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Super Bowl 2017: Croatian Connection in the Final

Rob Ninkovich & Bill Belichick (photo credit: Steven Senne/AP)

The 2015 NFL Super Bowl XLIX was the first time in Super Bowl history that coaches of Croatian descent squared off against each other.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick got the better of his Seattle counterpart Pete Carroll in the battle of ‘Croatians’ coaches that year and now in 2017 there will be two with Croatian connections also taking part in the biggest sporting event of the year in the US.

The 51st Super Bowl between the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots, which will take place in Houston on Monday 6 February 2017, will have a Croatian connection.

Patriots coach Belichick will be back again coaching in his NFL-record seventh Super Bowl.

Belichick’s paternal grandparents Ivan Biličić and Marija Barković emigrated from Karlovac in Croatia in 1897 and left for the USA, where they settled near Pittsburgh.

His father, Steve Belichick (born Stephen Biličić), played for the Detroit Lions and was an assistant coach and scout with the United States Naval Academy football team for 33 years.

Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich will also be taking part.

“One day I asked my grandparents where our ancestry was from. They told me, and since I don’t speak Croatian I don’t remember. I know that they mentioned a place which was not on the coast. But a few years ago when I saw Dubrovnik was one of the 5 nicest places in the world, I decided to answer those who asked that I was from Dubrovnik, although I am not”, Ninkovich told Sportklub, Gol reported.

Rob Ninkovich (image: Jeffery Beall under CC)

Belichick has a chance on Sunday to win his 5th Super Bowl, whilst Ninkovich will be aiming for his second.

“I am very proud of my dad’s family tradition and history with Croatians. I had the opportunity to visit the beautiful country a couple of times and I’m proud of that heritage. It looks like we’ll have a Croatian champion one way or the other, right?” Belichick joked in 2015.

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