Dinamo resume training as Croatia eases lockdown

FILE PHOTO: Champions League - Group C - GNK Dinamo Zagreb v Manchester City

ZAGREB (Reuters) - Croatian champions Dinamo Zagreb returned to training on Monday as the Balkan nation's government started a phased easing of new coronavirus lockdown measures, manager Igor Jovicevic said.

Croatia had been on a tight lockdown since mid-March with only food stores, pharmacies and petrol stations open but some 3,000 professional athletes were allowed to resume training on Monday as most shops also reopened for business.

"Organising the training sessions is a bit complex at the moment as there are exercises where players are meant to stand close to each other but we have to adapt," Jovicevic told the club's website http://www.gnkdinamo.hr.

"We are practising in groups of five to abide by the social distancing measures, meaning that players have to be far enough apart from each other at all times.

"I'll be honest - all those exercises they did indoors during the lockdown have nothing to do with football and we need to get them back to full fitness gradually," said the 46-year old coach, who took over from Nenad Bjelica last week.

Dinamo, who have won 13 of the last 14 league titles, are top of the first division on 65 points from 26 games, 18 more than closest rivals Rijeka who briefly broke their domination in 2017. There are 10 rounds of the season remaining.

The 10-team top-flight is provisionally set to resume on May 30 but Jovicevic, who was appointed after Bjelica refused to take a pay cut during the COVID-19 pandemic, was sceptical. [nL5N2CA3O4]

"We have to be socially sensitive," he said. "We are all raring to go but the fact is the problem is still there. We have to be aware that health comes first and we will abide by the government's instructions."

Croatia has so far registered 2,039 confirmed cases and 59 deaths related to the virus.

(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Ken Ferris)