the same with the Olympics.”
In football we are not far away from situations like Eric Moussambani, who almost drowned in the Olympic pool because 50 meters turned out to be a long distance.
“These are tricks to upgrade the Nations League and to prepare the European Championship to increase visibility, also in those smaller countries. I think that’s wrong.”
“You also don’t let a Volkswagen Beetle ride in Formula 1 because that is sympathetic and therefore all Volkswagen fans suddenly watch, which brings in more money. No, you have to achieve a certain standard.”
“In football we are not far from situations like Eric Moussambani (a swimmer from Equatorial Guinea who participated in the Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000, see video), who almost drowned in the Olympic pool because 50 meters was a the whole distance turned out to be. “
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Eric Moussambani at the 2000 Olympics