A merry band of warriors…
CHAPTER TWENTY ONE
Wednesday May 22, 2013 Zagreb, Croatia
Nancy is back home in oregon for the next month so I spend my time in leisure activities like walking, lounging over a cappaccino and people watching, reading or shopping. Sometimes it makes for a long day but it’s always interesting. The café’s are usually filled and the streets busy. It does amaze me as to how many people don’t work. The guys tell me the economy here in Croatia isn’t much different than the rest of Europe or the world for that matter. Jobs a hard to come by for the young and it can be frustrating for the ones who really want to work. One of our running backs came to our last practice and as we were talking his cell phone rang. He just looked at it and smiled. “They are trying to get in touch with me to come in to work on my only day off.” He went on to say that he’s working at a security job for twelve hours a day, six days a week. His pay? Fifteen kunas per hour. That would translate to $2.55 american dollars per hour. Minimum wage, oh my. But his smile told me he was happy to have a job.
Practice this week has been pretty typical. We rarely have the same guys although we have a core of eight to ten that are always in attendance. It’s pretty frustrating for them because they understand it’s not going to be productive if we don’t have good practice effort. Most of the time we have less than twenty two players so it’s difficult to do any ‘team’ offense or defense and have a ‘scout’ team with eleven players. We use our imigination and manage to get along. For example most of the time during team offense we’ll eliminate the backside wide receiver and slot because we don’t have enough defensive backs. Or we’ll just run our offensive plays Vs air. We usually win, but not all the time.
Our quarterback is a great young man who played for me here two years ago. About mid season we moved him to receiver and our American receiver to QB. Last year he moved to defensive end and when I asked him about that move he said, “I was very tired of getting hammered.” That tells you a bit about the protection or lack of for the QB. Anyway, when our current QB chose to remove himself from the team we had no choice but to move Luka back to QB. He’s taken up the challenge and worked hard at the basic fundamentals. He is not a natural athlete but is very smart so at least the ‘mechanics’ of the offense aren’t over his head. We’ll adjust things to allow him some success by throwing short and not asking him to do things he’s not comfortable with. Hopefully his leadership skills and enthusiasm will rub off on his teammates.
Our merry band of warriors preparing for practice in our “Locker room”.
Our practice field is more of a pasture than a football field. The grass is either sparse or nearly knee high but it doesn’t matter to these kids. They just want to play American football.
During this practice session we didn’t have enough defensive players to work against, so we just practiced Vs air again, this time we Won.
One of our american’s who was with us two years ago arrived on Monday and came to our practice. It was nice to see him and after our practice he spent a few minutes chatting with the team. There were seventeen players at practice and I will tell you seventeen pair of eye’s focused on Anthony’s every word.
Zagreb is a bit off the tourist route for those exploring Europe for the first time. The draw in Croatia is certainly the beautiful coastline and the capitol city has none of the flair of either Vienna or Prague. The architecture is of the Austria/Hungarian style courtesy of the empire that lasted over seven hundred years. The difference is there’s still a lot of the old communist grey and drab looking buildings that you will almost never see in Austria or the Czech Republic.
Croatia will officially belong to the European Union come July first but they will probably follow the Czech lead and keep their own currency. But you can certainly spot the EU flag everywhere, usually displayed along side the Croatian Red, White and Blue.
One of the reasons our last Sunday game was cancelled was it was election day here in Croatia. The turnout was normal, I’m told, as 33% of the people bothered to vote. At least they don’t have russian tanks in the streets anymore and they can cross borders into neighboring countries Slovenia, Hungary, Romania and Serbia without being harassed at the border crossing.
And certainly its easy to spot the contrast between the communist buildings and the modern ones, like this bank building near the center of the city.
Our players will keep working to get better and enjoy their teammates as they band together to form a workable unit. I’ve often told my players it’s the relationships you will remember five, ten or twenty years from now that makes this team game so special. For me I don’t regret no longer playing, I do regret being with friends on a regular basis with a common cause on our mind. Football does that.