Popular and Traditional Sports Played in Croatia

May 24, 2024

Sport brings people together, but also contributes to the health of the individual. This is one of the reasons why it is an important aspect of Croatian culture. Croatia is very active in some popular widely known sports, but also has multiple interesting traditional sports.


Talking about popular sports, football is by far the favorite sport in Croatia. There are a lot of citizens with heart and passion for this sport. The importance of the sport is also noticeable in person. Walking around cities like Split, you can see a lot of football fields with kids playing football and paintings of football clubs on the walls.

The most successful Croatian football player in history is Luka Modrić, who won a Ballon d’Or in 2018 (annual football price to honor the best season performance). The most popular clubs in Croatia are Dinamo Zagreb and Hajduk Split, and the Croatian national team is one of the most successful in Central-Eastern Europe. They consistently qualify for international tournaments since their first appearance in 1996.


The second popular sport in Croatia is Basketball. The sport emphasizes teamwork, skill, and athleticism, all of which resonate with the Croatian spirit. Even though Croatia is quite a small country, they export a lot of popular players, like, Tony Kukoč, Dino Rađa and the late Dražen Petrović.


The third most popular sport in Croatia is handball. The national team has been competing since 1991 and won the 2003 world championships. They have been actively competing since. Two of the most important Croatian handball players are Ivano Balić and Domagoj Duvnjak, who both won the Handball Player of the World award.


Apart from the overall popular sports, there are also some traditional sports that are part of the Croatian culture. Picigin is one of them. This type of sport is specific to Split. The game was created after WWI and became a favorite in Split around 1923. To describe it simply, it is like a version of water volleyball without a net or point system.

Although there are no strict rules on the number of players, having five players and a small ball (or balun) is the best way to play the game. The players stand ankle length in the water. The ball is usually a worn-out tennis ball, and the goal is to keep it from falling into the sea for as long as possible. Both hands are used, preferably with open palms, and the goal is to keep the balun dry.


Pljočke is another example of a traditional sport. It is the oldest known traditional sport, with archaeological artifacts dating back more than 5,000 years. It is played along the Mediterranean coast in the Republic of Croatia.

It is a precision throwing sport that requires skill, technique, and strategy. Players are divided between two opposite teams and play with a set of "pljočke" in a rectangular playing field bounded by a rope. Players try to win the greatest number of points expected to win. Each team wins one point for each pljočka closer to the Bulin than the opposing team's closest; points are counted after all pljočka have been played and are played until 13 points are won. The game has been maintained to this day.

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