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article imageHvar's Ronaldo? Portuguese enters Croatian island league

By Paul Bradbury     Nov 12, 2012 in Travel
Hvar - The tourist season may be over on Croatia's premier island, but the foreign visitors continue, this time on the football pitch.
It may lack the style of Real Madrid's Bernabau and be missing the sublime skills of Portuguese superstar Ronaldo, but the small waterfront pitch in Hvar Town was home to the start of another Portuguese football milestone this week, as the highly competitive Hvar Football League, or Forska Liga, welcomed its first foreign player, as 2011 champions Levanda defeated league leaders Jadran 2-0, league organiser Gordan Dragicevic announced in an interview on Free For Radio on November 12, 2012.
Initial details of the new arrival are a little sketchy, but Dragicevic confirmed that Carlos is of Portuguese origin but was born in South Africa. He works as a tourist bus driver, which is presumably what brought him to the island in the first place.
While Ronaldo himself is unlikely to find himself turning out in the Hvar league, he would feel more than at home on holiday on the tourist island, which this year welcomed celebrity visitors such as Tom Cruise, Eric Clapton and Michael Schumacher.
In footballing terms, however, the two fellow nationals are oceans apart. Apart from the obvious commercial aspects, this is perhaps best demonstrated by the fact that most of this weekend's fixtures were pushed back to Sunday to allow players to work in their fields for the all-important olive harvest.
While the arrival of Carlos is interesting, it does also highlight an important cultural side of the tourist island - the importance of sport on Hvar. With a population of just 10,500, the island has 11 teams which compete in the Forska Liga; there are not many places in the world with such a high ratio of teams per population.
The Hvar league is an important part of winter life on the island, as was documented by Hvar TV, who produced an excellent documentary following 2011 champions Levanda from Velo Grablje (the team Carlos plays for) called Lavender smells from the top (see the trailer below).
As well as its competitive league, Hvar has a long football tradition, and 2013 will see 100 years since the formation of the first island team in Stari Grad, just two years after Croatia's oldest team, Hajduk Split, and a full six years before Leeds United. It remains to be seen if the 2013 season will see Portuguese glory on Hvar.
More about hvar, Croatia, hvar football, forska liga
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