Croatia Unveils Beautiful Grounds For Its Ugliest Sport

Total Croatia News

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May 16, 2018 – The seaside football pitch in the town of Sutomišćica at one point seemed more suited for potatoes than football matches. Several years and 1.2 million kuna later, the rejuvenated grounds debuted on Monday before residents from the islands of Ugljan and Pašman, off the coast of Zadar.

Headlines had already declared the new, bucolic pitch the most beautiful in Croatia. Some reached even farther.

Sutomišćica christened its new grounds with a friendly match between local club NŠK Sveti Mihovil, which represents both Uglan and neighboring island Pašman, and top-flight side NK Osijek.

The final score — a gentle 8-4 trouncing — meant little. The trophy was in plain sight: a sterling green astroturf field meant for the islands’ youngest residents. The era of potatoes sprouting on the pitch’s outskirts — yes, potatoes — was officially over.

“We were always trying to give our grounds a ‘technical soul’,“ said Dario Korenov, NŠK Sveti Mihovil’s president in an interview with Jutarnji List. “The municipality provided the funding, we locals each gave a little something of ourselves and today we have a nice little stadium.”

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The match officially ended a decades-long struggle to reclaim a small-town, distinctly-Dalmatian sporting heritage, where players toil far away from floodlights, big paychecks, and chanting crowds.

The club itself has become a de facto bridge between the Ugljan and Pašman, a feat in a region where islanders are notoriously territorial. It even carries the motto, “Two islands, one club.”

The municipality of Preko financed the restoration of the pitch, with the locker rooms scheduled for a makeover as well. Seems a good investment; NŠK Sv. Mihovil’s 120 members inherit a two-decade legacy of surprising success. Former players have gone on to higher-ranked clubs both within Croatia and abroad, as well as the national side.

Opposite the field’s nautical flank, residents from the islands’ many settlements filled outdoor tables at the watering hole, locally known as Krčma.

They regaled each other with tales of errant footballs careening into the water, followed by a mad scramble into rowboats to reach the ball before the southern wind carries it out to sea.

They cheered as 22 flares were set off at the 22nd minute, celebrating the clubs’ 22 years of existence. It all seemed like an alternate universe within the nation’s oft-turbulent soccer world.

Hours before kickoff, Croatian football’s de facto don Zdravko Mamić pulled an impressive legal gaffe at an ongoing trial for organized crime and money laundering charges (a case, coincidentally, being heard in Osijek). Mamić accidentally submitted alleged scripted, and helpful answers dictated to former player Dejan Lovren ahead of his testimony during the trial.

Then, Mamic’s club Dinamo dropped an easy win against minnows Rudeš, then promptly sacked its manager for the third time this season.

The final whistle blew in Sutomišćica. The players trudged off the field after the usual formalities. The crowd dispersed to Krčma or home. The children of NŠK Sveti Mihovil rushed onto the field, dribbling, lobbing and pulling off single-touch passes with aplomb. The ceremony was over; they waited until dusk to finally have their new pitch to themselves.

For that brief afternoon in Sutomišćica, one could be forgiven for thinking the sun will set on the Mamić era as well. Or perhaps, it’ll be extracted like some errant potatoes.

NK Osijek’s drone footage

Here’s Osijek’s Facebook album from the day.



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