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Strike in Metalurg ends, five players expelled

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The club's logoThe club's logoDespite the recent good results, Metalurg is facing difficult timers as the players were on strike due to unpaid wages. As a result, five of them had their contracts terminated by the board.

Metalurg has the youngest team in the First League and currently sits at the bottom of the table. These youngsters, however, started playing good football in the previous five rounds which resulted in two road wins (5:1 at Mladost, 2:0 at Bregalnica), two defeats (expected against Vardar and Shkendija) and a 2:2 draw against Turnovo this past Sunday. That last match saw many teenagers being forced into action since many first team players refused to play.

The strike officially began on Thursday. After not being paid their promised salaries for the past four months, the players had enough and decided to take action. As a warning to the board they first refused to train. However, the board of Metalurg did not pay any part of the debt towards the players before Sunday's game against Turnovo, so the palyers decided not to be available for that game. In order to field a team, the club turned to their academy.

Young players such as Filip Ilikj (GK, 18y), Darko Digalovski (RB, 18y), Antonio Mitrev (CB, 16y), Petar Kanzurov (CM, 16y), Filip Stojchevski (CM, 16y) made their debut as starters, while Darko Dodev (ST, 17y) and Nikola Chamdjikj (RW, 17y) debuted as bench players in the second half. Beyond them, the squad also featured Hristijan Karanfilovski (LB, 18y, 4th appearance), Besart Krivanjeva (CB, 19y, 15th), Sasho Shoposki (AM, 18y, 4th), Mihajlo Jakimoski (RW, 19y, 7th) and Vlatko Stojanovski (CF, 18y, 13th). Those are also young players, but they had been capped by the first team before Sunday. Only two experienced players were available for Metalurg: 30-year-old CB Dejan Leskaroski (starter) and 36-year-old CM/CB Mile Krstev (started on the bench, played in the second half).

The players of Metalurg after scoring against Turnovo; photo: FK MetalurgThe players of Metalurg after scoring against Turnovo; photo: FK Metalurg

Stojan Dimoski (GK, 33y, 6 appearances), Bojan Gjorgievski (RB, 23y, 14), Risto Mitrevski (CB, 24y, 12), Zoran Danoski (LW, 25y, 12) and Mihajlo Mitrov (AM, 20y, 3) were revealed to be the leaders of the strike, so the club's board decided to terminate their contracts. They are now free agents and can look for new clubs in the winter transfer window. All other players that participated in the strike were suspended, but the length of their ban is unclear at this time.

The players on strike actually wanted to watch the game against Turnovo from the stands, but they were not allowed to enter "Boris Trajkovski" stadium. This is what one of them (wanted to stay anonymous) said to SportMedia: "We have not trained for three days as we are demanding the board to pay us the salaries that we are owed. We wanted to watch Sunday's game from the stands, but we were not allowed to enter the stadium because the club's board ordered security to deny us entrance."

Aleksandar Panov, the president of Metalurg, described the situation to Ekipa: "It's a bad situation. Most of the first team players refused to train and then play the league game against Turnovo. We do owe them certain assets. We talked to them and told them that the board is doing everything it can to solve the problem. We also talked about some other issues, including the fact that we had only 5 points not too long ago, sitting alone in last place. Anyway, it is clear that the club's rules must be respected, but some players decided to go their separate ways. Others were clearly manipulated, but still, they indeed joined the rebellion. Everyone that participated will be suspended, while some will be expelled from the team permanently."

There are two more rounds remaining before the long winter break gets underway. Metalurg will be forced to play with the same young players in those two matches as they did against Turnovo. They can only sign free agents, but that is unlikely to happen given the financial situation of the club. Metalurg did sell Marjan Radeski to Shkendija in the summer for a record fee of €150.000, but they are still having problems. Mincho Jordanov, the chairman, also owns the handball club Metalurg (6 time Macedonian champion since 2005/06). Just like football, however, the handball side has also experienced financial struggles. 14 players left the handball club last season for that reason, among them foreign star players and also Macedonian national team players.

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