The arrival of Slaven Bilic at the Hawthorns has been largely met with excitement from many quarters of the West Brom fans, as the Baggies continue to fly high at the top of the English Championship, but for one group of supporters, in particular, it’s a dream that’s been bought to reality.
They are the Croatian Baggies, and their flag representing the Croatian flag is constantly hung up on the main stage of the Hawthorns Stadium, home of West Bromwich Albion.
And who are they?
They are the Butigan family, whose family head is Ivan, a native of Dubrovnik, who has lived in Birmingham for 35 years.
“I have always been a West Bromwich fan, living ten minutes from the stadium. I first watched Slaven when he played for Karlsruhe (in the Bundesliga) and have followed his career ever since. So to have him arrive as a coach is unbelievable and the team has been fantastic this season. Everyone can see what Slaven has bought to the club. Since then, our flag has been standing, in the most visible place, above Slaven’s bench, making us incredibly proud,” says Ivan Butigan.
Daniel Butigan, who along with good friend David Djalilian has set up the rapidly growing Official Croatian West Bromwich Albion Supporters account on Twitter, has a Croatian father and still has family in Dubrovnik.
The appointment of Bilic is a long-term wish of Dan, something that has prompted the birth of the aforementioned Twitter account.
“WBA means everything to me. I was born in this part of Birmingham and have been watching WBA matches for over 20 years. I have travelled all over the UK with WBA, and with the Croatian national team, I have been to Euros in 2012 and 2016, and to the World Cup in 2018 in Russia. When Bilic came to the WBA, it was something incredible for us! The way the West Brom fans have taken not only to us but to Slaven, the coaches and star player Filip Krovinovic has been unbelievable. They can see we are an incredibly proud nation and that is reflected on the pitch,” explains Daniel Butigan.
WBA and Croatia also have a common connection due to two celebrity fans. BBC presenter Adrian Chiles whose mother originates from Croatia is a West Bromwich Albion season ticket holder and tennis legend Goran Ivanisevic is also a self-confessed Baggie.
The Butigans also used their WBA affiliation to promote their homeland. When they launched their twitter page, they organised a raffle in which two luck fans selected received a five-day stay in Dubrovnik.
“We provided them accommodation in an apartment in Dubrovnik and free tickets to see Tom Jones in concert in the old town of Dubrovnik! They had a great time and came back with a great impression of the country. I hope that this will encourage other people here to spend the summer holidays in Croatia. This is just the start of our efforts in helping create a bond between the WBA fans and Croatia,” Daniel Butigan says.
“We hope that for now, people continue to stay at home, stay safe and we can beat the coronavirus. But when the football returns I hope that all of us, the WBA and the Croatian Baggies, will fulfill our greatest football wish to reach the Premier League together,” concludes Butigan.
You can follow @CroatianBaggies on twitter