by Lana V.
Although being a Croatian living in a football-mad nation, I was never really a fan until this World Cup gripped me as it did the rest of the country (and most of the world).
The euphoria started to build after we beat Argentina 3-0 and by then I knew all the players’ names and nicknames off by heart. As Croatia continued to advance, and test my heart with nervous back-to-back shootouts, I was gripped.
Even though we lost the final today despite playing fantastic, the team has left Croatians feeling extremely proud. I think we all learned something from Zlatko Dalic, Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Mario Mandzukic, Danijel Subasic, Ivan Perisic and the whole Croatian team.
We are not prisoners of bad news
We are so used to bad news in Croatia, about the economy, unemployment, people fleeing the country etc. Croats are people who know their limits, maybe too well. Maybe so well that after years they became self-imposed. This team taught us that we are not prisoners of bad news and that with effort, hard work, practice and knowledge we can beat the odds and go beyond our limits.
It was incredible for me to observe this team, which became the smallest nation to reach a World Cup final in over 80 years and winning the silver medal, they never lost their humbleness and never underestimated their opponents (which could be said for other teams and countries).
One person especially stuck out and that was coach Dalić. His incredible sense of measure and sportsmanship even in most euphoric situations after major wins – always congratulating the opponents, never underestimating the next opponent, putting the team first when it comes to results. What an incredible man!
Never giving up
This team has taught everyone in the country a lesson in not giving up. No matter what your thing is, the boys showed that if you believe in yourself and don’t give up things are possible. We were losing against Denmark, Russia and England but our heads didn’t go down and we didn’t give up but we fought till the end. Even when Luka Modric missed the penalty against Denmark before the shoot-out the rest of the team gathered around him and pulled him through.
Mario Mandzukic was chopped and hacked and was a broken man after 100 minutes against England. He did not want to come off and he scored the winning goal. Sometimes we all give up too easily but these guys fought till the end.
“Nije u šoldima sve” (Money is not everything)
Mladen Grdovic’s hit “Nije u šoldima sve” (Money is not everything) was adopted by the players and sung after victories by the team.
We are so thirsty for money because we always lack it. We barely make ends meet and look at every possible way to save. Therefore, we tend to think that if we had money that would make us happy. Even though sometimes it seems odd that players who make millions are singing the famous Grdović tune, the guys have shown motivation that goes far far beyond printed paper such as friendship, loyalty, sticking together when it gets tough etc.
We are all the same, even far away from Croatia
Sometimes we feel so alone. We are a small economy, our bureaucracy repeals foreign businesses. We feel alone even in Croatia, divided by the left and right and pro and against and class and income. It is true, people do manage to gather to oppose something or someone but rarely we feel united in a positive way. And that’s exactly what it was seeing all people united in unprecedented happens and joy.
We have friends everywhere
The messages that have come in for Croatia from around the world are amazing. The amount of hearts this team won in Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, Pacific, is amazing. It felt like the world was behind us. A lot of people admired the way we played and fought and represented our country in Russia and that makes us proud.
Bravo, Vatreni. You have won a new fan and thanks for the lessons.