Hugs, beers and mateship: Preston v Avondale brings a friendly rivalry

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.

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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.

Lou Acevski gives instructions to Souheil Azagane during the FFA Cup Semi Final match between Hume City and Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park on October 28, 2015
Lou Acevski with Souheil Azagane during the 2015 FFA Cup semi-final between Hume City and Melbourne Victory. Victory won 3-0

“I got a phone call off Lou nearly 30 seconds after the fifth-round draw was made,” Markovski told 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.”

Zoran Markovski
Avondale coach Zoran Markovski has made an unbeaten start to life in the NPL Victoria

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.

ABD stadiu
The fifth-round tie between Preston and Avondale will be played at Hume City's ABD Stadium

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.”

Avondale made the FFA Cup 2018 quarter finals, before being eliminated by Sydney FC