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The Small Club from New Zealand With Croatian Heritage Heads to its 7th FIFA Club World Cup




Auckland City, a football club with strong Croatian roots in New Zealand, are set to take part in their 7th FIFA Club World Cup next week in Japan…

Auckland City will be joined at the tournament, which will run from 10 – 20 December, by the champion clubs from each of the six continental confederations, including River Plate from Argentina and Spain’s Barcelona.
Auckland City, who have dominated domestic football in New Zealand for the last decade, will be hoping for a repeat of last year’s performance, which saw them incredibly finish 3rd in Morocco.

The club has a very strong Croatian connection. Auckland City was formed in 2004 out of Central United when a new national league system was created in New Zealand. Central United, whose emblem features the Croatian red and white checks, was formed by a group of Croatian migrants, mainly from Dalmatia, over 50 years ago and has maintained a strong connection.


Central United's emblem

Central United’s emblem

Today Auckland City’s President, Ivan Vuksich, and captain, Ivan Vicelich, both claim Croatian heritage. The side also features former Zadar and Slaven Belupo defender Mario Bilen.

“(Those migrants) had come to New Zealand and just wanted to somewhere to play,” Vuksich says, explaining how Central United was formed. “Over the years that Croatian influence really dwindled off and probably now just five per cent of its members are probably Croatian. Now we would be one of the most cosmopolitan and diverse clubs in the country.”


Central United, in their Croatia-inspired kit, win another domestic trophy in 90s

Central United, in their Croatia-inspired kit, win another domestic trophy in 90s

Meanwhile Vicelich, who is New Zealand’s most-capped international in history, is set to play in the his 5th FIFA Club World Cup. Last year at the FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco Vicelich picked up the Bronze Ball.

Interview with Ivan Vicelich:


Ivan Vicelich

Ivan Vicelich


Is there one match that stands out in your career?

There have been many great matches. My debut for my national team, Scoring a hat trick in europe. But the final qualifying game for the 2010 World Cup against Bahrain was very memorable

Who was your favourite player growing up?

Diego Maradona

Favourite club as a kid?

AC Milan

Hardest player you have ever marked?


Favourite food?

My wifes cooking

Favourite Drink?


Do you have any pre-match rituals?

Not anymore.When I was younger I used to have a few but now I don’t

Do you get nervous before a match?

There is always some nerves.. I think it is good for every footballer to have these

Favourite ground you have played at?

Ajax Arena

How do you relax away from football?

Have fun with my kids Luka and Ivan

Favourite place visited in Croatia?


Favourite beach in Croatia?

All the beaches are beautiful

Who is the funniest man in the dressing rooms that you have played with?

For the national team it has to be Rory Fallon

If you were not a professional footballer, what do you think you would have been doing?

No idea.. i have been involved with football to long

What are the plans after football?

I have opened a children’s sportswear shop called Playmaker Sports and this is something I hope to continue to grow after my football career… Also hope to work with kids and their development in football.


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