North Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has backed away from his assertions his country's soccer team playing in the European 2020 championships were representing Macedonia – the name of an abutting Greek province.
A North Macedonia fan holds a scarf as he waits for the start of the Euro 2020 soccer championship group F match between North Macedonia and Netherlands, at the Johan Cruyff ArenA in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Monday, June 21 2021. (Koen van Weel/Pool via AP)
He told the private TV station Telma in the country's capital of Skopje that he expected all federations or other associations, even those that do not receive state funding, to adopt the constitutional name of the state, Greece's state-run Athens-Macedonia News Agency (AMNA) said.
North Macedonia’s governing body for soccer is called Football Federation of Macedonia and uses the acronym FFM, in violation of a name deal made with Greece's former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA which gave away the name of Macedonia for essentially nothing in return.
Zaev earlier tweeted wishes to the soccer team, inferring its name was Macedonia, not North Macedonia, but backed down after Greece said it would move to free some provisions of the name deal;.
“The country does not need new confrontations. With a doubt, all non-governmental organizations, including commercial companies and unions, must comply, as long as they receive money from the state budget for international activities,” Zaev said.
“We demand the full implementation of the Prespes agreement and its spirit and we call on Mr. Zaev to refrain from divisive rhetoric, especially in such a sensitive issue as football,” Greek government spokesperson Aristotelia Peloni said.
“In any case, the good faith implementation of the agreement is one of the criteria for the country’s accession to the European Union,” she noted.