When the Europa League First qualifying round draw took place, Aberdeen fans were engrossed in finding out about which unknown club they would be paired against.
Macedonia’s KF Shkëndija were pulled out the pot alongside the Dons, and supporters fled the web in search of what they were all about.
A sudden outbreak of facts, figures and travel information ensued. Social media united with fans sharing everything they had found out about Shkëndija.
Most conversations featured the word ‘hooliganism’ and everyone soon gathered that Shkëndija possessed one of the largest supporter firms in Macedonia.
Formed in 1979 by Albanians, Shkëndija were the first Albanian side in Yugoslavia. The purpose of forming the club was to unite Albanians to support they’re only club in the country.
“This club [Shkëndija] for us means everything. It represents us,” said a member of the Ballistët who wished to remain anonymous.
Yugoslav officials disapproved of Shkëndija as it was thought the club would awaken nationalist feeling among the Ethnic Albanians of Yugoslavia.
“We were trying to get somewhere by playing sports because they treated us badly even though we were in our own country,” the member added.
After Macedonia gained independence from Yugoslavia, Shkëndija were re-established into the Macedonian Football league. But the club remained proudly loyal to their roots, singing the Albanian national anthem before kick-off and the team became more powerful than ever before.
“We as Albanians in Macedonia had no rights at all so people decided enough is enough,” the Ballistët member said. “But the government gave up easy and gave us everything we asked for.”
Stories emerged of the Ballistët’s antics and Aberdeen fans began to question their decision of attending the game.
Fans of opposing clubs are known to hardly go to the Gradski Stadium out of fear of the Ballistët and their dangerous presence.
However, the Ballistët member reassures that the trouble caused is only transpired by the Macedonian-Albanian divide in the same league.
“Macedonians hate us because we are the biggest firm and our club has the biggest sponsor, Ecolog. The reason they don’t attend our stadium is because all the teams in our league are Macedonians and they are scared to attend in a way,” he expressed.
“All the people you see in the stadium, even if the media calls them ‘hooligans’, are people with degrees, doctors and professors.”
The first leg tie will not be played at Shkëndija’s home ground in Tetovo as it is under renovation for redevelopment, meaning the national stadium in Skopje will set the scene.
The average 10,000-15,000 Shkëndija crowd won’t all be there, yet the 30 minute drive between the two cities won’t stop a lot less from attending.
The Ballistët want to travel to Pittodrie for the return leg but complications suggest the journey won’t be made.
“Travelling to Aberdeen for us is hard, we need visas. They take about a month but we haven’t got a month,” the member said. “So we’ll see if we can maybe come with the club.”
The Ballistët member has been intrigued about the amount of attention brought upon his group’s violence, and felt many have looked at it the wrong way and that Aberdeen fans have nothing to worry about the 3,000 mile round trip.
“With Aberdeen it’s going to be different,” he said. “If Aberdeen fans decide to come we’ll treat them like one of ours so there is no need to panic. I assure you 100% nothing will happen to you guys. Like I said, we’ll treat you like one of ours.”