Rugby in Croatia

We’re all prone to revelling in a bit of rugby nostalgia every now and then. Whether it is recalling the day you played the perfect game, or wallowing in the glory of the amateur days when men played for the love of the game not the money. It’s what makes players and fans so loyal and staunchly supportive of the Lions, harking back to the ideals of the old days with players from all corners of the British Isles uniting for a cause.

Croatia Rugby

This ethos and spirit is still alive in Croatia where rugby has been around for 55 years and goes from strength to strength. There are 22 clubs in the country, centred around Zagreb in the North and Split in the South. Clubs are generally situated in the heart of towns, allocated space by the local government or Mayor; most have only found permanent homes in recent years.

Through a combination of government funding, private sponsorship, entrepreneurial ventures (running bingo clubs or bars), membership fees and volunteers’ efforts the clubs are run very successfully with most formulating plans for development, extensions and player improvement.

Ragbi Klub Nada, based in Split, have this year celebrated their 50th anniversary and have marked the occasion with festivities throughout the year including a 7s tournament and the launch of a 50th anniversary book detailing the history of the club.

Currently the most successful club in the country in terms of both ability and prosperity, they employ a full time secretary and full time coaches with other committee positions being filled by volunteers. They form the focal point for rugby in the Dalmatian region, encouraging the development of younger clubs in nearby towns of Sinj, Makarska and Brac – located on a beautiful island 45-minutes by ferry from Split and currently home to just an U15 side but the base for National Training Camps and tournaments.

Locals say that rugby players in Dalmatia are bred bigger and stronger than their Northern counterparts who are generally more technical (they’d have to be!). Players from Nada possess that well known rugby mentality of “…as long as we beat Zagreb” (ref. Wales’ Scotland’s and Ireland’s “…as long as we beat the English”!).

However their classic rugby mentality stretches further than that – whenever they take the field they do so to win, regardless of whether it’s a local derby or a touring Kiwi side they shouldn’t have a hope of beating. This ethos permeates the whole of Croatian sport and has brought countless Olympic gold medals and team championships in all manner of sports to these shores.

In the 1970’s and 80’s an abundance of British teams toured Croatia, something which understandably fell away during their years of war against Serbian forces between 1991 – 1995, but which is picking up again now.

In every way imaginable it is the ideal place for British amateur clubs to tour. It takes about 2 ½ hours to fly there; all accommodation, food and drink are excellent value and, crucially, the hospitality from the clubs reminds you of what you love about the sport. The “third-half” is as important as the match itself, something that you simply do not find in most corners of the world nowadays.

Rugby faces stiff competition from the more popular sports of football, basketball, tennis and water-polo, amongst others. However the community and family ethos of the clubs guarantees their success in the future. Veteran players are a fairly recent phenomenon given the youth of the sport of rugby in Croatia but a real responsibility is accepted by them to grow the game amongst younger players.

By Jon Hobbs

13 thoughts on “Rugby in Croatia

  1. Jon
    weel done. Nice article, hope it will be seen by rugby guys and fans. We are open to get any one interesting. Just receive from some veterans notice to play next April as they visiting Dubrovnik.
    Regards
    Zoran

  2. Toured against Nada this year. Fantastic city Split, plenty of opportunity to let your hair down. Took a boat trip which was great value for money and one of the best days touring I’ve had in an age.

    The locals play a tough, physical game but were not overly confrontational and were friendly post-match.

    Ref-ing very sub-par, especially if you’re used to reasonable standard but had a terrific time and would recommend Split to anyone.

  3. I am visiting Zagreb on 26th and 27th september, are there any rugby games in zagreb that day? a small or larger club >?where is the pitch and what time is kick off ?

    many thanks

  4. I am based in Zagreb and still love the sport. Only problem is I have now turned 40 and wondered if anybody had any information or contacts for veterans in or around Zagreb?

  5. Our tour is virtually settled now and we should be going to Split from 14th – 17th May 2010. We are a veterans team and are looking for suitable opposition. To give you an idea of our touring standard, we didn’t win a game in a 6 team tournement in Portugal last year as we were and always will be, suffering from over indulgence to the nth degree!!

  6. We have confirmed our flights and are flying to Split on Friday 14th May 2010. We therefore need a team to play against on Saturday 15th of May in the Split area? I would be grateful if someone could get back to me with details of possible fixtures and/or a game. Our club website is http://www.chichesterrfc.co.uk and we are the 4th Team (Gladiators). We will have a couple of younger guys with us but are mostly veterans around the 40 year old mark! Please can someone get back to me with details or an offer and I can take the presssure off of our tour organiser!!

  7. Things looking good…………in touch with Nada RFC and a team in UK who are going out same weekend !!

  8. hi,

    we are currently looking for a country to tour next April/May, hoping someone could let us know of any teams contacts and locations of teams etc so that we may contact them to possibly arrange some fixtures, looking for two games one at a good standard the secong mainly vets/ 2nd team senior squad, Any info help would be greatly appreciated

    many thanks,
    Neil

  9. Hi Croatia, we would dearly like to visit your country and play some rugby. Split is our preferred destination at this moment any chance anyone can help?

    Thanks

    Derek penning

    Tel 00 31 624898144

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