Chinese Looking to Build Solar Stadium and International Football Center in Croatia?

Daniela Rogulj

Is a solar-powered stadium and an international football center on the horizon for Croatia? 

China sees Croatia as the location of the future international football development center – and in cooperation with the Croatian Football Federation, our friends in the Far East also want to build an international football academy for coaches and managers with accompanying infrastructure. The project even includes building a stadium and a football camp, which is known from a letter of intent that was sent to HNS at the end of September before they personally visited Zagreb, reports on October 20, 2018. 

The project leader is the UN’s Industrial Development Organization, the International Center for Transmission and Promotion of Solar Technology (UNIDO-ISEC), where the majority holder (71 percent) is China. UNIDO-ISEC Executive Director Kimi Lin recently met with HNS Executive Director Damir Vrbanović in Zagreb.

The Chinese Southeast European Business Association (CSEBA) is responsible for the jobs in Croatia, while the project includes the work of Ivan Herak, former Minister of Tourism, current consultant to Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli and the external associate of HNS in charge of strategy development. Herak said that the Chinese are convinced that after Croatia’s story at the World Cup in Russia there is a system and quality management, and in cooperation with HNS, they want to set up an international academy for creating coaching and managerial staff and the Institute for Football Development. 

The stadium and the camp are just part of the story. The Chinese have proposed Krapinske Toplice as an initial location, considering they’ve been planning on building a hotel at the thermal baths for a long time. They also have a solar-powered stadium project in mind and ultimately want to be the owners of that too. 

In early November, Beijing will host an investment forum focusing on investing in Croatia. Herak expects that a key part of the negotiations will be played there. The arrival of Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković is also expected.

UNIDO-ISEC has prepared €13 billion in various funds, some of which have been devoted to Croatia for two decades but have not yet been activated. These are funds for the reconstruction of war-torn areas that have not been used. Croatia could thus withdraw funds from funds they didn’t even know existed. In the post-war reconstruction fund, Croatia has had $1.2 billion available for two decades, and the World Bank and the China Development Bank will participate in the realization of projects from that fund.

Among the potentially attractive projects is establishing a Chinese Monetary Adjustment Center in Zagreb, film collaboration, investing in technology for establishing a 5G network, and establishing a permanent conference center for sustainable development in the Business Zone of Zadar. The Chinese have already begun construction on the Pelješac Bridge and successfully completed the first section of the Montenegrin highway.

It is impossible to foresee what will happen at this moment, and given the talk of a stadium, the state and the city would have to be involved in addition to HNS. So far, the suggested locations for a new stadium are Velika Gorica and Zagreb. Zagreb mayor Milan Bandić said he’s communicated with an unnamed German investment company interested only in the construction of the infrastructure. 


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