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CROATIA has 1,000,000 football head coaches?

Football head coaches – they say there can be only one but in Croatia things are a little bit different and many people think they can do it. One quarter of the population considers itself qualified to run Croatian national football team. There’s this peculiar connection between this great sport and the very core of the country and its people. It’s like the game is encoded into our DNA. Just count the top players this country has yielded over the course of the last two to three decades.

Soccer Players
Soccer Players

Football head coaches and twenty long years of desperate hoping

Back in 1998, Croatian national team led by its captain, Zvonimir Boban, and head coach, Ćiro Blažević, ended up with the bronze medal around their necks. We all still remember winning 3-0 vs Germany in France. Davor Šuker was the cup’s best scorer with 6 goals. A country, that small, and that young (Croatia was officially recognized as a sovereign country in 1992 in the midst of the bloodiest war on the European ground after the WW2) managed to push all the way to the throne.

Ćiro Blažević
Ćiro Blažević

That was the biggest success of the Croatian national football team for the next twenty years and as time went by, people were growing hungry for the new medal.

And then came 2018. Russia. World Cup.

Nobody was giving Croatia a chance. Not even Croats. “It’s gonna be yet another bitter disappointment and disgrace,” you could hear people talking on the streets and in the pubs.

The reason for that low expectation was that the team hasn’t exactly been showing signs that could indicate passing even a knock-out round let alone reaching anywhere near the position that would guarantee the shiny metal. For the most of “football head coaches,” and that’s around a million people give or take, the official lineup, even though it was made of world-class players, wasn’t going to do much.

Zlatko Dalić
Zlatko Dalić

Yet, the team and Dalić, the one official head coach, were set to prove everybody wrong.

When they reached semis, the country was in trance. Even the old ladies who were commonly binging on soap operas were switching channels to watch Modrić, Rakitić, Mandžulić, and the rest of the team breaking one opponent after another.

Delirium. That’s the word to describe the sentiment those days. The country was in ablaze. Young and old, men and women, all were breathing football in anticipation of the medal they were so desperately waiting.
The longest overtime ever played.

England was down. Croatia is going to play in a grand finale. The second-smallest country by the population to play in finals after Uruguay in 1930. The country literally exploded. Everybody, including high-ranking state’s officials (prime minister and president), was wearing famous checkered shirts.

Winner regardless

We did lose to France after a bitter fight.

For Croats, Croatian national football team was considered winner and the most spectacular welcoming party was organized that half of million citizens attended, making it impossible for the official bus with the players to reach the central capital’s square from the airport in less than 12 hours.

In the country of little over 4 million residents, having 500,000 waiting and cheering for you in the streets and squares is not a small thing. For Croats, the silver medals around their necks had the golden shine. Because, for us, they won. Plain and simple. The best result ever made in the most important side thing of every Croat. Especially for those one million head coaches who were proven wrong.

Your CTC Team, I.K.

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