ZAGREB, July 17, 2018 – The scenes of a magnificent homecoming party for the Croatian national football team who were greeted on Monday by nearly half a million people were carried by the media world-wide.
“In an outburst of national pride and joy, Croatia rolled out a red carpet and staged a euphoric heroes’ welcome for the national team on Monday despite its loss to France in the World Cup final. Hundreds of thousands of people wearing national red-and-white chequered colours and waving Croatian flags poured into the streets in the capital Zagreb to greet the team. Observers described the homecoming event as the biggest ever in Croatia. The joyful, singing crowd crammed the central squares and the route where the players passed in an open bus, greeting fans and signing autographs,” wrote the Washington Post.
“Champions! Champions!” roared the crowds as the players emerged from the plane and stepped on a red carpet placed on the tarmac at the Zagreb airport, wrote espn.com.
French Le Monde and Irish the24.ie said that the only event in Croatia’s history that brought together more people was the first visit of Pope John Paul II to Croatia in 1994. “Hundreds of thousands of Croatians took to the streets in Zagreb to greet their players as they returned home from Russia after losing the World Cup final,” the24.ie said.
“A crowd estimated by police at more than 550,000 people cheered the team during its parade on an open-top bus from the airport to the capital’s main square. It took five hours for the bus to get to Jelačić square as it was moving slowly through euphoric fans many waving flags, wearing the famous Croatia red and white shirt and singing popular songs;” the24.ie said.
Equally impressed were the media in Canada and Germany. “The success has been described as the biggest in Croatia’s sporting history, boosting national pride and sense of unity in the country that fought a war to become independent from the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. The country of four million people has been gripped in euphoria since its team beat England to reach the World Cup final, where Croatia lost to France 4-2 on Sunday,” according the sportsnet.ca.
Germany’s Die Welt said that despite the defeat in the finals, there was no room for disappointment in Croatia.
The news was carried by other media as well, including Belgian hln.be.
The presence of controversial pop singer Marko Perković ’Thompson’, known for his pro-Nazi sympathies, did not go unnoticed and the foreign media reported that the singer boarded the bus and also sang a song on the stage with the players and the crowd.
In the past, Perković, whose repertoire is dominated by patriotic songs, has been banned from giving concerts in several European countries because of his sympathies for Croatia’s notorious World War II pro-Nazi Ustasha regime. At his concerts, Ustasha symbols are often brandished while some fans use the Nazi salute.