Water polo in Dubrovnik – the King of all sports
Croatia is a nation of sports lovers, from football to handball, team sports to individual, Summer Olympics and Winter Olympics, there isn’t a sport that doesn’t have some kind of representation in this country. Dubrovnik, like the rest of the country, is also sports mad, however one sport floats to the top – water polo. It is more than just a sport; it is a way of life. From an early age, often before they can walk, the children of Dubrovnik learn to play this water sport.
It is almost impossible to find a citizen of Dubrovnik who hasn’t been bitten by the water polo bug. Whether on a professional level or just with friends on the beach the game is part of the fabric of the region. At the top of the tree is the water polo club “Jug,” or “South” in English. This club is the pride of the city and one of the most successful clubs in the world. As Barcelona dominates football so Jug dominate European water polo. The club was founded back in 1923 and have collected an impressive total of 52 cups along the way. If you get the chance to see a Jug match live then grab it with both hands, the atmosphere, the play and the supporters are, to say the least, inspiring.
Although Jug are at the top of the tree the roots of water polo spread deep in Dubrovnik. Away from the professional game the city organises a “wild league” of water polo every year. Every beach has its own team and once a year they all get together to compete for bragging rights in the wild league. In fact the Dubrovnik Wild League is the largest amateur water polo championship in the world. The final, which is played at the end of summer, is a spectacular encounter in the heart of the Old City. In the old harbour the two teams clash in front of thousands of spectators, it’s a matter of pride, for the next year the winning team will walk with their heads held high.
However if you were planning to get involved in an informal game on the beach you might want to think again. Water polo, might to the onlooker, seems a straight-forward game to play. The truth is that you need to be a superhuman swimmer, have tonnes of stamina and have the upper body strength of Superman...yes we are speaking from experience.
With Jug leading the way and motivating future generations to follow their stars and with the Wild League more popular than ever before water polo in Dubrovnik has a bright future. To rewrite a famous quote from the former Liverpool FC manager Bill Shankly, “Water polo in Dubrovnik is not a matter of life and death...it is much more important than that.”