The European Handball Federation, EHF, excluded the Greek women’s handball team from the championship in Skopje after Greece refused to play FYROM amid an ongoing dispute over the Balkan country’s official name.
The EHF excluded Greece from competing on Wednesday and fined the country’s Handball Federation 25,000 euros after the Greek national team left Tuesday’s scheduled match, protesting that FYROM team officials were wearing clothing with the name “Macedonia” displayed.
The match – part of the championship played by cadets under 17 – started after EHF officials persuaded the Greek team to enter the court despite their objections over the name “Macedonia”, which some FYROM officials were wearing on their shirts.
But after just 32 seconds, the Greek Handball Association withdrew its players after which FYROM scored a technical victory of 10 – 0.
Greece has frequently objected to the constitutional name of its neighbour, and has hindered potential NATO membership and the start of EU accession talks over the dispute.
Athens insists that the name “Republic of Macedonia” inherently suggests territorial ambitions beyond its neighbour’s existing borders into the northern Greek province which has been called Macedonia for over 2000 years and thrived in ancient times.
The so-called “constitutional name dispute” between the two countries has been ongoing for 25 years, since the break-up of the former Yugoslavia. Negotiations between them about a mutually accepted constitutional name for FYROM have been painstakingly slow ever since.