There is enormous scope for strengthening bilateral co-operation between Croatia and Qatar in many areas of sport, said Zlatko Matesa, a former prime minister of the Balkan country and president of their Olympic Committee for 14 years.
“Our sportspersons have made a very good impact in Qatar in recent years, with at least three football coaches serving the Qatar Stars League and many handball players as well as coaches working at different
levels,” he said yesterday.
In Qatar for the ongoing general assembly of the Association of National Olympic Committees, Matesa recalled that Croatian players played a major role for Qatar in the last World Handball Championship held in Doha.
Croatian Otto Barich, one of the best known coaches in handball on the global level is currently serving Qatar. “Our engineers and other skilled professionals played a big role in facilitating the speedy construction of an exclusive handball complex near Lekhwiya Stadium in Duhail,” he said adding that a number of local institutions, clubs and schools are showing interest in bringing coaches and physios from his country.
“Three or four schools in Qatar have Croatian chess trainers,” said Matesa, one of the widely known sport organisers of Europe. Croatia’s visibility in the sport circles has shot up considerably, according to him. Croatia did well at the recent Rio Olympics bagging a total of 10 medals, including five golds, to finish 17th overall in the final standings.
“If we were to take the medal performance of every country at Rio, the Croatians were third after Jamaica and Trinidad,” he said while pointing out that in a short history of 24 years since the country made its Olympic debut at Barcelona (1992), Croatia has won more than 35 medals.
The former Croatian prime minister also had a word of praise for his compatriot engineers serving a number of
major projects in Qatar.
Matesa recalled that it was during his tenure as the premier that Qatari leaders made their first official visits to his country. “When I was PM between 1995 and 2000, Qatar’s former prime minister and foreign minister HE Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al-Thani visited Zagreb (1996) and I was here on a visit in 1998,” he said while recalling that Qatar has been a happy destination for many Croatian leaders over the years. “For instance, Andrej Plenkovic, who led a team of EU parliamentarians to Qatar earlier this year is now Croatia’s prime minister. Similarly, it was in Doha that Croatia opened its first embassy of the Gulf region in 2011.”
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