Preston stalwart Lupce Acevski and Avondale boss Zoran Markovski have been best mates for nearly three decades.
But the two coaches will take the meaning of ‘friendly rivalry’ to new heights when they lead their teams into battle in Wednesday night’s fifth-round FFA Cup 2019 tie in Meadow Heights.
It is a situation the two childhood friends and ex-National Soccer League veterans wanted to avoid at all costs when the draw was made.
Featured image (Smile for Peter): Markovski and Acevski in the dugout for Hume City
Two Australian-Macedonians, Acevski, 41, and Markovski, 47 have forged a lifelong friendship since their days playing indoor soccer together at St. Albans as young boys.
They spent more than four years in the dugout together at Hume City, famously masterminding the club’s run to the FFA Cup semi-finals in 2015.
“I got a phone call off Lou nearly 30 seconds after the fifth-round draw was made,” Markovski told www.theffacup.com on Tuesday.
“He was in Essendon. I was on the way through there so we ended up catching up for lunch and having a laugh about it.
“I’m an emotional guy, Lou’s an emotional guy. He’s my best mate… there isn’t a day that goes by where we don’t speak to each other. We get on like a house on fire.
“We’re both winners.”
There will only be one winner on Wednesday night, and it is Markovski’s Avondale who enter as firm favourites.
It is Markovski’s first season coaching in the NPL top flight, but in that short time he has fine-tuned Avondale – top of the division and unbeaten after 11 matches – into arguably the best side outside of the Hyundai A-League.
At the other end, Preston plies its trade in the Victorian State League 1, but the former NSL powerhouse is moving back toward its glory days under the tutelage of Acevski.
Toppling Avondale would be a huge achievement for the Lions, and the disparity between the clubs is demonstrated by the fact Preston’s B.T Connor Reserve’s floodlights are insufficient for FFA Cup football.
The game will instead be played at ABD Stadium, meaning Acevski and Markovski will be back patrolling the familiar touchlines of Hume City’s home ground – just in separate dugouts this time.
“I would’ve preferred any other team when the draw came out,” Acevski said.
“We know Avondale are the best team in Victoria at the moment, Zoran has done a brilliant job there.
“Regardless of what happens there will be a big hug at the end and a couple of beers at the end of the night too.”