'Warka' is a Croatian word for illusion or trick, but for Slaven Bilić's team Warka is quite real. Over the next few weeks, the small Polish town of the same name will host Croatia's football squad, providing the backdrop as they go about their preparations for the three big tests that await in Group C.
For all those heading over here to see the team, I must relay the good news right away: Warka is the home of an eponymous beer which just happens to be one of the best and most famous in Poland. Bilić will be ensuring his men will not be touching the stuff, of course; at least not unless they have something to celebrate on 1 July.
The town of Warka is peaceful with around 12,000 inhabitants who are not used to the big crowds and the excitement of a major football tournament and that is precisely why the presence of the Croatia squad is such a special occasion for the locals.
An hour south of Warsaw, it is a small oasis of calm a long way from the traffic jams of the capital. When the Croatian contingent get here, the peace will be shattered, with fans determined to have a good time yet Warka is fully looking forward the party getting under way with welcome signs all around the town for Bilić’s team and their fans.
"Chorwacja, yes?" people were asking us on every corner. There were smiles and offers of help when I replied I was Croatian, although they seemed a little disappointed when they noticed I was not Luka Modrić and my UEFA.com crew were not Darijo Srna or Vedran Ćorluka.
They need not worry – these famous faces will arrive tomorrow. "I hope the players will take a walk through the city. I really want to see them," said a waitress in a café on the main square. "And the coach, what is his name ... yes, Bilić. Oh, he is very handsome!" she added with a smile.
Warka is all set to became a Croatian town in all but geography, and if you are still in doubt whether to come or not, think about the football, good company and great atmosphere all in one idyllic city. And the famous Warka beer, of course. Cheers!
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