Croatia star Luka Modric has led his team to the finals of the 1998 World Cup against France. The game will be played on Sunday in Russia. Photo: Contributed

Okanagan Croatians brace for World Cup soccer drama

Croatia-France Cup final cause for celebration of Croatian heritage, pride

The performance of the Croatia World Cup squad is touching a nerve with ethnic Croatians now living in the Okanagan.

As Croatia prepares to play the World Cup soccer final on Sunday against France, members of the Okanagan Croatian Cultural Club from Penticton to Vernon are caught up in a global groundswell of pride for their heritage and their team’s undergo-like performance on the pitch.

Kate Sarac, the incoming president for the club, said with a population of only four million, the success of the team so far has unleashed a renewed sense of pride in their country, both back home and abroad.

“Soccer is a uniter. It is bringing us together,” Sarac said.

Croatians catching World Cup fever in Kelowna are Karla Gill and Maryann Gill. Photo: Contributed

“If they win, the players on the team will be a part of Croatian folklore for the rest of time. We will be the smallest country to ever win the World Cup since 1930. Our team has played amazing, faced some tough overtime games. It’s been a struggle but they have pulled through.

“They must be exhausted from having to work so hard to reach the final. It has just been incredible to watch.”

Led by the diminutive Luka Modric, a star with Real Madrid, and others such as Domagoj Vida, Ivan Rakitic and goalkeeper Danijel Subasic, Sarac says this is the best team Croatia has fielded since the ‘98 squad that reached the World Cup semi-finals.

That year, it was France that eliminated Croatia 2-1 in the semi-final.

“It is so weird that 20 years later we are playing France again, ” Sarac said.

Sarac said she was living in Croatia back then, and was caught up in the excitement with all her native countrymen, a similar scene today she calls “just nutty.”

“In the town square in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, people are gathered to watch the games on the big projection screen along with live music, fireworks and people waving flags. We are not the richest country in the world but our country’s economy is expanding and we are culturally rich.”

Asked why soccer is such a unifying force around the world, Sarac said for Croatia it’s because everyone can play and identify with the sport like no other.

“Everyone can play. All you need is a ball and group of players and you have a team. Everyone knows the rules and how to play. In Croatia, kids play everywhere—on the street, grass fields and even gravel.”

As a young team, the national Croatia soccer squad is also emblematic of a regeneration of their country’s heritage among young people in the Okanagan and across Canada.

“When I started with the club two years ago we had 88 members on Facebook, and today that is now about 160. We are trying to get the younger generation more involved in our club,” she added.

To report a typo, email: edit@kelownacapnews.com.


@BarryGerding
barry.gerding@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dust warning still in effect for Vernon

Enivronment Ministry, Interior Health maintain dust advisory warning until further notice

Railroad police on patrol in Vernon

CN Police remind residents to stay off the tracks while blockades continue across Canada

Our History: Hudson’s Bay marks special day for Girl Guides

World Thinking Day is celebrated Saturday, Feb. 22, by Girl Scouts and… Continue reading

Federal minister to speak in Vernon

Greater Vernon Chamber welcomes middle class prosperity minister to talk money

Vernon PAC takes stand against dating violence

KSS to host presentation to equip parents with tools to spot unhealthy, violent relationships

Fashion Fridays: The 8 best quality online stores! Shop the ultimate sales

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Shuswap protest blockade temporarily lifted following negotiation with CP Rail

Onus placed on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to respond

Petition slams Victoria councillor who chastised police after Wetsuweten protest

Ben Isitt calls effort to get him suspended is not a ‘reliable barometer of public opinion’

B.C., Ottawa sign sweeping 30-year deal for northern caribou habitat

West Moberly, Saulteau co-manage new protection on two million acres

LETTER: Forestry practices will affect property values

Logging these water purifying ecosystems affects B.C. communities

Suspect at large after stealing seaplane before crashing into another in Vancouver

Police responded to the incident at 3:30 a.m. on Friday at Vancouver Harbour

MLA Larson deals with abuse and threats

Oliver office has a buzz-in system, and panic buttons

LETTER: Thanks to Fyffe Road Snow Angel

Snow-clearing efforts have been appreciated

Most Read