How the National Football Federation Became Mamić Inc.

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We have a new national team head coach or new team manager, whichever term you wish to use. There’s no point in discussing whether he is competent enough to lead “Vatreni” and secure our spot in the EURO 2016, competence was never a prerequisite for this job. At least not in the last decade or so.

Just look at our National Football Federation. Over the last decade, we’ve had experiments with inexperienced head coaches, disappearances of the National Association of First League Teams, extraordinary press conferences and committee meetings with last minute decisions on which stadium the national team will end up playing, removal and reinstatements of compromised referees, the list goes on, and on and on.

And we all stood by because the national team is sacred. It doesn’t matter which continent they played on, people headed there in hundreds, even thousands to support the red and white squares. Until recently. The demise started with the arrival of Igor Štimac. Who had as much coaching experience as I have experience as a researcher at CERN, but he was a good way to settle all sides within the Federation and this was his consolation prize for failing to overthrow the former president of the National Football Association, the late Vlatko Marković. Then his World Cup qualifying mission failed miserably, and when they needed a new head coach overnight, Niko Kovač seemed like the perfect solution. Hard working former captain who always left his heart on the pitch, German discipline blah, blah, blah. Lack of experience (one sports commentator said it brilliantly – this man has more shirts than games as a coach) meant that he would spend the first year of his mandate experimenting. That’s exactly what he did, first during the World Cup (we’re still trying to understand what the heck he was trying to do there), then in the EURO 2016 qualifiers. Add into account that he is not autonomous in selecting the players for the team, that’s what Romeo Jozak is for, as well as the fact that your best player is being pulled away from training sessions to testify against Mamić, we find ourselves where we are now. In limbo. Depending on other teams to see whether we will play in EURO 2016 or not.

Yesterday’s ending to a farce called “Let’s find a head coach without really looking for one”, is the final nail in the coffin of once loved national team. By appointing Ante Čačić the whole Federation turned to us and said, you know what, stuff it. We’re here, we’ll do whatever we want and there’s nothing you can do to stop us. No swastikas on the pitch or flares from the stands will deter us from turning the team into our own little private money factory or Mamić Inc. as everyone is already calling it.

Who are the main actors in this establishment?

We have El Presidente, Davor Šuker, greatest goal getter in Croatia’s recent history, football legend known on all continents. A Brand, as he likes to call himself. Yes, that’s what he was until he decided to take the coveted position in the “House of Football”. He is also known for taking photos, for fun, on the grave of infamous Ante Pavelić, disappearing after the incident at San Siro during the game between Italy and Croatia, and above all, a person who asks “How high” every time Zdravko Mamić says “Jump”.

Executive board members. What a fine bunch we have here. Out of 17 members, 11 of them are esteemed (in terms of other functions they have in their cities) members of HDZ, including Davor Šuker. So much for UEFA’s and FIFA’s warnings not to mix politics and football.

And, of course we have THE man. Zdravko Mamić. The First vice president of the National Football Association. Do we even have to go there? Apart from being the ultimate mover and shaker in Croatian football for over a decade when almost a single player was not sold outside our borders without him getting a healthy cut from it, he was arrested, along with his brother and Executive President of the National football Federation Damir Vrbanović for tax evasion and fraud. It just keeps getting better doesn’t it?

So, can we really be surprised by yesterday’s outcome? Can we be surprised by all the calls to boycott the team? We don’t need a football expert; we need someone on the bench who will blindly follow orders of the big bosses. Forget the fact that the National Football Association is supposed to be looking after the interests of the sport and our reputation across the globe. If we had an ounce of reputation left, I’m sure it went out the window the second they decided to name Joe Šimunić (yes, the history expert) as the assistant to the head coach.

And let me finish by quoting the coach of all coaches Ćiro Blažević. Yes, he is a very theatrical man, but he got it right this time “ I never thought they would be so brazen to appoint Čačić who is a good coach but not good enough for the national team. Mamić appointed his own man, Čačić was Dinamo’s coach and Mamić fired him which is absurd. He’s not good enough for his club, but he’s great for the national team? Mamić has once again shown his power and spite. He’s the one in total control”.

So, dear beer companies, you should start panicking. The lower the support for our national team the less beer you will sell during the EURO 2016 championship. That is if we qualify.

Over and out.


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