Posted: 5/5/2017


              Flying into the small airport of Pula on the Istrian peninsula I had no time for sightseeing in one of my favourite small cities. .Back in October 2008 I spent a delightful time looking at Roman and Austro-Hungarian history , watching a match and my first and only meal of black truffles and pasta at Kantina 10/18/2008: TURTLES, TRUFFLES AND ELVIS IN CROATIA

                I caught the long distance bus to Rijeka for the UEFA u17 tournament. There was a double header at Stadion Rujevika overlooking the Adriatic and home of soon to be champions of Croatia HNK Rijeka.  I missed the 3-2 victory of Spain over Turkey and arrived in time for Croatia v Italy.  a very even fought contest with a late 1-0 for The Azzuri. Another bus to Zagreb and a late arrival so that my booked apartment was closed and no answers. Fortunately at 1.00 am a nearby bar took sympathy, paid for a taxi and found me another bed for the night. Looong day 

              Zagreb is really spectacular and a much improved and change place since my last visit in 1962 whrn it was part of Yugoslavia under Josip Brod Tito3. I had hitch hiked through Belgium, Germany, Austria, Italy and walked over the border outside Trieste and then one ride to Zagreb with my mate Andy,

             The sun was shining and lots of great pastries and fruit and meats at the indoor market. A tram then bus ride to Velika Gorica, actually Croatia's 5th biggest city and a 2 km walk to the stadium for England v Norway. The Three young Lions were sensational and all from big time clubs .  The red shirted young Norwegians took the lead with an own goal much to the delight of 50 plus family and friends waving flags just below my press box seat. Not for long though.  England moved the ball about like the Harlam Globetrotters and  Rhian  Brewster of Liverpool levelled the score in the 17th minute. He scored a second after 37 minutes just prior to the half time at 40 minutes at this age group.

            Final score 3-1 and coach Steve Cooper's awesome squad is off to a flying start. The UEFA u17s tournament is played annually and defending champions Portugal from Azerbaijan 2016 did not qualify this time around. One record that might not be beaten for some time is the record crowd of 33,000 in Baku's Olympic Stadium for the opening round match Azerbaijan v Portugal. The top 5 teams will advance to the FIFA u17 World Cup in India later this year.

            The legend here in Croatia is DAVOR SUKER. A star with Sevilla, Real Madrid, Arsenal, West Ham and 1860 Munich. I saw him play in Nottingham for Croatia v Turkey at EURO 96 and twice at FIFA World Cup 1998 in France. First at the QF in Lyon where they beat Germany 3-0 and at Parc des Princes in the third place victory over the Netherlands, and he also won the tournament Golden Boot. He is now the Croatian Football Federation President. What an honour when we met in his office a few days ago and an awesome present- a signed Croatian national team jersey with my name.