Adelaide Croatia Raiders kicked off its 60th Anniversary celebrations on Australia Day weekend with an exhibition match against the Melbourne Knights on the Saturday afternoon and a picnic and match against Croydon Kings on the Sunday.
Adelaide Croatia was admitted into the South Australian Soccer Federation in 1952, and was formed by Fahrudin Ceric, Cvjetko Milanovic and Drago Pispek among others, who hoped to promote the Croatian name through football, a sport they loved. Branko Filipi, a local Adelaide businessman at the time also joined Adelaide Croatia and holds the record of the longest serving club president. Mr. Filipi, a builder, later moved to Melbourne and became involved with Croatia Melbourne, his service to the club was recognised in the late 1990’s when he was named Honorary Life Chairman of the Melbourne Croatia Soccer Club. Mr. Filipi passed away in Zagreb in 2010 and was buried in the main cemetery, Mirogoj.
The link between the two clubs has not been lost to a new generation.
Ivi Jurkovic, a former Adelaide Raiders captain and president tragically passed away last year at a young age.
Ivica (Ivi) Jurkovic began his footballing career in the U10 team at Adelaide Croatia SC going on to play for the one club his whole life.
He made his senior debut in 1988 and was part of the championship and Federation Cup winning team that year.
He finished on a similar note in his final season in 1997, when the team went through the season unbeaten to take out the championship.
Ivi played 176 senior games for Adelaide Croatia and scored 29 goals, a majority of which he led the club as a fierce and competitive captain.
His loyalty to the club was clear as he knocked back offers to play in the NSL with many clubs that were after his services.
The match was also a testimonial of sorts, as Ivi was a long time Knights supporter and his loss has left a massive gap in the Adelaide football community, not to mention the Croatian community.
Over 450 people came through the gates at the Croatian Sports Centre Adelaide in Gepps Cross, arguably the finest example of a footballing complex in the country. The Centre boasts a main ground complete with grandstand, clubrooms and a banquet hall upstairs. There is also a second clubroom between the first and second pitch, with a further two natural turf grounds behind that, kept in pristine condition.
The match was a closely fought contest in which neither team had a real shout for ascendancy. The Knights hit the post twice, courtesy of Marijan Cvitkovic and Yusuf Yusuf in the dyeing minutes, while Adelaide had a few half chances saved by stand-in keeper Matt Hrastov.
The Raiders did well to hold the Knights, their pressure and possession game proved to stifle the Knights free-flowing nature and the game ended in a 0-0 draw.
Adelaide did well on the pitch, but also off the pitch with a true club atmosphere after the game. The punters kicked on in the club with great food, music and a nice beer garden style terrace overlooking the ground proving a great social lubricant for two clubs connected by history, strengthened in friendship.
Happy 60th Birthday Adelaide Croatia!