By Ana Bačić
Canadian-Croatians celebrated Croatia’s victory over Canadian at the World Cup in cities across Canada. Gatherings were organized in Toronto, Norval, Hamilton and London in the province of Ontario and in other provinces where Canadian-Croatians live.
The match between the Croatia and Canada was welcomed in the community with mixed feelings after coach John Herdsman’s distasteful comment. “Today’s victory means a lot to me, especially because of the media circus that took place before the match with Canada”, says Audrey Grubešić, organizer of the joint viewing in Norval, in the Croatian center – Kraljica Mira.
With a lot of tension during the last week and Canada playing against Croatia after 36 years of not playing at the World Cup, it was somewhat of an exciting time for the Croatians in Canada.
Some were divided and supported both Canada and Croatia, but still the vast majority supported the Croatian team. “As a fan of our national team with several world and European championships “in the legs”, I expected a great performance from our players. Our team loves “big” games, and after the statement of coach Herdman, there was no room for failure in the game. Congratulations Mr. Dalić and the coaching staff for the well-prepared match and the players for their top readiness,” said Alen Vukobrad, originally from Bjelovar, for whom Canada is his second homeland.
Alen has been a football coach for the past 15 years. He coached Toronto Croatia and spent 7 years in the FC Barcelona academy Toronto in the position of deputy head of the academy. With numerous football certificates in both Canada and Croatia, he is a good connoisseur of Canadian football: “When it comes to football and work with young people, we can single out the mass as a positive detail. For example, Canada has more registered boys and girls in the U8-U12 age group than Spain) and excellent infrastructure (outdoor and indoor fields with artificial grass). Canada, in my opinion, still lags behind some developed football countries, professionalization and training of coaches /teachers (a small number of permanently employed coaches, including MLS clubs and their academies Toronto FC, CF Montreal and Vancouver Whitecaps FC).
Alen Vukobrad watched the game in Norval with his whole family, where there was one of the largest gatherings of Canadian Croats. More than 300 fans of Croatian origin, mostly young people, gathered in the Center’s hall. “For those of us who have football in our hearts, it was natural for us all to cheer for the Vatreni together,” says organizer Audrey Grubešić, whose family members have been playing football for Norval Croatia for three generations.
“My brother Stipe Hrkać was 15 years old when the club was founded and one of the first young players, so I am happy that my children are playing there now. Gatherings like this are important to strengthen togetherness and for young generations to feel what it’s like to love our second homeland, even from far away.”
The income from the sold tickets is intended for the repair of the playground at Norval. Mrs. Grubešić emphasizes that she is especially glad that so many young people gathered: “For those who do not have the opportunity to visit the homeland of their parents, grandparents, cheering for the Croatian national football team gives them a sense of belonging and means a lot for the formation of their identity.”
Ever since the World Cup in 1998, they have spontaneously celebrated and organized joint viewing of matches in Canada. After the victory over the German national team, the gatherings were so numerous that the streets in Mississauga and Toronto, where many Canadian Croats live, were closed.
Four years ago, large gatherings to support the Vatreni were organized for the World Cup. Croats in Canada are ready to support their national team members throughout the championship.