Illness sweeps through Dinamo ranks

NK Dinamo Zagreb may have been leaping for joy after their dramatic late UEFA Cup comeback against NEC Nijmegen last week but they have been doing little jumping around since, with ten players laid low with a virus.

Boško Balaban made it 2-2, paving the way for Ivica Vrdoljak to seal the comeback
Boško Balaban made it 2-2, paving the way for Ivica Vrdoljak to seal the comeback ©Getty Images

Dinamo's Group D campaign looked destined for a disappointing start when they went 2-1 down at home to Dutch side NEC with 12 minutes remaining last Thursday, before goals from substitute Boško Balaban and Ivica Vrdoljak turned the tie on its head. That is a sensation many of the team have been feeling more literally since, however, as illness has swept through the squad, causing the cancellation of Sunday's Prva Liga fixture with HNK Rijeka.

It all began on Saturday when five players fell ill, and with three others ruled out through injury, coach Branko Ivanković was resigned to drafting in reinforcements from the youth ranks. Then the bug spread further, prompting drastic action. "I was talking with Dinamo and they told me that five of their players became ill on Saturday night," explained league commissioner Josip Brezni. "They decided to fill the team with juniors and travelled to Rijeka but, during the day, five more players got the bug and I had to postpone the match. There was a threat the illness could spread to opposition players, referees and others."

With a few players hospitalised and put on a drip, the virus is certainly not to be taken lightly, and while most have recovered there will still be a host of absentees on Wednesday when Dinamo meet NK Hrvatski Dragovoljac in the Croatian Cup. Ivanković, however, may be grateful the sickness did not strike two days earlier, depriving his side of the chance to beat NEC, and he will also hope to be back to full strength when Dinamo visit Tottenham Hotspur FC on 6 November.