Thanks to Matthijs Lindeman and Albert van Tuil for this excellent report of the Twinning project between their club MHC Oosterbeek (the Netherlands) & HK Spartanac Split (Croatia)
12 November 2017
We are back in Croatia one year after we first met the hockey pioneers from Split. This visit will allow us to spend some time to further develop the club and to explain to all members the basic rules of hockey. We will train and play some matches, on the new pitch and indoor, with all the members, from the youth to the adults.
Since their first visit to Oosterbeek in May 2016 the men from Split have not rested: in the meantime, they’ve developed two small new pitches close to the town cenre and they built a club house where members can meet and talk about sport. They also offer drinks and meals on certain occasions. The pitches are on a cement football field the size of an indoor field. Split is still waiting for a fence to hold the hockey balls. Thanks to the EHF and the Croatian Hockey Federation and with the effort of the members of Spartanac, they could unfold the pitch and assemble it. Once the fence is in place and the authorization of the city of Split is granted, the members will be allowed to play on the fields. For the moment, they are mainly playing indoor.
The club house is located at 10 minutes driving from the fields, in a quite uncommon place: a bomb shelter under a flat! It does not look like all the club houses we have in the Netherlands, but this offers the possibility to have a safe environment for the kids. There is also a bar, a lounge and some tables.
The idea behind the twinning projects is to share experience and knowledge from big hockey nations to nations where they would like to develop further through sport. Some clubs from the Netherlands could collaborate with a club from another country. MHC Oosterbeek choose to work with Split mainly because they were already ‘linked’ with the country Croatia via the head coach of Oosterbeek Tomislav Jamicic. Trainers from Split came twice to Oosterbeek for a few days to see how a club with almost 1000 members lives. They had the opportunity to see some trainings and matches and to ask a lot of questions to the leaders of MHC Oosterbeek. They discovered what club life is and how a club like Oosterbeek works, particularly with volunteers. Trainers from Oosterbeek travelled to Split along with EHF’s Norman Hughes to train the trainers and the kids.
The most important mission of this collaboration with Split is to help develop the sport. We did it particularly through inspiring the Croatians when they came to Oosterbeek and now by giving the trainers, players and also umpires the basics when we go to Split. We bring everything that can be useful, but we pay attention to their cultural habits. Following some discussions with the parents of the children from the club, it seems that the family culture around the sport particularly speaks to them. The young members (and the adults) feel safe in the club. They can do what they love, play hockey, and they develop more self-confidence from it. Eating together in the clubhouse is an important aspect: it speaks to them to have the opportunity to come together after sport. The sport in itself is not well-known in Croatia, especially in Dalmatia. Football, handball, tennis, basketball and water polo are big sports in Croatia, but Split is the cradle of loads of national success. As a sports town, Split could also embrace hockey.
Nikola Barbaric is the initiator and driving force of the club. He offers all kind of sports after school to children in his sport school. Two years ago, when he saw some sticks, he decided to buy them. He tested them with friends and tried to understand how we play fieldhockey. He discovered that there was a hockey federation in Croatia and he signed a contract with the federation. Then he introduced some children to sport and he even offered more trainings for the ones who loved it. This group trains meanwhile once a week and plays sometimes a tournament against teams from Zagreb (400km from Split). The club has now about 55 members.
In one of our discussions with the club from Split, we dreamed of staying connected with them and even swapping teams for tournaments or trainings, and to give clinics. It would be hard to imagine better conditions: Split is a beautiful city, the weather is nice, who does not want to lay on the beach after their match? We are not there yet but the club has already some great tools to move forwards. A lot of children for the sports school and their parents can discover different sports. Split has a strong history with sport but hockey has no strong place there yet. We will now first identify the priorities for 2018 because we cannot do everything at the same time. We will focus on member growth -youth and adults- and the allocation of the different responsibilities in the club. Nikola cannot do everything by himself.
Obviously we hope that this twinning will be a boost to the development of hockey in Split and Croatia. But there is still some work to be done. In Oosterbeek we will stay linked to the club from Split and will support them with what they need. It was a really great experience. We are thankful to see how delighted the kids and their proud parents were during the indoor tournaments on Saturday where almost 40 children took part. This is why you do it and why sport is so important, in that region too!