The sport of squash is currently in the midst of an important bid, a bid for inclusion at the Olympic Games from 2020. The game has a strong a case to put before the International Olympic Committee (IOC), as it truly is a game played all around the globe, even, to the surprise of many, in Croatia.
With such a strong tradition in producing champions in another racket sport, tennis, the game of squash seems a logical fit for Croats. Thanks to a few Croats returning home from working abroad, the traditionally Commonwealth game of squash only first begun being played in Croatia in the 1980’s, almost 150 years after the game was first played in Harrow, England. It was not until the early 2000’s however that the game started to develop, upon the formation of the Croatian squash federation in 2001.
Since the federation’s formation just over a decade ago, the game has spread across the country, and Croatian squash federation secretary Davor Srednoselec informs Croatia Week that squash is currently played by a few hundred people in the towns of Vinkovci, Osijek, Slavonski Brod, Sisak, Bjelovar, Cakovec, Varazdin, Zagreb, Rijeka, Novigrad, Pula, Split and Dubrovnik.
Current Croatian number 1. Manuel Fistonic in action
Apart from squash being a winter sport and therefore competing with football in a football mad country, Srednoselec also explained some of the other challengers facing his sport in Croatia.
“First of all we face financial challengers, a lack of funds means a lack of facilities which is connected to why there is not such a big interest among kids. Also, kids in Croatia who have not tried the sport have the wrong perception about the game,” said Srednoselec.
The federation however is focusing on junior development and have a number of talented juniors in its ranks who play at tournaments across Europe. For the first time, from 12-14 April this year, Croatia will host an international junior tournament in Zagreb as part of the European junior circuit, featuring more than 100 of Europe’s brightest talents. Srednoselec also says that the federation is looking at getting more girls involved in the game. Currently more than 20 girls are playing squash competitively in the country.
Top Croatian junior Roko Voncina in action
A little known fact is that Croatia was the first east European country to hold a PSA world event. Zagreb played host to some of the world’s best squash players during the PSA 2006 Croatian Open, including former world number 3 Simon Parke, and Ian Power, brother of former world number 1 Jonathon Power. Domagoj Spoljar was the highest ever ranked Croat, when he reached a career high PSA world ranking of 169 in 2009.
Who knows, in 2020 in either Istanbul, Tokyo or Madrid, we could be seeing the Croatian checkers on court in the squash event.
Croatia taking part in Squash’s bid for 2020 Olympic status: