By Stephen Byrne
The Fifa World Cup begins in Brazil on 12th June and we will be looking at Rovers’ connections with all participating countries. Sadly, though, there is precious little which connects Rovers and England’s group opponents, Costa Rica.
The Rovers defender Jeff Hopkins won his sixteenth and final cap for Wales when they played Costa Rica in May 1990. It was the only time the two countries had met and the Welsh secured a 1-0 victory in Cardiff.
Jeff Hopkins was born in Swansea in April 1964 and moved to Rovers on a free transfer from Crystal Palace in March 1992; he played in 4(+2) League games for Rovers. Later moving on to Reading, he subsequently enjoyed football in Malaysia and Australia, still living in the latter.
Ahmet Brkovic, born in Dubrovnik in September 1974, played for both Luton Town and Millwall against Rovers. He was in the Luton side Rovers faced in the League in February 2002 and again in the League Cup in August 2006, before appearing in Millwall’s side for both fixtures against the Pirates in the 2007-08 season.
Having spent the 1998-99 campaign with HNK Dubrovnik, prior to extending his career in England, Brkovic is currently plying his trade in the Croatian Fourth Division with Dubrovnik 1919.
Ivan Golac, a Croatian who won a solitary cap at right-back for Yugoslavia, was in the Bournemouth side that drew 1-1 at Eastville in November 1982. Previously with Partizan Belgrade for a decade, scoring three goals in 120 games, he later played for Belasica and was manager at Partizan Belgrade in 1989-90.
Mass Saar, a Liberian who appeared as a late substitute in the Reading side massacred 6-0 by Rovers in January 1999, had been at the Croatian side Hajduk Split between 1995 and 1998, scoring seven times in 59 matches.
An Irishman born in Mayo in December 1899, Jim Donnelly played in the Southend United side that completed a League double over Rovers in 1924-25 and also took his place in the Thames Association team that Rovers beat 2-1 in a Third Division (South) fixture at Eastville in April 1931, adding his side’s consolation goal from the penalty-spot. He then spent the 1932-33 season with the Croatian side Gradjanski Zagreb.