Hajduk wins first international tournament dedicated to late Croatian footballer Hrvoje Čustić
- by croatiaweek
- in Sport
ZADAR, 17 April 2023 – HNK Hajduk has won the first International Hrvoje Ćustić Tournament in honour of the late Croatian footballer.
The tournament was in honour of the late former Šibenik player who tragically passed away in 2008 at the age of just 24 after suffering severe head injuries after colliding with a concrete wall positioned about three metres from the sideline during the opening minutes of his club’s home match against HNK Cibalia in the Croatian first division.
In the final, played at the Stanovi Stadium in Zadar on Sunday, the juniors of the Split-based club defeated their peers from NK Osijek 2-0, thus winning the tournament without conceding a goal. Hajduk’s hero was Karlo Antunović, who scored both goals in the 46th and 65th minutes.
“It’s a great feeling to win such a high-quality tournament, which has a special emotional value given the name it carries, especially for me who played with Hrvoje. Congratulations from the bottom of my heart to my players, who deserved this success with their hard work and approach to the matches. We had a phenomenal time in Zadar, thanks to the organizers for everything they did, and I hope this tournament will become a great tradition,” said Luka Vučko, the coach of Hajduk, after the match.
Osijek coach Ivan Lajtman also played with Hrvoje and had a special emotional connection to the tournament.
“It is a special honor and emotion for me to be part of this tournament, given that I personally knew Ćusta, and we spent two beautiful years playing together for Zagreb. What can I say that Luka and I, as his former teammates, made it to this final? I know what Ćusta was like, a joker, a prankster, and I think he arranged all this for us. Congratulations to Hajduk on winning the final, but also to my boys, who coped excellently with this very strenuous schedule of five matches in five days. Everything else regarding the organization was top-notch,” said Lajtman.
Hajduk’s striker Antunović scored two goals in the semifinals against Lokomotiva and was the tournament’s top scorer with a total of five goals. Šime Erlić, a minister in the Government of the Republic of Croatia, presented him with the award for the best scorer.
“The feeling is fantastic. The tournament was great, with many good teams, and it is a great honor to receive the award for the top scorer. I didn’t score in the first two games, but I’m glad I did when it mattered most, and we won the trophy in the end. Everything was great, we enjoyed it in Zadar at this big tournament,” said Antunović.
Osijek also had their chances in the final, but like the previous four teams in the tournament, they failed to score against Hajduk. Therefore, it is not surprising that the tournament’s best goalkeeper was Marin Biočić of Hajduk. Krševan Santini, an experienced goalkeeper from Zadar, presented him with the award, and the young man from Split made a nice gesture and immediately called his colleague Ivan Šiško, who also played in goal during the tournament.
“I congratulate my teammates and coaches and all the participants of the tournament. The feeling is incredible, and I am overjoyed. We played the whole tournament as a team and won in the end. Thanks to the people in Zadar who hosted us brilliantly, and I hope that the tournament in honor of Hrvoje will continue in the future,” said Biočić.
Meanwhile, Osijek’s Filip Mažar was named the tournament’s best player. The award was presented to him by Darko Banić, the president of the Zadar County Football Association and the Organizing Committee of the tournament.
“First of all, I am glad to have had the opportunity to play in such a strong and well-organized tournament. I am disappointed with the loss in the final, but the pace was very demanding, we gave it our all, and I think we have to be satisfied in the end. The recognition for the best player means a lot to me, but it wouldn’t have been possible without my teammates and coach, so thank you to them first and foremost,” said Mažar.
Many distinguished guests were present at both the tournament’s opening and final games. Marijan Kustić, the President of the Croatian Football Federation, presented the medals and trophy to the winning team, while Svetko Ćustić, Hrvoje’s father, presented the captain of Hajduk with the grand trophy.
Lokomotiva won third place in the tournament, defeating Gyor 2-1 in the bronze medal match held in Polača. The Hungarian team took the lead with a goal from their top scorer Leo Peter Moharoš in the 17th minute, but Zagreb’s Selvedin Ramić and Ivan Canjuga scored two quick goals in the 70th and 71st minute to secure the win for Lokomotiva.
“We are very pleased to have won this match and return home with the bronze medal, especially after what I think was an undeserved loss to Hajduk in the semifinals. All in all, this was a wonderful gathering and a great tournament in honor of our Hrvoje, which was organized at a truly high level. Special thanks to the people in Polača who welcomed us so nicely,” said Nikica Jelavić, the Lokomotiva coach.
Thus, the first edition of the Hrvoje Ćustić International Football Tournament came to an end, with 12 junior teams from Croatia, Ukraine, Hungary, Austria, and Bosnia and Herzegovina playing a total of 22 matches over the past six days on fields in Zadar, Poličnik, and Polača.
“This was truly a big project that we undertook to continue honoring the memory of our Hrvoje in a special way. Thanks to all participants and everyone who contributed to the organization in any way. I believe that with the support of the Croatian Football Federation, the City of Zadar, and the Zadar County, this tournament will become traditional because the first edition has shown how much value and potential it has in every respect. And above all, because our Hrvoje deserves it,” concluded Darko Banić on behalf of the organizers.
HNK HAJDUK – NK OSIJEK 2:0 (0:0)
ZADAR – Stadion Stanovi. Referee: Ante Žilić. Assistents: Josip Katuša and Tomislav Čulina.
HNK HAJDUK: Biočić, Hrgović, Božić, Proleta, Shahini, Roić, Antunović, Bobanović, Ivanišević, Carev, Prusina. Also played: Šiško, Lisenko, Marušić, Marinović, Vranješ, Peruzović, Bistre, Škara.Coach: Luka Vučko.
NK OSIJEK: Marić, Perković, Lončarević, Mažar, Lugarić, Damjanović, Svraka, Prekodravac, Perić, Barišić, Solić. Also played: Begović, Zahirović, Herceg, Okuka, Grgić, Petrović, Marković, Majdenić. Coach: Ivan Lajtman.