This weekend, EHF President Marijke Fleuren and our Education and Development Manager, Norman Hughes visited Zagreb. Norman sent us a report from the pitch opening, clothing donation and great progress being made by the Croatian Hockey Federation.

After landing in sunny Zagreb on Thursday, EHF President Marijke Fleuren and former President of AH&BC and KNHB President Erik  Cornelissen officially opened the new surface at Zagreb Hockey Centre. This carpet was donated last year by KNHB from the Wagener Stadion and the surface had been relayed extremely well giving an immense improvement to the playing area at the ZHC.

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Matches took place against local teams and Slovenian teams, and over dinner hosted by the Zagreb Hockey Union discussions took place about future plans for a mini pitch and sports hall on the Hockey Centre site.

Friday morning meetings took place with the Croatian Olympic Committee Mr Zlatko Matesa, CHF were again offered the chance to have hockey each week on their Sports TV channel which would be a great way to promote hockey in Croatia.

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Later that day the EHF President and Norman visited Desinic some 70km away from Zagreb in the Krapina County. Here, many young children are coached and given a passion for hockey. Desinic hockey community have big plans for another small pitch near the town centre and an enlarged pitch on their current site. Their big need first is help with fencing to make the town centre site safe for play.

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Saturday morning, EHF President Marijke Fleuren and Norman Hughes once again took to the road, going to Bozjakovina where again they encountered  a group of children being supported and coached by Krsto from Zelina. They used a football pitch but were having a great time

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Lunch in Zelina was followed by a visit to the Zelina Sports Hall – a venue for EHF tournaments in 2014. From there, a visit to the new Zelina Aquapush pitch where the Zelina Cup 2014 was taking place. Teams from Austria, Slovenia and Croatia were involved. CHF President Damir Hrupec, the Mayor of Sveti Ivan Zelina and Marijke Fleuren officially opened the pitch.

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Meetings took place with the 3 Slovenian clubs who were also given packs of clothing kindly donated through the EHF Give and Get project thanks to Amsterdam club AH&BC. Special thanks from EHF to Maartje Fleuren, who was instrumental in the donation of this clothing.

The evening brough another journey, this time to Zacretje in Krapina County where a new mini pitch has been built (40m x 20m) using a second hand carpet donated by FC Dynamo Zagreb. Again, over 40 kids enjoyed a festival of hockey. Norman Hughes and the Mayor of Zacretje officially opened the pitch and discussions about their future plans for a bigger pitch took place over a hog roast!

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The local mayor and leaders thanked EHF for being the only European/World Sports Federation ever to visit the town and show support for their work.

Sunday morning, Norman and Slaven  Zlatar, General Secretary of Croatian Hockey, visited the hockey complex at Mladost to inspect the pitch.
The playing area had been badly damaged by a flood back in May and on inspection it became clear that ideally the sub surface needed to be completely renovated before any new carpet was installed. Hopefully insurance will allow this as the infrastructure at this complex was of a very high standard before the floods.

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Norman, Erik and Marijke  and all of EHF would like to thank Croatian Hockey Federation, all the local leaders and in particular Slaven Zlatar for their kind hospitality during our visit. It was fantastic to witness all the great work being done in Croatia, which proves that step by step, little by little, Croatian Hockey is growing.  More players will bring the need for more pitches, more trainers/coaches, more umpires, more officials and more volunteers ready to support the extra groups. But growth

Source and photographs: EHF/Norman Hughes