Friday, 19 August 2022
Englishman in Dubrovnik Englishman in Dubrovnik

How three Premier League players ended up training on my doorstep

Written by  Sep 19, 2021

I have always joked, well at least since I’ve been living here, that Župa dubrovačka is the centre of the world. But could I actually be right? This is a weird story to say the least, so make yourself comfortable.

So a few days ago, and quite by chance, I was trying to watch the match between Brazil and Argentina from Sao Paulo. It was a qualification for the Qatar World Cup. Now I say trying because after five minutes the pitch was invaded by men in suits who stopped the game. “What are those suits doing on the pitch and why is everyone arguing?” said my wife as the infield fights had caught her eye.

Now I am not going into this part in much depth but basically this super derby of the South American qualifiers was interrupted because of quarantine rules had been violated.

Some players for Argentina had come direct from the UK meaning that the Brazilians prescribed 14 days of quarantine on everyone coming from the United Kingdom due to the delta strain. Of course, there is a lot of politicking involved in this pandemic. As soon as the UK put a 14-day quarantine on any Brazilians arriving in the UK, the Brazilians reciprocated and put a 14-day quarantine on anyone coming from the UK.

The Argentinian players who came from the Premier League were actually deported.

A few days later and I met the most famous sports journalist in the south of Croatia, quite by chance again. “Three Tottenham players, Lo Celso, Romero and Sanchez, are all training in Župa, he said with a broad smile. OMG! WTF!

The distance between Sao Paulo and Čibača is exactly 9,897 kilometres. Meaning that these same players that we had been watching on TV a few days before were now 9,895 kilometres closer to me!

So how did an estimated 100 million Euros of Premier League talent end up training on the pitches of a county team in Čibača? Why Croatia? If the UK based footballers had returned directly to the UK they would have had to spend 14 days in quarantine. So to cut short their quarantine by ten days they decided to come to Croatia and train in the sunshine. And as Croatia is on the UK’s green travel list they only have to spend 10 days in quarantine. One thing is for certain, this strange case highlights the overwhelming amount of politics involved in this global pandemic.

Just how a Premier League team got in contact with a small club in the far south of Croatia is unsure, but it appears from sources that Tottenham have rented the whole stadium and pitches from NK Čibača.

One theory is that the owner of Tottenham FC, Joe Lewis, was recently in Dubrovnik on his mega yacht Aviva, and maybe he could have been scouting for possible training grounds. Although it seems highly unlikely that a billionaire would be scouting and also much more likely that he would have chosen the pitches inside Dubrovnik rather than a small county level team.

The second theory is that the club was recommended to Tottenham from the Croatian first division club Hajduk Split. But why would they recommend a club that barely has a stadium. The answer could well be that the current President of Hajduk, Lukša Jakobušić, actually lives relatively close to the Čibača stadium.

But why wouldn’t the Tottenham stars just train at the Hajduk stadium. Again, this could well be due to the fact that South American players are in fact already training there and carrying out their ten-days quarantine. Two Argentinians, Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez and the club’s £40million record signing Emiliano Buendia are both currently training in Split. From a high-profile derby between Brazil and Argentina in Sao Paulo to a county level club in the far south of Croatia in a stadium that barely holds a 100 spectators.

I joked that Župa was the centre of the world, but for a few media filled days it actually was. “Three Tottenham players trained NK Zupa Dubrovacka, an amateur club from the county leagues in a village near Dubrovnik,” and that’s how Čibača ended up in The Daily Mail. Pretty soon Dubrovnik will be known as “a small town near Čibača!”

Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to      


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