It was early and i don’t do mornings but i was up and in a grump i made my way to meet 2 German hoppers at the main station in Maribor for the 07.00 train to Zagreb. Unlike UK trains it was spacious and was quiet so i had hoped to get a few hours sleep before our arrival in Croatia. The train creaked and shunted it’s way along the track, through many tree studded valleys and lakeside towns and villages. The scenery was quite outstanding and after a short delay of 15 minutes at the border to check passports we rolled into Zagreb city in time for lunch (and beer).


We opted for a restaurant just off the main square where we sampled the local Karlovacko beer, followed by a Lasko and plotted our route to Zapresic which is a small town 18km North West of Zagreb. It was a short 30 minute local train journey and then a good 30 minute walk to the stadium. It was thirsty work getting there but made it just 10 minutes before kick off. Tickets were bought at a small kiosk outside but as the visitors, HNK Rijeka were the potential champions, there was quite a throng of people jostling to gain entry using the standard arm barging technique which i have rather perfected over the years watching football in Europe. There is no orderly queuing system in place it’s a case of every man for himself. Was it my quest for thirst that made me battle the masses the fastest? Well i was to be disappointed on two counts, firstly the rather poor standard of ticket on offer which i can only describe resembled a supermarket till receipt. Yes it certainly was unique but rather effortless. Secondly no refreshment kiosk, what no beer? It even contained a risky portaloo which wobbled if you misplaced your footing which was rather amusing watching the punters open the door into the unknown. It looked at one point that the whole cabin was going to completely fall over only for it to wobble back the other way once the punter had regained their balance… all the ingredients for a 0-0 draw i thought!


There were quite a few Rijeka fans in attendance on the opposite side of the field from us and they created a fair bit of atmosphere mostly singing in good voice. This would have kept them entertained as the football from both sides was poor.


At half time from our position at the top of the terrace we could see everyone leaving and buying beer at the kiosk on the street outside. All three of us in a quest for thirst went out and bought beer but we were not allowed in the stadium to drink it so we had to wait outside but luckily we saw a contingent gathered near the entrance watching through the fence, having known this would i have bothered to pay to get in? Ha Ha. Finishing our beer we made it back inside for the remaining 30 minutes and we were treated to a fabulous sunset in the distance.


Rijeka won 2-1 but i can’t really remember the goals it was a non event in terms of a footballing spectacle.


It was not my first Croatian match as i had previously visited NK Gosk from Dubrovnik in 1988 when on holiday. The people are really friendly in Croatia, the beer is nice and the scenery spectacular so will not hesitate to go back again. I do fancy a match at the Stadion Maksimir, home of Dinamo Zagreb which i visited the following morning as i had time before my flight. I was not allowed inside but took time to stroll around the surrounding neighbourhood to take photos. It’s quite an imposing stadium with three open roofed stands built up high around the pitch. I also managed to get a photo of the training pitch next door, the only cover is provided by the stand from the main stadium and it looked like the players were training. Croatia is a beautiful country and after looking at some pictures of Split it looks like i may take in a game there too next time.





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