Perica Bukić one of the most laureate water polo players of all time is equally successful in his second career.

With his playing, results, appearance and behaviour, Perica Bukić left an indelible mark on world water polo. In his career he has won 40 medals. His awards are:

With national team: Olympic gold in Los Angeles in 1984 and in Seoul in 1988 and silver in Atlanta in 1996; gold at the 1986 World Cup in Madrid and Perth in 1991; gold at the World Cup in Thessaloniki 1987 and Berlin in 1989, silver in Barcelona in 1991; gold at the 1990 Goodwill Games in Seattle; silver at the European Championships in Sofia in 1985, Strasbourg in 1987 and Bonn in 1989; silver at the Mediterranean Games in Canet in 1991, Athens in 1993, silver at the Kobe Universiade in 1985 and bronze in Zagreb in 1987.

With clubs: European Champion: 1989, 1990 and 1996 (Youth), 1992 (Jadran); European Cup Winners’ Cup: 1999 (Mladost); LEN Cup: 2001 (Mladost); European Super Cup: 1989 and 1996 (Mladost); Mediterranean Cup: 1988 and 1991 (Mladost); Champion of Croatia: 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1999 (Mladost); Croatian Cup: 1993, 1994, 1998 and 1999 (Mladost); Champion of Yugoslavia: 1989 and 1990 (Mladost); Yugoslav Cup: 1989 (Mladost)

He played for the clubs: Solaris from Šibenik, Mladost from Zagreb and Jadran from Split. He is a two-time winner of the Franjo Bučar Croatia National Sports Award, in 1991 personally and in 1996 as a member of the national team. In 1985 he enrolled at the Faculty of Economics in Zagreb where he graduated. At that time, he was still playing in Solaris from Šibenik, so he stayed in Zagreb from Monday to Friday to study, from where he travelled to matches in Šibenik, or to the city where Solaris played, in this way he could not remain a top athlete. Departure from Šibenik was inevitable, so in 1987 he signed for Mladost.

In 1996, at the opening of the Atlanta Olympic Games, he had the honour of carrying the flag of the Republic of Croatia. In 2008 he was admitted to the International Water Sports Hall of Fame at just 42 years old. Two of Perica’s three children, son Luka and daughter Petra, are also Croatian water polo players. From 2001 to 2004, as the most laureate Croatian Olympian, he served as President of the Croatian Olympic Club. He finished his playing career in 2001, then became the director of the Mladost water polo club and held the post until 2008.

In the evening of his farewell game, he was offered to help Croatian politics with his popularity, wide circle of acquaintances and college education. He accepted that challenge a little later. In 2003, Bukić joined the Croatian Parliament and remained in office for two terms until 2011. In his first term, he stayed on close topics, participating in the creation of the Sports Law, as well as topics related to the Šibenik region. In his second term, he broadens his areas of engagement and participates in discussions on human rights, social issues, especially those affecting children and young people.

In 2004, he was elected president of the Croatian Water Polo Federation and held the post until 2010. Until 2011, he performed his duties in the Federation on a volunteer basis, and after completing his term in Parliament, he was hired as a professional in the position of Executive Director of the Croatian Water Polo Federation.

When we add to the trophies he won during his playing career those he won as an official, we get the total of 63. At the time of his arrival in the federation, the situation was not at all easy. The results were generally poor and there were few sponsors. Much has changed in the 15 years of his tenure.

Since 2007, World Cup medals, Croatia has entered its golden decade that still continues. From 2007 to 2019, the national team won 23 medals, two of which were Olympic (gold 2012 in London and silver in Rio 2016), and as many as 7 medals won in the World Championships, two of which were World Champions (Melbourne 2007 and Budapest 2017)

Perica Bukić has achieved many goals in sports and social life so far, but what should be admired is that he continues to set new ones.

An interview with Perica Bukić

How did you decide to study at the Faculty of Economics?

Water polo is known as an academic sport, so most of my teammates have graduated from one of the colleges. Thinking about the future, I decided on economy which matched what interested me and what I could picture myself doing after my sports career. Also, the Faculty of Economics is a study program adapted to the obligations of a top athlete, since most of the lectures were optional and I could study at the same time but also fulfil my obligations to the club and the national team.

How has the club helped you in your post sports career?

While I was still playing, towards the end of my career, the club management at the time offered me the option of assuming the position of club director. So I can actually say that I finished playing water polo on Saturday and started my second career on Sunday as director of HAVK Mladost. That way, I was able to combine the sport I love with what I was educated for.

What do you think is it easier or harder to combine education and sports today?

I think before it was easier to study and do sports. In my time, attending classes was not obligatory, you could prepare for exams while traveling and playing in competitions. Today, attendance at lectures is generally a requirement for being able to attend exams, which makes it especially difficult for athletes especially those at top-level to coordinate their commitments, and often sports careers are neglected in favour of the academic career. I think it is necessary to better define the status of student-athletes.