No Croatia Return For Popovic, Planinic

27 May 2013

6. Marko Popovic (Croatia)
Marko Popovic: "It will be very hard for me to watch the games on TV but unfortunately that's how it's going to be"

Veteran Croatian guards Marko Popovic and Zoran Planinic announced on Sunday that they will not make a return to the national team at EuroBasket 2013.

The two players explained publicly the reasons for their decision to their team-mates, the coaching staff and the fans in separate statements published on the official Croatian Basketball Federation (HKS) website.

"I will unfortunately not be able to join the team solely for personal reasons, in particular because of health problems that I have had over the past three months," Popovic said in his statement.

"I have mainly practised or played in games over the last three months on injections for the pain and the big question is how I will see this season through.

"I cannot be a member of the team in this way, looking for a special status; it would be unfair of me to all the other players."

Coach Jasmin Repesa, who confirmed last week that he would stay at the helm of Croatia after parting ways with Spanish club Unicaja Malaga, had stated that he expected all players to report for national duty this summer.

"To me it is irrelevant who is the coach, whether it was [Neven] Spahija, [Drazen] Anzulovic or Repesa it does not matter, I have never played for the coach, but for the national team," Popovic clarified.

The sharp-shooting guard, who turns 31 in June, was Croatia's third-leading scorer at EuroBasket 2011, his last tournament with the national team.

He participated in five consecutive EuroBaskets since making his debut as a senior international in the 2003 edition of the elite competition, in Sweden.

"With regards to the EuroBasket [2013], I think that if every player who can responds to Repesa's call, the team can achieve a good result," Popovic added.

"They should play in all games with confidence, make a good preparation, which I am sure they will under Repesa, and I wish them the best of luck.

"It will be very hard for me to watch the games on TV but unfortunately that's how it's going to be."

Planinic turns 31 in September and also made his first appearance with the senior national team at EuroBasket 2003, however he last suited up for Croatia at the 2010 World Championship and his return after three years was deemed to be unlikely.

"By making this statement, I wish to eliminate all the speculation [benevolent and malevolent] about my lack of participation with the Croatian national team at the EuroBasket in Slovenia," the charismatic 2.00m tall point guard wrote.

"I emphasize that it is not influenced by my personal relationship to anything or anyone, but only dictated by the physical condition of the body.

Zoran Planinic (Croatia)
Zoran Planinic stated that he is physically not ready for the upcoming EuroBasket

"I know my body and without a holiday I would not withstand the efforts required during preparations for the EuroBasket.

"If I'm not 100% fit I can not give as much, and for that reason it is better if healthier and more ready players take part."

Planinic however, just like Popovic, stopped short of announcing a definite retirement from international duty.

"Playing for the national team was and still is an honour that can not be compared with anything," he added.

"I wish much success to my former team-mates and address a big apology to the fans."

Croatia were drawn in First Round Group C at the EuroBasket and will do battle for a top-three finish with reigning champions Spain, hosts Slovenia, Poland, Georgia and the Czech Republic.


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