Croatian Water Polo Player Accuses Federation of Unfair Treatment

A water polo player on the Croatian Women’s National Team says she was unfairly removed from this year’s European Championships roster one day before the tournament began Saturday in Split. 

The Croatian Water Polo Association released a statement on Friday revealing that defender Ana Miroslavic and goalkeeper Natasha Trojan were removed due to positive COVID-19 cases from Wednesday. But Miroslavic contends that her test was a false positive, and she provided the Croatian Water Polo Association with three negative PCR tests from Thursday and Friday as well as a note from a Government Institute for Public Health epidemiologist that backed up her claim. 

The evidence wasn’t enough for head coach Aljoša Kunac to change his mind about allowing Miroslavic back on the roster for her second European Championships. Defender Nina Eterović replaced Miroslavic and goalkeeper Andrea Marić took Trojan’s spot. 

“We hereby inform you that by the decision of the selectors of the women’s national team, you are not on the list of players for the European Championship,” the Croatian Water Polo Association wrote in an email to Miroslavic, translated from Croatian. “The Croatian Water Polo Association stands firmly by the coach and his coach, and we believe that his decisions must be respected. Please note that the reasons for this decision are not personal, but exclusively of a sporting nature, as well as the protection of the rest of the team. 

“It is the selector’s right and duty to submit a list of 15 players who he believes are most ready to give their best for the team by the day of the technical meeting (in this case, Friday at 7 p.m.), all in accordance with LEN rules,” continued the email, which was sent about half an hour before the federation’s press release on Friday afternoon. “We understand that it is difficult for you as an athlete to accept this outcome of the situation, but the decision has been made, and I ask you to respect it, as did the other girls who were on preparations and did not get the opportunity to play for the national team.”

Miroslavic alleges that Kunac acknowledged the team’s initial testing company was faulty. She claims her coach said on Wednesday, “Tomorrow we are all retesting. Another firm is arriving. These tests are worthless.” The next morning, however, Miroslavic said assistant coach Natasa Serkinic came to her room at 7:15 a.m. and informed her and her roommate that they would not be retesting. 

When Miroslavic told the Croatian Water Polo Association about her negative PCR test on Thursday, she said the federation responded claiming its official test was the only valid one that would be accepted. She said she asked to be moved to a different room because her roommate was COVID-19 positive, but the federation allegedly refused to pay for a room. 

Upon leaving the team hotel to find her own accommodations in Split, Miroslavic said Kunac called a “meeting downstairs in 5 minutes.” Unable to attend, Miroslavic apologized and asked to be informed of the topic of the meeting. She claimed she was subsequently booted from the WhatsApp group used for team communications. 

“Corona came to our door, but we solved everything,” Kunac told Croatian media. “Two positive girls are home, two new ones came, now everything is fine.”

Not only does Miroslavic allege her health information was publicly disclosed without permission, but she also claims that a third member of the Croatian team tested positive but was still allowed to stay on the roster. 

“Why did the federation refuse to accept my negative COVID-19 PCR tests and proof of the initial false positive, but is waiting for another player who currently does have COVID-19 to recover?” said Miroslavic, who spent the past year as an assistant coach for D-II Biola University. “It appears as though there is a different reason I am no longer on the roster, and that this is a matter of sports misconduct and a health violation.”

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About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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