Today we want to dedicate ourselves to the history of Macedonian sports. In the specific case, today we introduce you to the footballer from Macedonia, who was the first to wear the Yugoslav national team jersey and even its captain’s armband, as well as the colors of one of the most iconic clubs: FK Partizan Belgrade.
The club from the Serbian capital also has a huge number of fans in Macedonia. Because of the connection with “Džina” and Macedonia in the post-war period.
Who was Kiril Simonovski, called “Džina”?
Kiril Simonovski – Džina (Кирил Симоновски – Џина) was a Macedonian football player and later coach. He was mainly a defender in the wing positions, especially on the left.
Džina was born on October 19, 1915 in the Macedonian capital Skopje, at that time under the rule of the Serbian and then the Yugoslav kingdom. After graduating from primary school, he became a member of FK Jug, then FK Pobeda and FK Gragjanski in Skopje. The FK stands for Soccer Club, Macedonian: Fudbalski Klub.
During the occupation of Macedonia in World War II (1941-1944) under the Third Reich and its allies Italy, Albania and Bulgaria, he played for the Sporstki Klub Makedonija from Skopje. The then sports club Macedonia played in the elite division of Bulgaria, as Bulgaria annexed the northern part as an ally of Hitler and tried to integrate the occupied country into its empire. This forcefully integration included sporting events, or the recruitment of Macedonian athletes.
So it was that Džina became also a member of the Bulgarian national team, like his brother Blagoje.
However, both joined the anti-fascists resistance. From 1944 both took part in the National Liberation War against the fascist occupier. After the liberation, Kiril played for the “national team” of the Yugoslav army, then still called JA (later JNA, see badge on the picture below), and ten times for the Yugoslav national team.
He played 75 games for FK Vardar from Skopje and scored 25 goals. After the end of his active career as a footballer, Simonovski then devoted himself to the coaching business.
Kiril Simonovski – Džina is considered the first Macedonian athlete to compete for the cult club FK Partizan Belgrade. As well as the first Macedonian athlete to wear the captain’s armband of a Yugoslav national team. Of course, Simonovski was also the first Macedonian on the pitch as a national soccer player for Yugoslavia.
Immediately after the Second World War in August 1945, Džina was moved from the Skopje Military District to Belgrade. The transfer was a condition for Džina to become a member of one of the best football clubs in young Yugoslavia. This makes Kiril Simonovski the first Macedonian football player to play for Partizan Belgrade. Džina stayed with the club for about four and a half years and played 171 friendly, championship and international matches.
Partizan’s appearances would have been inconceivable without Kiril Simonovski – Džina. With his club he played games in the USSR, Poland, Czechoslovakia, France, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Albania, Greece, Germany, Switzerland, Algeria, Israel and other countries.
In addition, Kiril Simonovski is the first Macedonian athlete to wear the captain’s armband for a Yugoslav national team. At the same time the first Macedonian athlete to win a gold medal in an official international competition (the Balkan Cup).
His career began in Skopje before heading to Partizan Belgrade
He started playing football at a local club in Skopje called FK Jug before moving to FK Gragjanski Skopje in 1938. In 1941, during World War II and the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia, most of what is now the Republic of Macedonia was occupied by Bulgaria. During this time FK Gragjanski was renamed by the occupiers as SK Makedonija Skopje. The club finished second in the Bulgarian State Championship in 1942, and during this time Kiiril Simonovski, as well as his brother Blagoje, played two games for the Bulgarian national team under duress.
At the end of the war, in which he had actively participated as a partisan against the occupier, Simonovski moved to Belgrade and signed with the newly founded army club FK Partizan Belgrade. There at Partizan Belgrade, Džina was active until 1950, as well as playing successfully. Two national championships and a success in the cup are recorded in his CV at FK Partizan Belgrade.
During this time he was the first Macedonian to play for the Yugoslav national team after 1945. The Macedonian played a total of 10 games and scored one goal. He was even the first captain of Yugoslavia in the first official game after the war, on May 9, 1946 they played against Czechoslovakia. As a visiting team, YU won the game 0-2.
Kiril scored the only goal wearing the Yugoslav jersey against Romania on October 11, 1946. At the Balkan Cup in Albania’s capital Tirana, in front of 25,000 spectators. It was the connecting goal to 1-2 in the 42nd minute. That was also the final score of the game after Romania quickly pulled away with two goals within five minutes after goals from Reuter (19th minute) and Fabian (24th).
His last game in the blue and white national jersey was played by Simonovski on October 9, 1949. With a 1-1 draw they separated from France in a World Cup qualifier in Belgrade.
After retiring as active player, he became a coach. Among others, he coached “his” FK Partizan, later he coached the traditional domestic club FK Vardar Skopje, but also foreign clubs such as Olympiakos FC from Athens and other clubs in the former Yugoslavia and Greece as well as Cyprus.