The Croatian Olympic Committee met with the Romani Union to sign a new cooperation agreement ©HOO

The Croatian Olympic Committee (HOO) has signed a cooperation agreement with the Romani Union in the country.

The agreement has been signed in a bid to promote integration of the Romani national minority in society and sport in the nation.

It will also see the HOO develop sports infrastructure in the common interest of both organisations.

The deal was signed at the HOO's headquarters by the body's President Zlatko Mateša and the Romani Union counterpart Suzana Krčmar.

Krčmar noted that the Croatian Romani Union, otherwise known as "Kali Sara", was one of the largest in Europe, with about 40 member associations and a large number of athletes in its ranks.

"Due to the great interest and presence of sports in the Romani community, in cooperation with member of the Parliament Veljko Kajtazi, we have built 16 multi-purpose sports venues in Romani settlements in Croatia," said Krčmar.

Kajtazi, recently re-elected as the representative of the Romani national minority in the Croatian Parliament, also attended the event.

British boxer Tyson Fury is one of the most famous Romani athletes in the world ©Getty Images
British boxer Tyson Fury is one of the most famous Romani athletes in the world ©Getty Images

"I feel very happy because this is the first time a Romani community signed the cooperation agreement with a National Olympic Committee, as in this case the Union 'Kali Sara' did with the Croatian Olympic Committee," said Kajtazi.

"In my 20 years of dealing with the Romani issues, I have not heard of such a thing in other countries.

"I thank President Mateša for recognising us as partners and I believe that with this agreement we will more easily realise future projects, for which we plan to participate for support from the European Union funds as well."

Mateša also welcomed the agreement.

"For a long time, we have been following the efforts of member of Paraliament Veljko Kajtazi and the central Romani Union in the Republic of Croatia, who are trying to better integrate the Romani community into the Croatian society," he said.

"Sport is a great way to do this and I believe that with the continuation of infrastructure projects, this process will be further improved.

"With President Krčmar, I agreed with the idea of an annual meeting of representatives of their Union and the HOO in three sports - football, basketball and volleyball, with intention of making it a tradition."

Famous Romani athletes have largely come from football and boxing. 

British boxer Tyson Fury is among the most famous of Romani descent, alongside one of Germany's greatest ever midfielders, Michael Ballack, Spanish right-back Jesus Navas and Portuguese winger Ricardo Queresma.