After a year of absence, sports fans are slowly coming back to the stands in full capacity and are enjoying handball again. Apart from that the Be8th player project is celebrating its 6th anniversary this year, and, on that occasion, we felt it’s the right moment to present you the new direction of the project as well as the refreshed look of the platforms!
What a better way to start, than with an interview with Katarina Jordanovska, the winner of the Best Handball Fan contest 2019. Katarina took some time to talk with us about how she copes with the pandemic from a fan standpoint, how it’s like to go to a match nowadays and much more so take a look what she had to say.
When we look from this position, 2019 feels like it was a long time ago. But only two years passed since you were cheering at the Victoria Arena at SEHA Final 4. Do you miss these times?
Yes, it’s only been 2 years since I cheered my team on in Belarus, but it seems like a lifetime ago! I am sure I can speak for everyone when I say we all missed the stands.
How did you cope with COVID-19 from a fan standpoint?
As a fan, not being able to see a game live for a year was pretty tough. Sometimes you feel that your team could use “a boost” from the fans, but you’re not there to help. It was frustrating, both for the fans and for the players.
The matches were being played in empty arenas which dulled the game to a great extent. Watching the matches on TV wasn’t as exciting as before and that made many of us aware of just how much the “8th player” contributes to each and every game.
Do you think this pandemic will affect your match attendance as a fan?
We all need to be responsible and think of ourselves and others, and in these times that should be our number one priority. The pandemic has already affected my match attendance, but I am slowly learning how to live and function somewhat normally in our new reality. With the proper precautions hopefully I’ll be able to enjoy future games.
Have you been to any handball match in these new conditions? If yes, how did it feel like?
I attended all of the matches played home this season and I must admit that the first few games were different and odd. The fans, the love and the passion were there, but there was something missing, as if COVID made us timid and cautious. Luckily, that didn’t last long and Vardar 1961 quickly got its loud, intense fans back!
Describe your day as a fan (in non-COVID times). How does your day look like when you attend the match of your favourite club?
Just two years ago, I could just put Vardar’s shirt on, and I was ready to go! Nowadays going to the match requires more planning. Where’s my mask? Do I have my vaccine certificate? Will it be too crowdy at the entrance, should I go earlier? Cheering for 60 minutes with a mask on can be a little tiring, and practicing social distancing on the stands is near to impossible. But these are all small sacrifices we need to make in order to go back and be there for our teams.
What was your best experience as a handball fan?
Each success of my team is something I cherish, but one of my best experiences was attending the EHFCL Final 4 in Cologne and the SEHA Final 4 in Brest.
You’ve won Best Handball Fans Contest and two all-inclusive tickets for SEHA Final 4 2019. Can you describe a little how was it in Brest?
Brest was a fun experience! I travelled with my mother, who is perhaps the loudest handball fan I know, and we were both amazed and inspired by the people we met. Meshkov Brest has one of the most loyal, devoted fans in handball. Despite the rivalry, they invited us on their stands to watch the game between Meshkov and Vardar together, and we got to experience their passion up close. It was an unforgettable experience. Since then, I’m a little partial to Meshkov Brest and I find myself rooting for them.
We know you have made some friends at the stands in Brest in 2019. Are you still in contact with them?
Yulia, Vladimir and Katerina were amazing! Thanks to them, we had a little taste of Belarus. They took us to their favourite pub and had us try the traditional Belarusian food and drinks. We are still in contact via social media and I would be happy to see them again one day!
Have you visited Belarus since then? And have you travelled elsewhere?
That was the only time I visited Belarus and since then I have travelled to a few other places, both before and after COVID hit. With the COVID regulations constantly changing, it’s hard to plan a trip ahead, but I am hoping for a short New Year’s trip at the end of 2021.
Do you have any message to the handball fans out there?
Be responsible, get vaccinated, wear your masks and keep watching handball!