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Famous People with Croatian Heritage – Part 2


In the first part of our famous people with Croatian heritage series we revealed second, third and fourth generation Croatians who reached international stardom in film, television and music.

In part two we look at people with Croatian heritage born and raised abroad who have became sport stars.

This list has been narrowed down to only feature those who had or have a profile internationally.

The list also does not feature NBA or NFL stars (that will be a part on its own).

Those who have represented Croatia but were born and raised abroad, like footballers Joe Šimunić and Ivan Rakitić, and those born and raised in Croatia are not on the list.

Stipe Miočić

Stipe Miočić (photo credit: Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE)

Stipe Miočić is currently the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight Champion. He was nominated for the MMA fighter of the year award in 2016.

Whilst being born in America, Miočić has Croatian roots on both sides with his mother coming from Karlovac and father from near Zadar. Miočić is a regular visitor to Croatia and is proud of his roots.

(photo credit: Instagram)

Zlatan Ibrahimović

Zlatan Ibrahimović

One of the greatest strikers to play the game, Zlatan Ibrahimović was born and raised in Sweden to a Bosnian father and a Croatian mother, Jurka Gravić, who emigrated to Sweden from the village of Prkos near Škabrnja near Zadar.

“My mother is from Croatia and my father from Bosnia, but I am 100% Swedish and am very proud of that,” the pony-tailed scoring machine said in an earlier interview.

Zlatan being presented with a Croatia shirt

Mark Bosnich

Mark Bosnich (photo credit: PA)

Australian goalkeeper Mark Bosnich represented Australia and played for some big clubs in the English Premier League, including both Chelsea and Manchester United.

Bosnich has Croatian ancestry with his family moving to Australia from Blato on the island of Korčula.

Mark Viduka

Mark Viduka (photo credit: GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

Mark Viduka is another one of Australia’s footballers with Croatian heritage who made a name for himself internationally.

As well as captaining Australia at the World Cup, Viduka played for a number of clubs in the English Premier League, including Leeds United, Middlesbrough and Newcastle.

Fredi Bobič

Fredi Bobič

Former German footballer Fredi Bobič had an illustrious career in Germany, most notably playing for VfB Stuttgart and Borussia Dortmand. He also had a stint in England with Bolton.

Fredi won 37 caps for Germany and was part of the UEFA Euro 1996 winning squad. He also played at UEFA Euro 2004. He scored 10 goals for Germany. Fredi was born in Maribor to a Slovene father and a Croatian mother.

Daniel Biloš

Daniel Biloš (image: nacional.hr)

Daniel Biloš was an Argentine footballer who played for the Argentina national team. He played at Banfield, Boca Juniors and Saint-Etienne.

He has Croatian heritage on his father’s side and he was chased by the Croatian Football Federation to play at the 2006 World Cup for Croatia but he declined as wanted to earn the chance to play for his country of birth.

Diego Maradona

Diego Maradona

One of the most famous footballers in the world, former Argentina legend Diego Maradona, also reportedly has Croatian heritage.

It is claimed that his grandfather on his mother’s side, Mateo Kariolić, emigrated from the Croatian island of Korčula to Argentina. Maradona was recently quizzed about this and said he was not too clued up the family history but if it is correct then that would be great as he could have land there.

Croatia coach Ante Čačić with Maradona (photo credit: Hrvatski Nogometni Savez)

George Chuvalo

George Chuvalo fighting Muhammad Ali (photo credit: AP)

Legendary retired boxer George Chuvalo was a five-time Canadian heavyweight champion, and two-time world heavyweight title challenger. Chuvalo is considered by many to have one of, if not the best chin in boxing history.

He was never knocked down in his career and was ranked #4 on ESPN’s greatest chin in boxing history list.

Chuvalo lost to Hall of Fame heavyweights such as Floyd Patterson, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and George Foreman, but was credited for his spirited performances. He fought for the world title twice, losing a controversial decision to Ernie Terrell and another decision in his first fight with Ali.

He went the distance both times against Muhammad Ali only losing on decisions each time. George Chuvalo was inducted into the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 1995.

Chuvalo was born in Toronto, to Croatian parents from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Stipan and Katica (née Kordić) Čuvalo, both from villages near Ljubuški.

Joe Sakic

Joe Sakic (photo: Hakandahlstrom under CC)

Joe Sakic was a Canadian professional ice hockey player who played his entire 21-year NHL career with the Quebec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche franchise. Sakic is regarded as one of the best leaders in league history.

Sakic led the Avalanche to Stanley Cup titles in 1996 and 2001 and was named to play in 13 NHL All-Star Games and selected to the NHL First All-Star Team at centre three times.

Sakic helped lead Canada to its first ice hockey gold medal in 50 years at the 2002 Winter Olympics and was voted as the tournament’s most valuable player. He also played at the 1998 and 2006 Winter Olympics. Sakic’s parents, Marijan and Slavica Šakić, emigrated to Canada from Croatia.

Marc-Édouard Vlasic

Vlasic (photo credit: IvanMakarov under CC)

Another big ice hockey star with Croatian roots. Vlasic plays for San Jose Sharks in the NHL. In 2012 the Sharks signed Vlasic to a 5-year, $21 million contract extension that will keep him with the Sharks through the 2017–2018 NHL season.

He has won gold medals for Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics and 2016 World Cup.

Nikola Karabatić

Nikola Karabatić (Screenshot)

French handball star Nikola Karabatić has won two Olympic gold medals, four World Championship gold medals and three gold medals in the European Championship and has been one of the world’s best handball players over the last decade.

Nikola’s father was Croatian and his mother was Serbian. His father Branko Karabatić was also a professional handball player and is originally from Vrsine, a village near Trogir on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast.

Roger Maris

Roger Maris

Roger Maris was an American professional baseball player who played in 12 seasons for 4 Major League Baseball (MLB) teams from 1957 through 1968.

Maris set the MLB record for home runs during the 1961 season with 61, breaking Babe Ruth’s single-season record of 60 home runs in 1927. Maris was an American League (AL) All-Star from 1959 through 1962, an AL Most Valuable Player in 1960 and 1961, and an AL Gold Glove Award winner in 1960. Maris appeared in seven World Series, five as a member of the Yankees and two with the Cardinals.

He was born Roger Maras to parents, Rudolph Maras and Corrine (née Perkovich), who were both of Croatian origin. The later changed his surname to Maris.

Sean Fitzpatrick

Sean Fitzpatrick

There have been a number of All Black (New Zealand) rugby internationals with Croatian heritage but the most famous was Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick captained the famous All Blacks from 1992 to 1997 and played in 92 tests for his country.

Fitzpatrick was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 1997 New Year Honours. He remains an icon in New Zealand and is highly respected abroad in rugby playing nations. His mother is of Croatian descent.

Fred Couples

Fred Couples (photo: Steven Newton under CC)

Fred Couples is a former World No. 1 golfer. He has won 57 professional tournaments, most notably the 1992 Masters Tournament and the 1984 and 1996 Players Championship. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2013.

Fred was born in Seattle, Washington, to Tom and Violet Couples. His paternal grandparents immigrated from Italy and changed the family name from “Coppola” to “Couples” to make it sound less ethnic, and his mother was of Croatian descent (Sobich).

Simon Katich

Simon Katich

Cricket legend Simon Katich played 56 test matches for Australia and scored 10 test centuries. He is a well-known figure in cricket playing nations and is renowned for his gritty batting at the top of the order.

His grandmother was was born in Živogošće on the Dalmatian coast and moved to Australia in 1936. His grandfather was born in Kozica (Vrgorac) and moved to Australia in 1924.

Check out Famous People with Croatian Heritage – Part 1 here.

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