Macedonia’s greatest fan is an American diplomat!

Macedonian star player Kiril Lazarov visits with Ambassador Reeker in Skopje

Not many persons have heard of Philip T. Reeker in connection with handball – except in FYRO Macedonia, where he is an idol of the handball federation and the national team. The reason: he served as the U.S. Ambassador in Skopje during the period 2008-11, where he became substantially involved with the handball activities. So for fanatic Macedonians it was not a surprise when he showed up in Nis, dressed in the Macedonian team shirt and eagerly cheering on his favorites.

Philip Reeker is currently the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, with responsibility for the Balkan region. As he noted in an interview, therefore it should not be regarded as a diplomatic ‘faux pas’, when he was observed supporting the red and yellow team, for instance in their crucial battle against the Czech Republic. It now remains to be seen if he can finagle his schedule in such a way that he can move on the Belgrade and follow the main round games as well…

But the question obviously arises: how did he get so familiar with handball? As he notes, he is frustrated that the sport is so insignificant here at home in the U.S., so this is certainly not where he picked it up. The explanation is that he got hooked on handball during an earlier tour as the Deputy Chief of Mission in Budapest. As we all know, Hungary has really strong handball traditions and activities. Perhaps, just perhaps, there is also some good influence from his wife; he is married to Solveig Johnson Reeker from Minnesota and, as the name suggests, unmistakably of Swedish or Norwegian descent.

As it seems Ambassador Reeker is currently Washington-based, could one hope that he would be prepared to get involved in helping promote handball also in his home country? Perhaps it would be a good idea for the USATH to try to establish contact with him. I doubt that he could convince Secretary Clinton to siphon off some budget money for a project to strengthen the standing of the USA handball teams in the world, but would it not be nice if he and his wife could fit in an appearance as guests at the U.S. National Championships in Minneapolis this spring!? And in that case there is little doubt as to which one of our traditional clubs he would be supporting: the D.C Diplomats, of course…

EHF Video: Interview with American ambassador and handball fan Philip T Reeker:

EHF Video: Macedonia fan support: