Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 24 November 2020

'Football is not important right now': Krunoslav Jurcic on family fears as Zagreb grapples with twin threats

Al Nasr manager concerned for his family's well-being and thanks UAE's aid donation to Croatia following earthquake and coronavirus outbreak

For Krunoslav Jurcic, coping with the impact of the coronavirus in Dubai has been superseded by concerns back home.

Last week, the city that houses the Al Nasr manager’s family home, Zagreb, was rocked by a 5.3-magnitude earthquake - reportedly its strongest in 140 years - presenting yet another problem for Croatia’s capital to tackle amid the ongoing pandemic. With the city already on partial lockdown, the earthquake caused widespread damage.

Jurcic’s wife and two children are there, confined to their home because of the measures taken by the government as Croatia too tackles the coronavirus. The travel restrictions have prevented them from joining Jurcic in the UAE.

Understandably, it has been a particularly trying time for both Jurcic and those - figuratively at present - closest to him. To help assuage their worries, the former Croatia midfielder speaks to his family each day, via video call.

“The problem was that it was the biggest earthquake and then in the four or five days afterwards there were many, many [tremors],” Jurcic said. “And psychologically this is very difficult. My children say they are scared; they don’t want to go into their room to sleep.

“And the second problem is, in my city, its centre was built 100-150 years ago. So the structure isn't strong and these very nice buildings have fallen. So now, the people who live and work in these buildings, it’s not been safe for them to go back to their houses. And they're waiting for another big earthquake to come.

“However, we are a people who are adapted for this sort of bad situation. I believe we will get out of this very fast, and in the best way.”

Thankfully, Jurcic’s home, which sits outside the city’s centre, has been unaffected. Still, not having his family with him has been tough. His son and daughter attend school in Zagreb and thus have not moved permanently to Dubai, where Jurcic has been since October, when he traded Arabian Gulf League side Baniyas for counterparts Nasr.

“It’s a difficult situation because normally everyone wants to be with your family,” the Croat said. “Of course, I want to help my family. This is the problem now. But OK, everything will eventually be good.”

Not surprisingly, Jurcic’s thoughts are for now focused on family, and not the UAE top flight. The league was postponed with immediate effect on March 15; with seven rounds to complete, no date for resumption has been decided. Dependent on the outbreak, the season might be cancelled altogether.

At it stands, Nasr lie sixth, six points off Al Ain in second.

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Al Wahda striker Sebastian Tagliabue stays sharp at home

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“Normally I want to come back to make my job, but I respect priority in life, and right now the priority is for all the people in the world to be healthy," Jurcic said. "At the moment the fight against this virus is in first place - everything else will come after. This is not important. Football is not important right now.

“Look, football has been important in my life, but this is one incredible situation, that happens hopefully one time in the life. We will speak about football in the future. We will have time for football.”

Jurcic also praised the UAE government not only for provisions put in place in the country to combat the coronavirus, but for the aid sent to Croatia last week to support those affected by Covid-19 and the earthquake.

"It was very nice for my country to have these medical supplies,” Jurcic said. “We are one small country and all the help is very, very important for us. Not only for the material health, but how they impacted the human side also in my country. I say thank you; thank you very much.”

Urging the UAE community to follow advice and stay at home, he added: “We have to be disciplined, we have to respect all the instruction of the government. This is the only way we can win this battle against the virus.

"And I hope - I hope - we will come back to normal life very soon.”

Updated: April 8, 2020 07:40 PM

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