The Croatian Men’s Water Polo National Team has broken its training camp early and ordered into quarantine after one member of the program tested positive for coronavirus and several others, not members of the team but with whom the team had contact, tested positive as well.
The team was preparing in a camp in Korcula from August 10-15. Ante Vukicevic tested positive during that camp, during which time the national federation says that all members of the program tested positive.
There were rumors circulating in Croatian media that Vukicevic’s infection came after attending a birthday party, but the federation denies that, saying “the players of our water polo team were not and could not be at any birthday party that is said to have spread the virus.”
No members of the team have shown any symptoms from the disease that has grown to pandemic scales globally over the last 6 months.
During the camp, the team was training and played an exhibition match at a makeshift pool in the sea at Moro Beach on August 12. The team also played an official friendly match against the country’s own Junior National team on August 11th in the KPK pool in Korcula.
Croatian coach Ivica Tucak released a statement addressing the situation.
“First of all, I kindly ask that misinformation not be spread. It is true that within the Croatia water polo team we have a player positive for the coronavirus, which unfortunately has infiltrated all sports and the rest of regular life all over the world. But the players of our water polo team were not, and could not have been, at any birthday party that is said to have spread the virus. Namely, it took place on August 6, and the national team only gathered on Korcula three days later, i.e., on the evening of August 9.”
“As part of the preparations and training on Korcula, on Wednesday, August 12, we played an exhibition match at an improvised swimming pool in the sea in front of Moro Beach bar in Stupa, where we had a short gathering with lunch organized for the Croatia national team in the open. Immediately after lunch, the national team returned to the hotel. Also, it is true that on Tuesday, August 11, we played an official friendly match against our junior national team, but not in the sea, but in the KPK pool in Korcula. On Friday, August 14, at a time when none of the players showed any symptoms of infection, but bearing in mind that some other people outside the national team, who were previously in contact with us, are now positive, we reacted promptly and responsibly by stopping training in Korcula.
A day later, on Saturday, August 15, in the morning in agreement with the Croatian Water Polo Federation and the Epidemiological Service, we disbanded the national team under strict supervision, not wanting to risk anything. It is important to note that no one has any symptoms, nor did they recommend any isolation measures due to the nature of the contact, but as a precaution, we entered self-isolation,” Ivica Tucak concluded.
As a result of the breakup of that camp, the federation has decided to postpone several upcoming planned eevents. That includes the HEP Cup tournament that was scheduled for August 28-30 where national teams of Italy and Montenegro, two other European superpowers in men’s water polo, were scheduled to arrive in the biggest international tournament since quarantines.
The federation hopes to postpone that tournament only as far as September.
The country has also postponed the “Croatia vs. World” match that was planned for September 12, 2020 that was set to celebrate the retirement of Ratko Rudic, one of the world’s all-time great swim coaches.
Perica Bukic, executive director of the Croatia Water Polo Association, hopes that they will hold that event instead in spring 2021.
The 27-year old Vukicevic, who was on the Croatian team that won a bronze medal at last summer’s World Championships, plays professionally for CN Marseille in France.
The Croatian men have won medals at the last two Olympic Games: gold in 2012 and silver in 2016. They were also the 2017 World Champions.
Croatia has recorded just over 7,000 positive tests for the novel coronavirus leading to 168 COVID-19 deaths during the pandemic. That comes among a national population of about 4 million. According to Worldometers.info, that ranks them 84th in the world in deaths-per-population and 94th in cases-per-population. The country is doing better than the world average in both categories.