FIL Director of Development, Tom Hayes, was enthusiastic about Croatia's membership, saying, "The FIL welcomes the Croatia Lacrosse Association as its 53rd member. The addition of Croatia brings the number of lacrosse playing nations in the Balkans to five. We look forward to including Croatia in future FIL championship events."
Two sports enthusiasts, Matej Bodul and Ante Pilić, started Croatia Lacrosse in 2011. A core group of players and supporters developed club teams in Zagreb, New Zagreb, and Varazdin. With the help of key individuals in its native country, the U.S., and eventually FIL, the Croatian Lacrosse Association (CLA) was formed. The Serbian and Slovenian Lacrosse Federations also played significant roles in helping the lacrosse program grow in Croatia.
Chris Voelker, the CLA's Director of Development, is thrilled with Croatia's membership acceptance and commented "Croatia's membership in FIL will serve as a portal to connect the CLA with people of Croatian heritage who have a love for the game."
Chris continued, "With FIL membership, the CLA's newly elevated profile may motivate others to bring donated equipment or to run clinics in this amazingly beautiful and friendly country."
The Croatian men's national team recently played in the Celtics Cup Tournament in Klagenfurt, Austria against teams from Slovenia, Serbia, and Austria. The team will also be participating in the Newcomers' Tournament during the European Lacrosse Championship (EC16) in Budapest, Hungary in July 2016 and is looking forward to representing Croatia in it's first major international lacrosse tournament.
This past fall, Dino Mattessich joined the CLA as Head Coach of its men’s national team. Mattessich was a former NCAA champion player and head coach at the University of Maryland and is the current Deputy Director of Athletics at Hofstra University. A Croatian-American, Mattessich had this to say, “I am very fortunate and extremely excited to be developing lacrosse in my native country. Like so many who have been profoundly influenced and enriched by their experience with the game, I am humbled and honored by this calling to develop a national program that will afford educational, cultural and life learning opportunities to all who participate. The challenge is great, but those who commit to this effort will look back on this journey with very fond memories."
According to CLA founder and President Matej Bodul, "the Croatian Lacrosse Association is working hard to expand the men's program into new cities and to establish a youth and women's program. These programs are essential to further developing lacrosse in Croatia and for developing future Croatian lacrosse players that will represent their home country on an international level." Bodul concluded, "The organization is very excited to have the support of the Federation of International Lacrosse. FIL membership is a major step forward for the program".