Croatian Basketball Legend Marko Popović Retires at 36

Daniela Rogulj

Former Croatia basketball player and captain of the Spanish first-league club Fuenlabrada, 36-year-old Marko Popović, announced that he would finish his career at the end of the season in the Spanish ACB league, which has two more rounds left, reports on May 13, 2019. 

The Zadar native led the Madrid club to a suburb Sunday victory over the Deltecom (70-69), a direct competitor in their struggle against relegation. Fuenlabrada is now in the 13th place among the 18 clubs in the top Spanish league and has secured its status for next season. 

“Goal achieved. And now to enjoy the last two games and retire from this beautiful sport,” Popović said on Twitter. 

In the last two rounds, Fuenlabrada will play against Baxi Manresa and Iberostar Tenerife. The Fuenlabrada fans will help say goodbye to their captain who has worn the jersey with number ‘2’ for the last four seasons. Shouts from the stands could often be heard screaming “Po-po-vić, Po-po-vić!”

Dozens of messages swarmed the official Twitter of Fuenlabrada after the news of Popović’s retirement hit. “You will be missed on the basketball court,” said one. “The legend of this club is leaving. Thank you, Marko, for your loyalty, thank you, captain,” said the second. 

Popović will turn 37 years old next month, and just a few months ago said his biggest concern was Fuenlabrada staying in the first league, because if relegated, club members such as office staff and cleaners could be fired. The club invited the audience to celebrate their status in the “best league in Europe” and thanked the players and Popović for their contribution.

Popović came to Fuenlabrada in 2015 when Žan Tabak was the coach. He previously played for Zadar, Cibona, Valencia, Efes Pilsen, Žalgiris, Unics Kazan and Khimki. He won the Eurocup two times – with Unics in 2011 when he was declared the most valuable player of the competition and with Khimki in 2015. 

For Croatia, he played over 150 matches from 2002 to 2013, including the Eurobasket in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2017, the 2010 World Cup and the 2008 Olympics.

For many years he was one of the best shooters in Europe, though speculation about the end of his career began after he injured his ACL in early April.

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