Can We Have a (Proper) Croatian Football Museum?

Paul Bradbury

croatian football museum

May the 22nd, 2024 – Tourists need more content in addition to the sun and the sea. Is it time for a proper Croatian football museum?

“You know what’d really work here, and I can’t believe it doesn’t exist already?” said a friend of mine a while back. “A Croatian football museum. There’s such a great story to be told.”

Ah yes, the World Cup back in 2018, that incredible run, those amazing fans, THAT homecoming. A glorious chapter in the glorious Croatian football story. With SO much interest in Croatia due to the exploits of Modric and co, a proper Croatian football museum would be a hit, surely? And if nothing else, sales of the iconic Croatian shirt and other such souvenirs would bring in a tidy income. 

As I once wrote in an interview with Balkan Insight, Croatia has more tourism content than any country I know, but it is SO hard for tourists to find the majority of it. In the past, I put forward the case for a Croatian wine museum, a key addition to the potential of the country’s huge gourmet tourism story. Today we look at the potential of a Croatian football museum. 

As with the wine museum article, I started with Google – ‘Croatian football museum.’ To my surprise, a Croatian football museum of sorts exists. Sort of. 

“That thing is a MUSEUM?” asked my friend incredulously. “It is literally two blocks from my house, I have walked past it every day for years and had no idea it was a museum.”

And, if a local resident had no idea, so too the large number of football-loving tourists visiting the Croatian capital. It is not quite clear if the ‘Budi Ponosan’ (Be Proud) facility is a museum or a multi-media information centre from a search on the Internet. What is clear is that it is hardly known about at all despite being open for almost four years. Search results for ‘Croatian football museum’ take up less than a page on Google, a little more than the number of TripAdvisor reviews – just eight in all languages.

The little information that there is about the museum/information centre is also quite revealing about yet another missed opportunity. One of the few mentions of the museum/information centre is from the Malay Mail on the day of the World Cup Final:

On the museum’s reception desk a bilingual sign in Croatian and English reads: “Dear visitors, in this Centre we DON’T SELL sporting equipment!!!”

“Hundreds of Croatians and foreign tourists come in every day now looking to buy replica jerseys,” said a museum guide, Katalin Kovak, 28.

A bit like the many tourists in Zadar this summer looking to buy a Modric shirt in his home town, I guess… 

Budi Ponosan is centrally located just off the main Ban Jelacic square – how crazy is it that people walk by thinking they are coming to a shop to buy a football shirt and do not realise they are entering a museum/information centre? 

Some friends have been inside and say that, although it is tiny, the museum/information centre has some good stufff, including the first football used in Croatia and some small exhibitions on the famous 1998 and 2018 World Cup campaigns. 

But surely this is a HUGE opportunity to do something magnificent, something that could attract many families and football lovers, as well as providing a really fun activity for those rainy days. 

In this multi-media interactive world, just think about what such a museum could contain… 

How many people know, for example, that football actually originated in Croatia? A claim featured in the official FIFA newsletter way back in 1969!

What a great chance to highlight the oldest football match of them all and the wonderful inland Dalmatian towns of Sinj and Trilj.

  • An exhibit on the incredible story of France ’98 when Croatia came third in their first-ever World Cup as an independent nation. 
  • An exhibit on the incredible story of Russia 2018 – no more needed from me on that achievement – still so fresh in the minds of tens of millions. 
  • An exhibit on the destinations the 2018 heroes are from – what a great way to promote some of the lesser-known parts of Croatia. The heroes of Slavonia, Vida (Donji Miholjac) and Mandzukic (Slavonski Brod), Lovren (Karlovoc), Strinic and Rebic (Imotsi), Dalic (Varazdin), Perisic (Omis), Kalinic (Split), Kovacic (Zagreb), and the Zadar street kids of Modric, Subasic, Vrsaljko and Livakovic.

A special exhibit on the most famous name in Croatian football – from 5-year-old goat herder to one of the most famous names on the planet.

  • The history of Hajduk Split, so much more than just football – the oldest club in Croatia.
  • A section on Croatian footballers around the world – a truly amazing list for such a tiny country.

The Forska Liga, the amazing league on the island of Hvar, which I think is the only fully functional island league in the world (I may need correcting on that one) – 11 teams on an island with a population of under 11,000.

The weird and wonderful stadiums of Croatia, none more bizarre than the one at the bottom of the Blue Lake in Imotski. 

An interactive section to beat all interactive sections. Let visitors experience what it was like to be on the streets of Zagreb with 550,000 others welcoming the World Cup heroes home. Or to be at Poljud in the North Stand with Torcida. Or on the road to Moscow in 2018. So many things you can do to make Croatia really Full of Life. 

Slobodan Kadic
  • A shop! I am stunned at how little the obvious souvenir of the Croatian shirt has been taken advantage of this summer. It is a sexy and popular souvenir, and an imaginative gift shop could almost be an exhibit of its own, as well as a good money-spinner. 

Football connects tourism with tourists, and a proper Croatian football museum would not only be a big attraction, but also a fantastic opportunity to showcase many Croatian tourism destinations as well. 

It really is not complicated. 


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