Croatian Prva HNL football club HNK Rijeka has today (Friday) taken the first step towards regaining a permanent home after signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to develop a new stadium with Chinese company Top International Engineering Cooperation (TIEC).

The agreement was one of seven such MoUs for infrastructure projects signed between Croatia and China at the Summit of Central and Eastern European Countries (CEEC) & China held in the Croatian city of Dubrovnik.

HNK Rijeka has been playing at the temporary Stadion Rujevica since 2015 while it awaits redevelopment of the Stadion Kantrida (pictured), which first opened in 1913. In a statement issued today, HNK Rijeka said the City of Rijeka, as co-owner of the club and owner of the Stadion Kantrida, has been involved from the beginning in talks with Chinese partners.

It added that plans for the new Stadion Kantrida were presented to multiple potential investors, with the main interest being shown by two Chinese firms and one German-Swiss entity. The club added: “TIEC was the most congenial and we are pleased to note that the formal legal basis for building a desperately-anticipated stadium at Kantrida has been set.”

The new stadium will reportedly have a capacity of around 15,000 seats, with the site also including a hotel and shopping centre. Speaking about today’s MoUs with China, Croatia’s Minister of Economy, Darko Horvat, said, according to the Gol.hr website: “I believe that the memorandums signed today will be translated into specific contracts.

“This is about Chinese financial institutions entering Croatia for those projects that cannot receive EU money at this time. In a year, we should also sign a contract on the realisation of a project for the construction of a football stadium according to UEFA standards, a hotel, and a business centre in Rijeka, and the cooperation may extend to the construction of a marina.”

Today’s news comes amid wider stadium plans in Croatia. Last month, Croatian Football Federation (HNS) president Davor Šuker said plans are in place to develop a new stadium for the national team in Zagreb.

Šuker, a legendary figure in Croatian football, was speaking as the HNS held its general assembly meeting. The standard of stadia in the capital has proved a talking point of late and it was reported in February that the City of Zagreb is set to embark on a major renovation of its Stadion Maksimir, home of Prva HNL champion Dinamo Zagreb and the national team.

Image: Antonio199cro