Every true nature lover in Croatia has probably heard of the Blue Lake (Modro/ Plavo jezero) in Imotski, a genuine natural monument. The Lake is admired for its unusual beauty and locals often call it their living room. Respectively, who ever fails to admire its crystal blue water at least once a day, feels as if s/he had missed something that day. Terracon News’ readers had already had the oportunity to meet with the lake’s birds, bold jumpers from steef cliffs, and those who ever visit it, always come back for more.
We will tell you another interesting story about this Beauty. It is a tale of a football game between the Elves and Werewolfs, mythic supernatural creatures from the Blue Lake which takes place when the lake dries out. Up to now, six games have played on its bottom. The first one dates back in 1943 when the lake dried out after the heavy earthquake in the midst of fall.
But, let us just say a few words about this phenomenon and the origin of the names of football teams. One team is called Elves (Vilenjaci) and the other Werewolfs (Vukodlaci). The first team consists of players from the very heart of Imotski, from the west-side-houses, whereas Werewolfs come from the eastern side of the lake.
The Blue Lake has numerous caves which are the result of natural processes that occur when underground water passes through rocks. Some famous caves emerged this way, like the Pigeon’s Cave (Golubarska – once a habitat of wild pigeons), Boško’s Cave (Boškova – after some local named Boško), The Canon (Top) and the Fairy’s Cave (Vilinska pećina) being the most famous of all. It is found at the western cliffs of the lake, 15 meters long. Many legends were told about this cave. According to one of them, Vilinska pećina got its name after fairies, beautiful young girls of golden hair and blue eyes who would take away good-looking young men from Imotski during moonless nights. They would spent whole nights with them singing and dancing, drinking red wine and afterwards return the men back to their homes. Fairies are actually supernatural creatures, a symbol of beauty, joyfulness and goodness. On the other hand, werewolfs are ugly, hairy mythic creatures, the one people ran away from and children are scared of, in two words, they are the bad guys.
And since Elves and Werewolfs from Imotski are destined enemies, everyone looks forward eagerly for the lake to dry out so they could compete in football, the most important secondary thing in Imotski. Surely, organization of the game which includes field marking and setting crossbars, is by itself an event to be retold in days to come in Imotski. It’s an honourable act to be a member of one of the teams since whoever plays in either of these two teams even just for a minute, enters the history.
However, up to now six games have been played and all of them ended in a tie. In Imotski people usually say after the game: If it can’t be any other way, let it least finish fair and square.
Preparations for this spectacle last for days. Special team comes to the lake’s bottom a day before the game, takes measures and marks the playground even though the playground’s size is familiar, it is about 75×45 meters. Team consists of nine players plus one. Penalty area is marked in the shape of the letter V (Vilenjaci and Vukodlaci) instead of a square. Penalty kick is executed from the very point of the penalty area. Goal posts are made of wood and decorated with dried lake grass. The game is preceded by local music fanfare and the judge must be from the house of the exact distance between the houses of Elves and Werewolfs. There are no red or yellow cards since even if some player is fouled, unwritten rules say, he can hurt himself because he falls on a soft and dried lake sludge. Prior to the game’s start, Werewolfs thunderously rush down from the eastern banks of the lake where lies a large dune of sand and small rocks. They traditionally wear red jersey. Elves arrive more peacefully passing through serpentine roads built in the early 1900. They wear white jersey. The teams meet in the center of the playground and exchange gifts. Werewolfs bring homemade doughnuts, bread made under a baking lid, one to two demijohns of domestic wine. On the other side, Elves bring emperor’s cake of Imotski, rafioli and domestic cherry liqueur. Before the game, team captains briefly salute with wine and cherry liqueur. Then comes the photographing. The whole army of those with cameras takes pictures of the teams, but even they are being photographed with teams, since this event may happen once in a lifetime. Finally, the game starts accompanied with loud cheering of the numerous crowd. Tall cliffs echo with their cheering so it seems as if there are thousands. In Imotski people often say how they have the largest stadion in the world. The game has two half-times which last for 40 minutes, and if the players get tired, since it is hard to play on the soft field, it can last even shorter. Evenmore, if the field has’t been dried completely, players will fall into the mud up to their anckles. The break between the halftimes lasts about twenty minutes when the gifts received before the game are consumated. Each team in their own faction, but drinking wine together in the centre of the field. If one teams leads and the end of the game approaches, the judge seeks the first opportunity to award penalty kick for the losers in order to even the score. If by any case player misses the penalty kick, he keeps on executing the shoot until he scores. And then, the game is over.
Rules are rules, locals say in Imotski, and one needs to stick by them. After the game, every team along with their fans, returns back to their homes on their side of the lake. The most beautiful of all is that they all meet together at a dinner just to retell events from the game.
Specially interesting programmes at the bottom of the lake took place at the fourth and fifth meeting in 1976 and 1986. People were dancing silent circle dance typical for Imotski accompanied by local folk musicians and Town musicians, and since it was a carneval time, many other people also came, wearing masks and having fun. Surely, it was a memorable folk event.
This year the event will not take place due to high water level. But who knows, maybe next year. Therefore, dear readers of Terracon News, make sure you have updated information on the water-level; we will also report you about the upcoming seventh game. Come in Imotski, come down to the Blue Lake’s bottom and enter the history. Who knows if there would be another chance.
Tekst i foto: Braco Ćosić