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Croatian footballers Mandzukic, Olic and Kovac visit flood victims

Mario Mandzukic with soldiers involved in the rescue efforts in Croatia

Zagreb, May 22 (IANS) Croatian national coach Niko Kovac and several football players have taken the lead in bringing succour to the people suffering from floods, the worst in the country's history, that hit Slavonija, the eastern part of Croatia, and two neighbouring countries, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

After seeing houses covered with mud and water and meeting people who were forced to leave their homes Wednesday, Niko Kovac, his brother and assistant Robert and Croatian striker Ivica Olic, who has a family in Slavonija, were all visibly distressed, reports Xinhua.

"I've seen pictures and videos but you can't see the real effect of this catastrophe on television and websites. It's hard to see whole towns and villages in ruins but what encourages me is the unity and enthusiasm to help that Croatian people show in such a difficult situations," Niko Kovac told reporters.

The heavy rainfall, which began last week, was the highest ever recorded in the Balkans. Excess water led to rivers breaking their banks and landslides that left 49 people dead and half a million people displaced.

The number of people killed included 27 in Serbia, 20 in Bosnia and two in Croatia.

The whole of Croatia is already helping those in need by collecting money and supplies mainly through Croatian Red Cross -- and sports icons are doing the same.

Bayern Munich striker Mario Mandzukic was the first to bring help to a place where he spent his childhood and others followed.

"These people are always cheering for us when we are playing. They are always there for us. Now is the time for us to be there for them," Mandzukic said while visiting town Gunja that was completely flooded and bringing more than six tonnes of supplies for those who were fighting with the water.

"If we will fight on the football field in Brazil like you are fighting, then we will do good," Niko Kovac said to people in a help centre in Cerna.

Croatian footballers agreed to donate one million kunas ($170,000) to the flood victims from their prize money and the Croatian Football Federation will donate all proceeds from a friendly match against Mali May 31 that will be played in Osijek, the largest city in Slavonija region.

Half of the proceeds from that match will be directed to the most devastated town Gunja and the other half will be channelled through the Croatian Red Cross.

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