Zhao Chen and Wang Quan, left back and goalkeeper of the Chinese national handball team, debuted on Thursday in Croatia's largest seaport town of Rijeka, where they will spend the rest of the season playing for the Croatian Premier League club Zamet.
Handball is one of the most popular sports in Croatia and the national team, nicknamed the "Cowboys," is regarded as one of the best teams in the world. The Croatian national team has won two gold medals at the Olympics (1996 and 2004), and has been crowned as world champions in 2003.
The Chinese national federation has a plan to build a national team that will become a powerhouse in Asia and then follow in the footsteps of the best European teams.
Recently, the Chinese team played at the Asian Championship and finished 9th among 14 teams.
Zhao and Wang are eager to learn how to elevate their skills.
"Coming to Rijeka is a new experience for both of us. We will do our best at every practice and at every match and we hope that we will help our new teammates," the 28-year-old Zhao said during the presentation.
The Chinese players came to Croatia a week ago and they had a chance to see their new team scoring an important away-win in a league match played last Saturday.
This coming Saturday, they should be in the squad that will try to get a third win in a row when they host Metalac from Zagreb.
"We've been practicing with the team and we were very well accepted. There is no problem in communication because language of sport is universal. I can't wait to play my first match here and I hope that we will get a huge support," said 25-year-old goalkeeper Wang Quan who comes from China's Jiangsu province.
"We are still adjusting to the climate and time zone change. It's now cold in Croatia but I can't wait for the summer to come so that we can go to the beach that we can see from our apartment," Wang said.
Standing at 203cm and 205cm respectively, Zhao and Wang have already earned a nickname that will stick with them as long as they will play in Croatia - "The Big Wall of China." In Zamet, they hope that this wall will make their defense one of the strongest in the league.