Guide to SKOPJE

At the Top of World Football – Devrek and Gostivar, Cities of Champions


Devrek and Gostivar, Cities of Champions 

Greece had its best performance in world football championships in Brazil this year. The Greek team passed the group stage for the first time in history and reached the eighth-finals, but their progress was stopped by Costa Rica, a team that was regarded as a huge surprise in the global football event. Greece can certainly take pride in being the most successful Balkan team in Brazil (Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina did not pass the first stage and no other country qualified). On the other hand, Turkey and Macedonia can boast that they won the FIFA World Cup, in a very, very broad sense of the word.


Mesut Ozil and Shkodran Mustafi played in the German national team that won the trophy. The two young players (Ozil is 25 and Mustafi 22 years old) were born in Germany but the Ozil family traces its origin to the Turkish town of Devrek and Mustafa comes from a village near the Macedonian town of Gostivar. Thus, through their “ambassadors” in Germany, Devrek and Gostivar became cities of champions.

ozil vo devrek1_balkon3

In 2010 upon signing his contract with Real Madrid, Mesut Ozil, who now plays for Arsenal, visited Devrek and Hiserioglu village where his uncle Cevdet Ozil still lives. There he met with all his friends and relatives as well as community leaders. Reporters were curious about his impressions of the village and he replied that he had visited the village when he was a child he remembers playing football with his friends, going out with them, drinking tea and so on.


Then he bought six Devrek walking canes which are a world famous product. He gave the canes as presents to the President of Real Madrid FC, to coach Jose Mourinho and to his teammates Ronaldo, Kaka, Hamit and Nuri. He is a very important person for this small community.

Shkodran Mustafi plays for UC Sampdoria. His father comes from Srbinovo village which lived and breathed football this summer together with the whole town of Gostivar. Although Mustafi was a reserve player he had three performances that delighted the locals. Huge screens were set up in several locations round town so that people can watch the matches together and cheer for the local hero.


Mustafi, just like Ozil, regularly visited the homeland of his family. He also visited them this year, as world champion, and his presence arouse a great deal of public interest.

What characterizes Devrek and Gostivar?


Devrek is situated in the northwest of Turkey close to the Black Sea. The town has a population of about 25 000 and the municipality about 55 000 people in total, so this is a relatively small place for Turkish standards. It is rich in natural beauty though. It is surrounded by mountains on all sides and a stream passes through it. The largest forests in Turkey can be found around this nice little town. About 45 kilometers from it there is the “Seven Lakes” National Park which is considered a miracle of nature and is very important for regional tourism. Bostanduzu, a very popular picnic area is located in Akcasu forests.

nacionalen park sedum ezera

The most famous product of Devrek is the previously mentioned walking cane. The production of canes has a tradition of about 200 years, and although initially they were used as walking aid they gained an artistic identity over time. Each year, in the third week of July, Devrek Walking Stick and Culture Festival is held in the town. Interesting places to visit round Devrek include the royal tomb in the village Pinaronu and the pine tree on the road to Sabunlar village that has not been growing for 75 years.


Gostivar is in the northwest of Macedonia. The town has a population of 36 000 and the municipality has about 80 000 people which makes it slightly larger than Devrek, but for Macedonian standards it is a big town. It is also surrounded by mountains and natural beauty. Only 6 km from Gostivar there is Vrutok, the source of Vardar the largest river in Macedonia. Vardar passes through the town and you can go for a walk down the beautiful quay. Since this is the beginning of the river it is not much larger than the stream that passes through Devrek. A very famous landmark is its clock tower which is almost three centuries old.

mavrovsko ezero

About 25 km from Gostivar is the National Park “Mavrovo” and lake Mavrovo which is one of the most picturesque artificial reservoirs in the country. They are very important for tourism in the region along with Mavrovo ski centre.

There is one more thing that connects Devrek and Gostivar. Never in the history of Devrek or Gostivar has their team become a champion of the country (Turkey or Macedonia). They skipped that step and directly won the Football World Cup Trophy.

Goce Trpkovski/Husamettin Gina