August 5, 2020 – Executive director of the Croatian Football Federation, Marijan Kustic, spoke about the just-finished season, the Cup final, the playoffs, referees and VAR, the national team and coach Zlatko Dalic, the junior championship that stirred relations with Hajduk, and other current events in his latest interview.
The interview with Lovorko Magdic is transmitted in full, as reported by HRT:
The end of the season is just around the corner, as are the playoffs for the First HNL. What is your impression of the Cup final?
“I am happy that the final of this year’s Cup was played in Kresimir’s city, the city of the greatest athlete in the history of Croatia, Drazen Petrovic. I think that the match between Rijeka and Lokomotiva took place in a nice atmosphere. The slightly luckier team won, and I am really happy and proud that everything went well and that nothing happened after the game,” says Kustic.
At one time during the corona era, there were spectators, now again, there are not.
“We monitor the epidemiological situation on a daily basis, and we simply did not want to get into a situation where we do not start the new competition season, which starts very soon. That is why we decided that there will be no spectators in the last round, in the Cup final and the qualifying matches of Istria and Orient, and we will most likely start the new championship also without spectators. With the current decision, the Nation’s League is also played without spectators, which is why we decided to play the national team matches in Zagreb.”
HNS quickly adapted to the health situation in Croatia and the world regarding football competitions in the country.
“As soon as we got into this situation with the coronavirus, we set up a working group, with doctors, epidemiologists and our people who run competitions within HNS. We followed the everyday situation, so we made decisions. When we stopped competing, few believed that we would bring the season to an end, which was perhaps the most interesting since the founding and independence of Croatia, because the order on the table was not known until the last round.”
Your impression of the referees?
“There are always those who are satisfied and dissatisfied. Our goal was to introduce a VAR system; with this, we wanted to reduce errors to a minimum. What we always like to say is that we don’t want tails to be chased after games, but we can state that the reffing was very good. The application of VAR proved to be a great hit, we are satisfied and happy, we need even more education, and over time it will improve.”
The playoffs for the First HNL used to be very interesting, the fight between the First League ninth place and second-place finishers from the Second League. Have the playoff matches lost their competitive charm?
“All these qualifying matches have their charm and I hope that there will be great matches in the future as well. Most importantly, it was shown in the 1st HNL that by investing in infrastructure and building better and better pitches, we have better and better games, more goals, fewer cards and fewer injuries to players.”
The first league is more and more stable, even more interesting in the media, and a new agreement on media rights is on that track.
“That is great for Croatian football, for Croatian clubs. All funds will be directed to clubs, the first league, women’s league, futsal league. It’s a big step forward, especially in this situation, because it’s not easy for clubs to raise funding to sustain and endure an entire season.”
Will the second division endure all the turbulence currently happening?
“I deeply hope it will. The other day we had an assembly of clubs in the Second League, and as the Federation, we will also participate when it comes to financial assistance in paying club fees, with some 90 thousand kuna per club. We are doing everything to help the clubs, and we will do it in the future as well. Our goal is for the clubs to survive, not to shut down.”
Onto the Croatia national team – the start of the Nations League is in September, is the start of this competition in any way in danger?
“The dates are known, and at this moment the decision is such that there will be no spectators, so it was much more practical and simple to organize in Zagreb, so the matches will be played in Zagreb for now.”
The contract with coach Zlatko Dalic has been renewed.
“From the beginning, we said that there would be no problems, it was a mutual wish and we are looking forward to our further cooperation and the success of the Croatia national team.”
There were many different comments, arguments and justifications about the final of the Croatian Junior Championship.
“I have repeatedly stated my opinion on this. Decisions were made, we asked for the opinion of Uefa, which said its own and presented the practice on which the countries in Europe were based when it comes to the same or similar issues regarding the conclusion and selection of clubs for European competitions. Before the final decision was defined, we consulted with them and sent a letter to them. We have acted according to the practice in Europe, although I have stated before that it is always best to solve it on the pitch, but such decisions are always the most difficult to make.”
The Executive Director of HNS also commented on the work of the health commission headed by Dr. Dragan Primorac.
“Truly all praise to our health committee and the working group that is working hard on it. I hope that the new tests will not have any coronavirus-positives, so as not to get into a situation where we have to question play and regularity.”
HNS’s cooperation with the International Olympic Committee, whose new member is former Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, is intensifying.
“Congratulations to her once again on her election, it is a great success to be elected to such a body. As for the cooperation itself, we are working on its improvement, not only in the interest of HNS, but in the interest of all federations in Croatia. We have intensified this collaboration over the last year. I will be a representative in the Assembly of the Croatian Olympic Committee on behalf of HNS, so I am looking forward to working with Mr. Zlatko Mates. I hope that we will all work together for the benefit of Croatian sport.”
In the two years since Croatia played the World Cup final, when you say that you are the executive director of HNS, or that you come from Croatia, how much has the attitude of people from abroad changed?
“It has certainly changed; it should not be emphasized much. Whatever country you go to, everyone mentions Modric and our other players – this is the biggest promotion of Croatia in the world. Looking at our cooperation with other federations in general (basketball, handball …), I think that we should all work together for the benefit of Croatia with the Law on Sports and the Financing of Sports. If we all work together in that direction, we will make a big step forward. I hope that the future will be better and brighter for sports in general,” concluded Marijan Kustic.
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