Melbourne Croatia 70 year trivia night celebrated in Croatia
- by croatiaweek
- in Entertainment
By Jozo Kolakušić
On Thursday evening the 20th of April 2023, the 2nd trivia night was hosted in Croatia in honour of the 70th birthday of Melbourne Croatia/Knights at the Bornstein wine bar in Zagreb.
It was a reason to once more gather in order to pay tribute to our beloved club, but this year was a special anniversary as well so it was much more anticipated than last year’s first attempt at having such an event, a humble gathering of enthusiasts which also turned out to be a fantastic evening which paved the way for this year’s event to be hosted.
Fans and former players of the club’s rich history, from a number of generations, agreed to grace the evening with their presence by joining fellow Australian Croatians in attendance. Most notably, Stjepan Benić a Karlovac local, from generation 1972. Mark Viduka, Mark Šilić, Josip Šimunić and Krešimir Marušić most notable from the club’s halycon days of the 90’s when the club won its 2 NSL championship winning titles.
With warm regards sent from those who would have loved to have attended but weren’t unable to, being Jozo Antolović who lives in Osijek, from the 1980’s and later becoming a Croatian war veteran as well in the 90’s homeland war. Showing his great enthusiasm for the club. As well as Frank Jurić, Željko Adžić, Paul Magdić and even a warm regard from none other but George Hannah, who played for the club between 1983-1993 currently lives and resides in nearby Scotland.
With current club president Pave Jusup in attendance and representing the club, after already showing interest in attending a year ago when the inaugural trivia night was held. Who was in Croatia the week prior for the junior tournament which was held in Vukovar where a select Australian-Croatian u/14 was represented amongst the best of Croatia’s young talent.
In the week’s prior to the trivia night, a series of interviews were conducted by fellow local and returnee Robert Gojević, with former players of Melbourne Croatia who live in Croatia. Which was published in the Croatian Herald (Hrvatski Vjesnik) in Melbourne, as a warmup to this event and in order to allow the readership an insight into how much the club meant to these players, despite living on the other side of the world, but never having forgotten the club and the impact it had on their lives when they were players.
The stage was set once more and the evening that had been anticipated for many months had arrived. One of the oldest wine cellars in Zagreb and now a wine bar, which is based just above the Zagreb Cathedral on Kaptol, was decorated with the colours red, white and blue.
The colours of the much storied club. With flags, scarves and retro jersey’s and even a rare vintage 1982 jacket adorning the walls of the venue. The attendee’s had gathered in much bigger numbers than last year and the anticipation and buzz could be felt in the air, from beginning of the evening.
The opening speech of the evening was given by Robert Gojević who had carefully compiled the quiz questions and by club president Pave Jusup, expressing the club’s best wishes and happiness that our club’s anniversary is being marked in Croatia, a dream of many still living in Australia.
The trivia night could finally begin. There were a much larger 25 quiz participants this year, split up into 6 teams. The team’s led by one of the former players from the club’s history in attendance. With 4 rounds of questions which ranged from multiple choice, filling in the blanks and matching of players from the club’s history, titles won, goals scored and significant events throughout the club’s rich 70 year history from inception until this date.
The competition got off to a hot start, with intriguing questions capturing the imagination of all the attendees from the beginning. The competition was fierce and well fought after, with the wealth of a number of generations present helping piece together the pieces of the jigsaw of Melbourne Croatia’s entire existence. Providing for many anecdotes, memories to be re-lived of matches and events on and off the pitch. A perfect woven tapestry, combining all the period’s of history throughout the evening.
The “Williamstown beach boys” team, led by Mark Viduka led through 3 of the 4 rounds of competition, with the “Benić boys” led by Stjepan Benić in a close 2nd position and the surprise wildcard team of the evening, the “Sydney Croatia Fans” being perched in a high 3rd place for most of evening, which was an amazing feat in itself that its members were nearly all originally from Sydney and one from Wollongong.
However the final and 4th round was to be the decider, where the order was readjusted and the 2nd placed “Benić boys” rose to 1st place, Josip Šimunić’s team “Bornstein” leapfrogged into 2nd place, the “Williamstown boys” finishing 3rd, the “Sydney Croatia Fans” 4th, “Pezić/Čiča” in 5th and the “Jelinčić Boys” in 6th.
The club was generous enough to send over presents for the prize winners for this year’s quiz and what beautiful presents they were indeed and a hot item to have in anyone’s collection. The latest Melbourne Croatia/Knights jersey’s from this current 2023 season, with the 70 year badge gracing these beautiful red and white items. As well as a number of other assorted club items and souvenirs for the rest of the participating teams.
“As they were handed out by Robert Gojević and Pave Jusup, it was the culmination of the evening’s events but not the final chapter. On behalf of the winning quiz team, which last year came 2nd. The writer of this article, participant of the “Benić boys”; team and someone who grew up with the club like nearly all those present, I felt it was necessary to say a few words in the name our team as well as a co-organizer of the evening to bring the message across to the locals in the audience as well who maybe did not grow up with the club, to understand the full meaning of what the club means to all us gathered in the audience.
In a short summary, “the club means a lot to us returnees gathered in attendance that evening. Melbourne Croatia for us means what Hajduk and Dinamo meant to Croats in Croatia. It was the alpha and omega for us. It was the Croatian national team for us after it played its last game as a national team vs Indonesia in 1956 and before it was restored in 1990 against the USA. That is the reason why Croats abroad identify and are attached to the Croatian national team now. As not enough is known about the topic inside of Croatia.
Through clubs like Toronto, Sydney and Melbourne Croatia, the word Croatia was spread throughout the world as they won titles in their national competitions and had famous world class players play for them in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. It was a symbol of Croatian-hood when there was no formally recognised independent Croatia in that world and helped raise awareness of its existence. It is the club we grew up with and formed us as people, instilling the passion that we have to move to Croatia and be here in attendance tonight.“
All of us present knew that the final result of the quiz was not as important as us all gathering together again and paying an ode to the club we love, from the spiritual home and land of our fathers and forefathers, from where the club’s name “Croatia” originated was founded in 1953.
The evening continued on with not one but two piano accordion players coming out and starting a rendition of the club’s original song “Živjela Croatia” a hit from 1977 by ‘Koledari folkloraši’ from Sydney. Which was joined in by gusto by the entire audience in attendance and brought many smiles and memories back to those in attendance. As the songs flowed, so too did the jovial and celebratory atmosphere of all gathered. Great conversation and warm exchanges of memories and socialising going into the early hours of Friday morning in the capital city of Croatia. Once again, an evening to be remembered for the ages and as noticed by those present, it was an “evening that we never wanted to end”.