Footy Worldwide: Croatia

Please introduce yourself.

My name is Dinko Irsag and I’m the president of the Aussie Rules Croatia Association since 2019. I’m also the AFL commissioner for Central, Southern and Eastern Europe since 2019. I started playing Aussie Rules in Croatia in 2012 and since then I have founded a male club «Sesvete Double Blues» in 2014 and a female club «Sesvete Redlegs» in 2019. In 2018 I was the team manager for the Croatian female national team «Croatian Queens». I finished uni as an Electrical Engineer and have been working in the family company. 

When and how you met with footy?

I lived in Australia during my childhood and that’s where I met footy. Unfortunately I never played in Australia and had no contact with the sport until I came to Croatia.

How and by whom was made the first club in your country?

In 2005 Kolja Koracek came back to Croatia from his studies abroad and started kicking a football around with some other Croatian-Australian’s in Zagreb. Soon after that they started a club, then another and it snowballed since then.

How many teams play in your premiership?

Currently we have 3 male teams and 2 female teams. A couple of years ago we had a boom in Aussie Rules in Croatia and actually had 7 male teams competing in the national tournament. Unfortunately, due to the fact that some of those clubs were up to 7hours drive away, the league wasn’t self sufficient and fell back to the three current teams. This season we have introduced a Croatian Crusaders team that is a mix of players who compete against the team that should pause a round. That way each team plays every two weeks and we keep the competition on a high level. 

Is it difficult to find new players for your team?

It’s almost impossible to find new players. We keep on trying to come up with new and improved ways to get new players but it’s really hard. The best thing we’ve noticed is that word of mouth works best. It also helps when we do ‘intro’ sessions at universities but due to Covid all of that has been brought to a halt. 

And what about fields?

We play 9 a side in Croatia and that means we share fields with either a rugby club or a soccer club. That being said we have actually completed the first oval in this part of Europe and plan to being playing 18 a side this autumn. So far it’s cost us a lot of money, time and tears but thanks to the Physical Education University in Zagreb who have given us a field that we can turn into a oval we can final progress to the next stage. 

And what about umpires — do they have any licence?

All our umpires are AFL Europe schooled and all of them are current or former players. We have implemented a Umpire Education program in our league that is running parallel with the AFL Europe umpire course and hope to get another 4,5 educated umpires this season. 

Tell us please the system of your season (trainings, games, productions).

Our league matches begin in April and last until mid June. That’s when we have our summer break and restart in September and play until the end of October. In the off period each club has their own specific training programs but the earliest clubs don’t start before the middle of January. In the male competition, each club plays each other twice for a total of six rounds, the winner takes home the trophy. They also play a round robin tournament which is played once a year for the Croatian Cup. The female part of the competition has only two teams and they play each other 6 times in the regular season and once for the Croatian Cup. This season the female and male clubs with play each other in an 18 a side tournament.

What about games with other European teams?

Croatia is part of the Central European AFL league, CEAFL. It was originally started so that the few Croatian teams could play more matches and it resulted in a mixture of countries using it as a jumping board for the harder European competitions. Now the CEAFL is played by teams from Croatia, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria with each country taking a turn in hosting the tournament. We also regulary compete in the Champions League hosted by AFL Europe and the best result a club has achieved is 5th place the «Zagreb Cvjetno Dockers»

How do you feel about AFL Europe, do they support you? And if it “yes”, is it difficult to take support from them?

AFL Europe has been supportive all along our journey. They have regularly hosted events, educational workshops and helped get clubs off the ground. The communication between AFL Europe and the clubs in Croatia is both quick and positive not to mention open and if they can help in any way, they provide all the support they can.

Euro Cup Grand Final 2016

Croatia vs Japan International Cup 2017

AFL Croatia Facebook

Instagram AFL Croatia

Instagram Zageb Hawks

Instagram Sesvete Double Blues

Instagram Croatian Qeens

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