The Melbourne Knights have returned triumphant from the 37th Croatian Soccer Tournament, taking out the Division 1 title for the second year running. With a win at the Gala night with the selection of Miss Melbourne Croatia, Ivana Raspudic, as Miss Croatia Australia/New Zealand 2011, as well as a semi-final berth for the women’s team, the Melbourne Knights had much to celebrate on their return trip from Sydney.
The 37th Croatian Tournament, hosted by Kralj Tomislav, kicked off last Thursday night, with an opening ceremony where a record 52 participating teams proudly showed off their team colours and organisers gifted each of the clubs with a tournament flag. After speeches, anthems and a spectacular fireworks display, the Melbourne Knights (competing as Melbourne Croatia) took the field in the opening game of the Tournament to face their opponents, the locally based, Hurstville Zagreb. Supporters witnessed a tense opening match, resulting in a nil-all final score line.
Day 2 saw Melbourne Croatia face Fremantle Croatia and Canberra Croatia, where they notched up two 2 – 0 wins, landing them on seven (7) points at day’s end. On Saturday, in the final match played in the group stage, Croatia took on fellow Victorians, Dandenong Hajduk. With a semi-final spot all but assured, Tournament coach Micky Colina rested all but two senior starters. The young team did their coach and club proud by taking out the match 1 – 0, assuring MelbourneCroatia of a top of the group finish. In the semi-final, Melbourne Croatia once again kept a clean sheet, scoring two goals against their Auckland opponents and booking a spot in the final on Sunday.
Sunday’s final, held at the Sydney United Sports Centre, played on a muddy pitch and under challenging weather conditions, was a traditional Sydney/Melbourne derby. Despite the lack of senior experience in the Sydney United squad, the close match only changed in favour of the Melbournians when Micky Colina made some crucial changes early in the second half. MelbourneCroatia were eventual winners of the match and tournament with a familiar 2 – 0 score line recorded as the final whistle was blown. Two goals from Shaun Romein secured the victory and back-to-back titles for the Melbourne Croatian club.
While the Division 1 Championship marked a significant and memorable occurrence in the club’s achievements, as did the success of the Women’s team, who narrowly missed out on Sunday’s final, going down 5-4 on penalties to eventual winners, Canberra Deakin. Until the semi-final, coach Tony Kolceg and the players were undefeated in the tournament, doing both themselves and their club proud.
Finally, it was a proud moment for all associated with Melbourne Knights/Croatia at the Convention Centre in Darling Harbour on Saturday night when Miss Ivana Raspudic was selected to represent the community as Miss Croatia Australia New Zealand 2011.As a current committee member and volunteer, she was described by the judging panel as beautiful, intelligent and forward thinking. Ivana joins, and is proud to represent, the long list of women who have admirably and selflessly supported the club in their long and distinguished history.
Tournament coach Micky Colina had this to say about the 37th Annual Croatian Tournament, “It was a great weekend, that became even greater when we qualified and won the final of the Divison 1 group against Sydney Utd 2-0.
I was given the opportunity to take over the group over the last two weeks as we prepared for the tournament, as the head coach Paul Magdic was unable to make the trip for personal reasons, so I as you can imagine I was ecstatic to go to Sydney and win the tournament.
It was a absolute pleasure to lead the boys in Sydney and I was very proud and honoured to be part of the Melbourne Knights group as I think we showed professionalism, pride and genuine Croatian passion across the weekend both on and off the park and I believe we were deserved winners in the end. I took the opportunity to add some of my ideas to the team structure, also gave an opportunity to a number of up and coming youngsters and am very glad that it all paid off as we went through to tournament with 5 wins, 1 draw and not a single goal conceded, a wonderful effort by all.
I want to say thanks to all the people of Sydney who supported us and made us feel welcome and to all the organisers for the hard work in getting the tournament together.
There is also some special mentions that need to be made and they are as follows, thanks to the Melbourne Knights fans, the committee and of course the Melbourne Knights girls team who supported us throughout the weekend and showed what it means to be part of the Melbourne Knights, well done to all involved and this trophy belongs to all of us.
Now we all look forward to next year’s tournament on the Gold Coast, hopefully we can make it three in a row.”
The Melbourne Knights would like to thank Tournament hosts, Kralj Tomislav, members of the Savez, as well as all participants in this year’s matches for continuing to work towards unifying Croatian clubs across Australia and New Zealand, and for keeping our traditions alive.