80 hours of bus to play a game of handball | sports

The Metalurg expedition, playing the console during his trip to León.The Metalurg expedition, playing the console during their trip to León.Metalurg

The punishment of the pandemic and the less glamorous corners of elite sport continue to leave surprising stories; from another century, or not even that. A North Macedonia handball team, Metalurg, has found no other way to travel to León than by bus to play a match in the European League, the second continental competition. 40 hours to travel the 3,000 kilometers that separate Skopje from the Spanish city. They left on Saturday night and arrived this Monday afternoon after crossing Serbia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, France and entering the Pyrenees. They play against Ademar tonight at 8:45 p.m. and, after the duel and with whatever strength they have left, another 40 hours back.

“There were no air connections to go all together. The alternative was for one party to fly from Belgrade and another from Sofia, ”the club explains on its website. So the solution was the coach and almost two uninterrupted days of dancing. Obvious in any case the Metalurg, ten times champion in his country, his serious economic problems, with eight months of delays in the payment of salaries and a coach, the previous one (Zoran Kastratovic), who resigned two weeks ago because after almost One year in office, he had not received any of his salary, according to what he denounced in his dismissal.

Of this adventure on wheels in half Europe, after testing for coronavirus, the entity has been leaving signs and images on its official page. “Our bus is fun,” he said, whether with enthusiasm or resignation is unknown as the expedition approached the French border. “A few hours”, exactly, from customs. And to pass the time -or the days, rather- they put up two televisions and brought two consoles to hold a tournament among the players. The winner of the first leg is unknown. They also received a call from the director of competitions of the European Handball Federation, Marcus Glaser, to inquire about their pilgrimage.

“I have been president of Ademar for eight years and no European team has come to León by bus, except the Portuguese or those from the south of France,” says Tano Franco, who acknowledges his surprise at this trip. “We have found out from the press here, they did not contact us to tell us,” he says. The head of the Spanish club recalls the financial crisis of Metalurg without more details than what was read in the newspapers, but confirms the disorders that the pandemic is also causing Ademar when moving around Europe.

“Now the trips are more expensive, with more stopovers and fewer schedules available. For us, the trip to Russia, which in the end we did not do due to a positive case, cost us 12,000 euros just for the flight, and with a stopover. And the one next week to Poland [juega contra el Wisla Plock], 7,000 ”, he points out. A sting because the entity has lost 30% of the members and the budget estimates for the season, which already included a decrease from 1.2 million to 1.1, will fall short if the health care table does not change, Franco acknowledges . Right now, an order from the Junta de Castilla y León prevents them from putting the public at home due to current restrictions, despite having started the campaign with fans in the pavilion, as in the vast majority of Asobal.

Money squeezes in handball and bus hours are the everyday, although always within acceptable distances. Except in the case of Metalurg and its odyssey from Leon, a rarity these days. The Ademar, however, already warns that, when they have to return the visit to North Macedonia in March, they will do so by plane.