Coach Writing...

Sashka & Croatian tennis: no discrimination… but the main problem is still on table

27.01.2017
Sashka loves Croatia!

I must admit that I was wrong blaming Croatian tennis federation of a kind of discrimination in my previous post. We discussed the National Team incusion issue with National Team coach, and I am more than satisfied with what I’ve heard.

As for a free court support, it was just a technical problem – people suggested that Sashka does not need this form of assistance as she rarely practice in Zagreb. From now, as an acting U16 champion of Croatia, she can use this benefit too.

Meanwhile, the biggest & most important problem of Sashka’s tennis being is still not solved: A CITIZENSHIP. Sashka is formally a stateless person. Furthermore, her refugee status will expire in December 2017, so 6 months before, in June 2017, virtually any country can reject her passport as a document for entrance, as its expiration date is too close!

I am really afraid of this scenario… If it becomes a reality, we will de-facto become prisoners inside the country. Croatia is NOT a member of Schengen zone, so there is a border control on all state borders. If Sashka loses her opportunity to travel to international tennis tournaments, what pro career are we talking about?

We love Croatia – really. We live here for almost six years. We love this sea, mountains, forests… and cevapcici :).We went through good and bad times here – and all the time found nice people & friendly support (sometimes from unexpected sources).

Yes, this is probably not an ideal place to grow a junior tennis player… but the whole world is also not such a good direction for human living :).

Sashka is happy to be a part of Croatian tennis. That was a big proud for her to enter National Team U12 to play European Summer Cup matches in 2013. BTW, on that tournament Sashka and her teammate Iva Zelic played doubles match vs. Iga Swiatek & Maja Chwalinska, who will play junior doubles final on Australian Open 2017 soon!

We must accept that reality we live in (and are not able to change :). Croatian tennis federation is not as rich & powerful as their German, American of Australian colleagues. But people in the federation are friendly & supportive all the time when we talk about non-material things (e.g. when we need an urgent hospitality request letter/confirmation for tournaments etc.).

Unfortunately, there is one issue Croatian tennis federation can not solve alone – it is CITIZENSHIP for Sashka. It is a matter of state authorities, not tennis ones – and Sashka’s case is completely lost somewhere in the ocean of bureaucratic institutions and procedures.

People who have a regular citizenship can not even imagine what means NOT to have it. Citizenship is a part of you, as your hand or foot. You can lost your passport or ID, but after completing several procedures you can re-issue it. People use a lot of “real citizens” benefits, from travelling to pensions, from medical insuranse to unemployment compensations, even not knowing how hard life can be WITHOUT those common things…

Meanwhile, our “refugee clock” is running faster & faster :). In fact, we have just 4 (four!) more months to decide SOMETHING (actually, almost ANYTHING) on Sashka’s tennis nationality issue. After that date, things will become more & more complicated every single day. Even if we find some financing to cover practicing & travelling costs, it does not matter if we can’t cross any border because of documentary reasons!

So I want our Croatian friends & colleagues to hear the following – from us, the first source, directly:

It is a big honour to play under Croatian flag. Sashka would be really happy to keep doing this, individually and as a potential member of National Team. But the local bureaucratic machine can make this impossible – as soon as in 4-5 months.

Sashka does looking for new citizenship opportunities & continuously open for all offers – but the only reason for it is she can’t get a citizenship from Croatia for years, even being National Team member and (several times, in singles & doubles, in different age groups) Junior Champion of Croatia!

P.S. Meanwhile, Sashka keeps playing junior events. At least 8 tournaments are already scheduled for February-May 2017 period, both locally & abroad. I will write more about her tournament plans soon.

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