On Saturday, April 16, 2023, in Istra, Croatia, through the collaboration between Deportivo Alavés, NK Istra 1961, and LALIGA, the first “Branko Bubić Football Days” tournament took place.
A multi-day event that included a training session led by coaches from Deportivo Alavés and LALIGA. These same coaches, along with a coach from NK Istra, provided methodological classes to nearly 50 local coaches. Through these sessions, Croatian players and coaches had the opportunity to delve deeper into LALIGA and understand what makes it one of the best football leagues in the world.
The event concluded with an under-12 soccer tournament in which clubs and football academies from the entire region participated. Each one shared the same objective: to enjoy the experience and emerge as champions. However, individual players had aspirations beyond merely winning the tournament. The best player would be acknowledged as the “MVP” of the competition and receive a grand prize. This prize included the unique opportunity to spend a week in Vitoria-Gasteiz at the International Academy of Deportivo Alavés and attend a match of the first team.
At the end of the tournament, the president of NK Istra 1961, Branko Devide Vincenti, awarded the MVP prize to Lukas Jurman, naming him the best player of the competition. Jurman, the young Croatian of only 11 years, would receive the opportunity that all participants coveted, to travel to Spain and live the experience of a professional player at the facilities of the Baskonia Alavés Group in Vitoria (Álava), located in the northern part of the country.
Shortly after receiving the MVP award, Lukas Jurman suffered an injury—a broken collarbone that left him in recovery for the following three months. Due to this, Deportivo Alavés postponed the player’s visit until November.
Now fully recovered, Lukas, accompanied by his father, arrived in Vitoria on November 4th, where the Glorioso awaited him with a week full of unforgettable experiences planned for the young footballer.
His stay in Vitoria began on Sunday morning with a tour of the downtown of the city that took them to the Old Town, where he could explore one of the most historic neighborhoods in the capital of the Basque Country. Later, Jurman was taken to the Mendizorrotza stadium to witness the match between Deportivo Alavés and UD Almería, a crucial encounter for the vitorian team in LALIGA.
During the match, Lukas experienced firsthand the atmosphere at Mendi, in one of the most important encounters of the season. The young Croatian celebrated alongside the Alavés fans when the Glorioso took the lead with a goal from Aleksandar Sedlar in the 79th minute, securing three valuable points against UD Almería.
After witnessing the excellent level of LALIGA EA SPORTS FC footballers on an exciting day, it was time for Lukas to continue developing his own football skills. On Monday and Tuesday, he dedicated himself to the Sports City José Luis Compañón, training with the players from the Deportivo Alavés International Academy.
The International Academy of Deportivo has as one of its objectives, to provide young people from around the world with the opportunity to come to Vitoria and develop as footballers within the club’s system. The academy is staffed by coaches and personnel from Deportivo Alavés who oversee the football progress of the young talents. As part of the program, participants in the International Academy live together in a residence, where they receive their meals, attend virtual school classes, and those who need it also take Spanish lessons. This ensures that they have all the necessary resources to grow not only as footballers but also as individuals.
Sharing training sessions both in the morning and in the afternoon, and getting to know all the facilities available to the International Academy of Deportivo Alavés, Lukas was able to truly experience what it feels like to be part of the academy.
On Wednesday, Lukas returned to José Luis Compañón Sports City, but this time to witness a Deportivo Alavés first team training session. This gave him the opportunity to analyze all the details of what professional footballers do to prepare for competition in the highest level of Spanish football. After the training session, he had the chance to meet several stars of the Glorioso, including the winger Luis Rioja, who was the top scorer for the blue-and-white team last season. Rioja took a photo with Lukas and talked to him about his first experience in the Basque capital.
In the afternoon, Lukas continued exploring the city and everything it has to offer. This time, he visited the iconic Fernando Buesa Arena, one of the most important basketball stadiums in all of Spain and home to Saski Baskonia, which has been the ACB league champion four times and currently competes in the Euroleague, the highest level of basketball in Europe. The young Croatian was given a tour of the stadium that led him to the court, where he could see the 15,716 seats and imagine what it feels like to be a player on the court in front of a sold out Buesa Arena.
After leaving the Buesa Arena, Lukas explored the facilities at Bakh, which include an ice skating rink, tennis and paddle courts, a sports complex, two pools (one outdoor and one indoor), and much more. This place is presented as an ideal environment for both families and sports enthusiasts. Observing these facilities, Lukas could appreciate the importance given to sports and physical well-being in Vitoria-Gasteiz.
Since no trip to Vitoria would be complete without taking home souvenirs from Deportivo Alavés, the next stop on their city tour was the Baskonia – Alavés store, located in the heart of downtown, next to the iconic Plaza de la Virgen Blanca. Here, Lukas had the opportunity to purchase memorabilia from both Baskonia and Deportivo Alavés to take back home before continuing to explore the rest of the city.
To conclude his visit, Lukas returned once again to the Sports City José Luis Compañón, where he was invited to watch another training session of the Deportivo Alavés first team. After a morning observing the qualities of the Vitorian team, the Croatian footballer was able to put into practice the teachings of the first team, participating in a final training session with the Deportivo Alavés International Academy before heading back home the next day.
Lukas Jurman returns to Croatia after having lived experiences that most people only get to see in their dreams. He could feel the atmosphere at Mendizorrotza when winning a crucial match, witness first-team training sessions, and meet the stars of the club. He stepped onto the court of one of Spain’s most historic basketball stadiums, the Buesa Arena, and experienced firsthand the dedication and effort that a footballer needs to undergo to become part of the Deportivo Alavés academy. Lukas now goes back to his city with memories that will stay with him for the rest of his life, and he surely returns as one more fan of the Albiazul.