Meet the Sea Wolves, Split’s Other Football Team

Total Croatia News

sea wolves practice
Daniel Jones

How much do you know about Split’s other football team? TCN contributor Daniel Jones meets the Sea Wolves. 

It’s 2:30 A.M. and I am about to watch the 52nd Superbowl on Croatian TV. At City Center One, Ante Ajduk and most of his team will be watching on the big screen, too. “Most of the guys will be there”, Ante told me after practice on Sunday afternoon. This year, Ante and the Sea Wolves, an American football team in Split, will be celebrating their ten year anniversary. It turns out Hajduk isn’t the only football team in town.

sea wolves practice

“We started out just for the fun of football”, Ante says. “In the beginning, we just played in parking lots.” They may have started out playing in car parks but the Sea Wolves have come a long way since 2008. I have seen them practicing several times since Ante and I first exchanged messages on Facebook. The first time I tried to visit them I got lost trying to find their training ground, which was over by the dump. Now they have taken up residence at a training field between Poljud Stadium and Marjan Park, a much nicer facility. “In 2009, we were playing flag football and by 2012 we started playing tackle football, as well. We received a huge donation of pads, balls, helmets, and cleats from an organization called His Print (an evangelical Christian ministry organization in the U.S.). The donation was so large that Croatian customs didn’t want to let it through, even though it was a donation. They were sure that a shipment that big must have been purchased by someone here.” After receiving proper equipment, the Sea Wolves joined the Croatian League of American Football. The league was founded in 2010, dismantled, and reformed in 2012. 

sea wolves practice 2

Since the shake up of the league in 2012, the Sea Wolves have won the national title twice, first in 2016 and again last year. Ante attributes this winning momentum to a shift in team mentality. “In 2015, we decided to take the team in a new direction. Now it’s more of a movement than a team. Yeah, football is fun, but we want to do more than just play football.” Before, one man was responsible for the team. Then, drawing inspiration from the old Republic of Dubrovnik, the Sea Wolves created a small, five-member council to handle the various responsibilities and aspects of the team. Now, they even have a senate tackling the team’s long term planning, looking 10-15 years into the future of the organization. The team has reached across the Adriatic for further inspiration from the now global Montessori phenomenon. “We wanted to take this Montessori idea of mixed age groups for better learning and put it into practice on the football field. Our oldest member is 34 and the youngest is 12. The young guys can learn from the older guys. It helps with development and the older guys have to be role models for the younger guys. They have to check themselves because they are role models for the young guys.”, said Ante. 

sea wolves practice

Besides bettering themselves and each other, the Sea Wolves are looking to have an impact on their community. Over the past few years they have organized charity events on the Riva, benefitting orphans and kids with behavioral issues, children with cancer, and the local homeless. In the near future the team is planning to introduce football programs into kindergartens in Split. It certainly seems that the road ahead is bright for the Split Sea Wolves. I was amazed to discover that there was an American football team in Split at all, yet these guys are indeed much more than a football team. As Ante said, they are a movement. The Sea Wolves are the heart warming stuff American sports films are made of and a treasure Split can be proud of. 

sea wolves practice 3

For more information on the Split Sea Wolves, visit their website or Facebook page. You can find more information on the Croatian League of American Football here.   

Author of text and photos: Daniel Jones    


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