Irymple Knights have returned to the Zagreb Croatian Community and Sporting Club centre in Irymple, their historical home base. Current club striker Chris Romeo, LEFT, models the club’s 2020 playing kit, which harks back to the historical vertical stripes, as worn by club stalwart Tony Romeo. Photo: PAUL MENSCH

By MITCH RODD

THE 2020 S-League season marks a happy homecoming for Irymple Knights.

For the first time in over a decade, Knights will return to their traditional home base after taking over the lease of the Zagreb Croatian Community and Sporting Club facility.

Initially known as Zagreb Soccer Club following its foundation by Frank Radman in 1978, the green and whites have gone on to become one of the most successful clubs in Football Federation Sunraysia (FFS) history across men’s, women’s and junior competitions.

The return to their roots will also be visible on Irymple’s 2020 playing kits, trading the green top with a white yolk for the more traditional vertical stripes. The logo of the original Zagreb Soccer Club can also be found on the back of the jerseys.

The historical aspect of the Zagreb club and its importance to the Irymple community is plain to see. Some bricks of the building have the names of the soccer club’s founding members inscribed on its exterior.

While declining to detail the reasons behind their absence from the old club rooms from 2008 to 2019, Knights members are ecstatic to be back at their old stomping ground, adjacent to Henshilwood Oval and the Irymple Bowls Club. The club still utilised the pitches at the reserve, although they would use a separate building as their base.

Irymple Knights president, Dominic Primarano, said one of his main aims when taking on the role was to return the club to the Zagreb building.

“I was fortunate enough to get a phone call from the Croatian Club saying we were welcome to take over the lease of the building,” he said.

“Everyone is really keen, and while we’ll be back at home it’s almost like a new beginning.

“It’s a great chance for us to keep the history of the place alive. We’ve been pretty fortunate as a club to have some success, we’ve built a great culture and have a good cohort of players too.”

In previous decades across Australia, football and soccer clubs were often formed, and played for, by people of specific ethnicities or backgrounds. It would take many years for some barriers to break down and for clubs to become multicultural entities.

Knights club stalwart, Tony Romeo, however, said Zagreb was different.

“Back in the day teams were quite separated – Italians played with the Italians, the Turkish played with other Turkish, and so on. The Zagreb Club, however, was always a multicultural club,” he said.

Knights Senior Men’s team striker, Chris Romeo, said players and members are rapt with the result, as well as the homage paid to the club’s history with the new uniforms.

“When we found out that we were coming back out here we tried to go down that road with how the new uniforms looked,” he said.

“We’re pretty lucky that we have really good sponsors who have pitched in to help out where they can.

“It’s a really community-minded club and we’ve tried to keep everything as local as possible.

“Just to be back here and have that sense of history behind the facility, and the club, is awesome. Hopefully we’ll have more games here.”

Mr Primarano said that one round per S-League is currently played at Irymple, but said he would discuss the possibility of hosting further matches.