Divlja liga or “The Wild League” is an informal water polo league in Dubrovnik, played during the summer season among teams representing different Dubrovnik beaches.
Water polo has long tradition both in Dubrovnik and throughout Croatia; the national team currently holds the title of Olympic gold medallists, and have held several World Championship titles over the last 20 years.
Sport aside, Dubrovnik’s “wild” league is primarily a unique spectacle of competitive spirit, diligent teamwork, and an entertaining and adventurous approach to sports. It is played for fun, or at least half-seriously, and the main goal is for everyone to have a good time.
To illustrate it:
- It is no surprise if one of the teams doesn’t show up if they feel that the sea temperature is too cold or if someone can't get a day off at work.
- It is not unheard of for the referee to be thrown into the sea because someone in the audience feels that his decision is not fair.
And for the most part, the real competition happens outside the water - whose fans are going to dominate; be louder, funnier, numerous and altogether more noticeable.
One of the players from last year’s winning team explains:
Wild league has been an essential part of Dubrovnik summer tradition since 1949. It is more than a hobby, more than a pastime, more than a sport. For me, it is the rituals each team has. It is the boat “caravan” of fans that follows us to the games and the celebration that begins before the game and lasts long after it is over.
It is the atmosphere, the comradery, the friendships, the feeling of belonging … It is something we grew up with and something I’m gladly passing on to my kids.
A trophy displayed in the team’s official cafe bar and a year of bragging rights are the grand prize of the league.
TIP: If you are in Dubrovnik in August, do not miss the finals, traditionally held in the Old Town port, with fans supporting their favourite players from every side – the auditorium, floating boats, city walls, etc.
... And if you are a bit more adventurous:
In addition to normal water polo rules, it is a rule that only amateurs may play in the league, so even you can try to join if you manage to find one of the league's "officials".