As the Croatian Football Team will play its first match in the USA ever, we talked with one huge fan of the Croatian Sports, born and raised in San Pedro, California, with an incredible love and passion for Croatia
Denis Svircic is not so different to any person of Croatian origins living all around the world. Their love for the old country is probably incomprehensible to a lot of people. For those who know Croatia only by the stories of their parents, the Croatian Football Team has a special place in their hearts, as for them, it is much more than a football team. It is a symbol of something much more important for Denis and other Croatians. May 27, 2017, is the date when Croatia will play its first match ever on U.S soil.
We talked with Denis Svircic, as he is one passionate fan, but also a fellow journalist, as he was a co-owner of a website which is quite popular in the Croatian community all over the World, croatiansports.com. His parents immigrated to California in 1980 from the island of Krapanj.
We asked him just a few questions, but his story just kept on going, and it had an unexpected twist. First, Denis explained the history behind his connection with the Croatian National Team:
“I was introduced to the Croatian national team on November 16, 1994 when Croatia shocked the world and beat 1994 World Cup finalist Italy 2-1 in Palermo. Davor Šuker scored both goals, and it was clear as day that he was a superstar in the making. During those times, European soccer was a pay per view event where pubs would charge anywhere from $5 to $20 per person to watch qualifiers. Money was no object for thousands of Croatians around the states as they all flocked their local Croatian Halls and Irish/English pubs to watch the “Vatreni” as most of them called sick from work.”
The first big tournaments then got him going…
“In 1996, after watching Croatia lose to Germany in the Euro quarters, I knew that I had to find my way to France for the World Cup in 1998. I teamed up with four of my boys, and our goal was to save enough money for the trip. In the end, I was the only one able to save enough money, and my dreams of watching the Vatreni live were put on hold.”
After a while, the dreams came true for Denis…
“Eight years later, the same group of friends and I figured it out and managed to book a month long trip to Germany and follow the Vatreni during World Cup 2006. I watched all three group stage games, and I will never forget watching the Vatreni step foot onto the pitch for the first time and the celebrations after every Croatia goal against Australia.
In 2008, I continued my love for the national team and followed them to Austria for Euro 2008. The post game party in Klagenfurt after we had stunned Germany was something that I don’t think I will ever experience again in my life. For 24 hours, Klagenfurt turned into Croatia as the town transformed into a sea of red and white checkers. Even locals and tourists joined us in the celebrations.”
One would expect that the fan so passionate would be delighted to see his favorite team in his home state?
“I remember those days when I would mark all of the qualifiers on my calendar and count down the days until the next game. Today, that passion, that fire inside me is gone. On Saturday, Croatia will face Mexico in a friendly match in my backyard. 10 years ago, I would be counting down the days until the game. Today, I am only going so I can watch the Vatreni with my family and friends for what might be the first and last time with them.”
Can we expect many Croatians at the L.A. match?
“3,000 or so tickets have been sold in the Croatian fan section of the stadium with hundreds of fans upset about the C and D team selection of players. I am not that upset about the player selection as I would show up to watch a U-15 Croatian side if they were to be in town. Yes, some of the fans are well informed about the latest news surrounding the Croatian national team at home. Most of the Croatians in L.A. are from Dalmatia and from what we know most of Dalmatia is boycotting the national team.“
What seems to be the problem?
“Some of you might remember me as a co-owner of CroatianSports.com. Our goal was to unite Croatians around the world and to bring the national team to the states. In the end, the national team comes to the States for a quick payout, and so Davor Suker can spend a few weeks in Las Vegas as my former partner, and I couldn’t even unite ourselves much less Croatians around the world.”
And, is there a solution?
“In my opinion, for Davor Suker and/or Zdravko Mamic to disappear, the fans have to turn their back on the national team. How about 3,000 Croatian fans all showing up to the Coliseum Stadium in Los Angeles this weekend and turning their back on a corrupt HNS? What would the world think of seeing a section of 3000 seats in the Croatian fan zone completely empty? Once again, I’m a dreamer.”
One more fact makes him sad:
“All the fan groups of Croatia have long disappeared from the stands to watch the Vatreni. You don’t see the Torcida banner anymore. Long gone are the days of seeing the BBB, Armada, and Kohorta up in the stands. Soccer is for the fans. Once the fans are gone, soccer is dead.”
Unfortunately, Croatia will be represented by a team which will never be selected again. The federation officials agreed on this game, although the most of the national team players are still busy in their clubs, and even more; the final round of the Croatian Football League is on this weekend, and the finals of the Croatian Cup will be played in just a few days time.
The Croatians in the USA deserve more. Davor Suker, the president of the Croatian Football Federation, has disappeared from the public in the last weeks. Many problems are burdening the federation, but he just does not seem to care. The unofficial reports say he is in Vegas, and what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, right?
Unfortunately, what goes on in Los Angeles hits the media, and the match between Mexico and Croatia will be a strange one. As the CFF sent this C team to play, the support on the stadium will post the wrong picture about the U.S. Croatians love for the team.