I wonder how many of the millions of visitors to Dubrovnik have ever heard the word ”Jug”?
For those that have not: JUG is a swimming and water polo club founded in 1925; since then and since long, its trophy room has become too small to hold all the cups and medals the swimmers and the water polo team have won.
Water polo has been the focus of the sports fans and the most popular game in Dubrovnik ever. It happens often that an extra ticket is hard to get when Jug is hosting teams from all over Europe, itself having been its champion many times over. They say that the water polo champion of Europe is the champion of the world. We feel the same.
Croatia has been one of the two or three leading nations over the last many decades. Just recently, it regained the title of world champions in Budapest. Only a week later, Croatia won silver at World’s U20 Championships held in Belgrade. Says all, doesn’t it?
Jacob Mercep is only 19. Like many Dubrovnik kids, he joined the busy Jug swimming section, but soon felt he could not excel and decided to switch to water polo. And Croatia (and Dubrovnik) got one of the best young water polo players – in the world, that is!
One thing I noticed about Jacob is his – absence. Jacob has five brothers (the youngest is just one year old), and their proud mother Ivana shares their many moments on Facebook. The photos are practically never complete because Jacob is never there! He is either at a training camp, with the team playing away, at school or studying. In the pool he is one of the best, but at the end of high school last June the principal proclaimed Jacob their best student ever. Proves how one can be brilliant even if not showing every second of it on Facebook!
Jacob was first noticed internationally at European Games in Baku in 2015 where he played on the Croatian U17 team. Followed the world championships in Podgorica (Montenegro). Croatia beat all, also owing to Jacob’s 29 goals.
Scouts kept contacting all the time. Jacob, took time deciding. Then just two days after the silver medal in Belgrade, he took the plane and is now already in San Jose, California. Sports scholarship, where his major is going to be – maths.
Anything to add? Well, yes: our fingers are well and truly crossed, Jacob! Show them how to do maths, do not fall in love yet, and have a ball! Life is so much more beautiful with young, talented people like you.