Water polo “game of thrones”: how Jug and the Wild League made Dubrovnik famous

Water polo “game of thrones”: how Jug and the Wild League made Dubrovnik famous

Formidable walls that attract thousands of tourists every year, the elegant Stradun as an exceptionally delightful venue for having a drink and enjoying the warm Mediterranean sunshine and King’s Landing as the site of the ruthless struggle for the Iron Throne. These all come to mind when discussing some of the most recognisable symbols of Dubrovnik. But in addition to the rich cultural and historical heritage, the pearl of Croatia is also famous for its gorgeous beaches. Banje, Šunj, Sveti Jakov and Danče are just a few of the sea stunners that have been featured in countless worldwide media outlets, with the latter also being the birthplace of a global water polo titan – Jug, a club founded in 1923.

Jug
VK Jug Adriatic osiguranje/DEAN TOŠOVIĆ

In the shade of the gorgeous Gradac Park, which offers a majestic view of Fort Lovrijenac (Fort of St. Lawrence) and the Old Town, history of a trophy hoarding team that had remained undefeated at home for as much as 33 years (1924 – 1957) and which has become the most decorated sports team in Croatia today with dozens of titles to its name was being made at an improvised water polo court at sea.

Jug
VK Jug Adriatic osiguranje

Jug and water polo soon became a way of life in Dubrovnik, with numerous generations of players winning domestic and European titles, as well as medals at the Olympics, World and European Championships.

Jug
VK Jug Adriatic osiguranje/DEAN TOŠOVIĆ

Boško Lozica, Frano Vićan, Veselin Đuho, Goran and Sandro Sukno, Mile Smodlaka, Maro Joković, Ognjen Kržić, Luko Vezilić and Pavo Marković are just a few in a long line of water polo geniuses who have made water polo in Dubrovnik famous. The 2016 team will go down in club history for winning a total of five trophies (LEN Champions League, LEN Super Cup, Croatian Championship, Croatian Cup, Adriatic League) in the span of a single year.

Jug
VK Jug Adriatic osiguranje

In 1961, Jug substituted the sea for the swimming pool in Gruž, where several thousand people turn every match into a festival of water polo and sport.

Divlja liga
Željko Tutnjević

When it comes to sport, besides Jug’s phenomenal success, Dubrovnik is also famous for a unique world amateur water polo tournament known as the Wild League. The competition was established as early as 1922 and, true to its name, people of Dubrovnik go wild when it takes place in the summer. It is the water polo championship of Dubrovnik beaches and is organised in a laid-back Mediterranean manner at improvised sea courts, which are often nestled between berthed ships. Only people who were born or reside in the Dubrovnik Municipality are allowed to play, participation is free of charge and the winners don’t receive cash prizes as they play for prestige. Playing in the final, which takes place in the popular old city harbour Porto, is a great honour for every water polo player. Much like “picigin” in Split, the Wild League takes on almost religious connotations for the locals. So, it’s no wonder that the matches inspired an amusing anecdote saying that the people of Dubrovnik learn how to swim before learning how to walk…