New Era for HNS? Dario Šimić, Šuker’s Potential Successor, Talks State of Croatian Football

Daniela Rogulj

Could former Croatian national team player Dario Šimić be the one to change Croatian football for the better?

Dario Šimić, the former Croatian national team player with 100 caps, and once a member of Dinamo, Inter, Milan and Monaco, has announced that he is moving forward in the effort to take over Davor Šuker’s position as the president of the Croatian Football Federation. 

In an interview with and on November 19, 2017, Šimić reveals how he would restore faith in HNS once Davor Šuker’s mandate expires in April next year. 

“My references are known. I played for Croatia a hundred times; I proved myself in football. I am proud of my engagement in the football union where I was introduced to the FIFpro organization as a full member – here we worked with non-contracted footballers, organized camps, and freely represented players in nearly 250 disputes. In today’s football, this is important, and we were on the field, among the players. We organized an award, the football Oscar, allowing footballers to study in Denmark for 300 EUR at the UCN University which costs 8,400 EUR per year. We have provided them with knowledge, and that is our great import to Croatian football, and to society,” says Šimić and highlights the key to his campaign:

“I want to restore confidence in Croatian football. But that can only be done internally, as the president of HNS.”

What can you offer compared to the experienced competition in HNS?

“My biggest strength is my team, comprised of Mario Stanić, Goran Vlaović, Stipe Pletikosa, Mario Jurić and many businessmen and young managers. Together we speak five foreign languages; we have international business experience, we are interested in where football will be in 20 years. We offer knowledge of Croatian football.”

The Federation is currently governed by ”anarchy”. The opposition to Davor Šuker is increasingly complex, the current president did not even make the election, and the rival candidate is an MP of HDZ, Marijan Kustić. How do you assess the state of HNS?

“It is obvious that there is a disagreement in the Federation. I do not know if there is a fear of the election and who will eventually be the candidates. I know that my team is ready. We’ve already lost a lot of time. We need to call the election as soon as possible after the regular Assembly. I do not know Marijan Kustić, and I only know only that the MP is a member of the IO. He is now at a standstill due to conflicts of interest. Davor was my colleague, he was an idol, and I expected him to improve the state of football, but that did not happen.”

Who have you spoken with over the last few months about the candidacy? Do you have domestic policy support, will you need more than Infantino?

“We have spoken with everyone. We have had many meetings in the past few months with the clubs, players, and institutions. We talked with the government, with the opposition, with the city of Zagreb, with people from football federations.”

What did they tell you?

“People want change.

Confidence has been lost in the indictments of serious crime and the catastrophic atmosphere surrounding it. Because of a few individuals, the masses have drifted away from Croatian football. Football has become a source of division. The indictments are the first thing people think about when mentioning Croatian football. It will take a long time to get things done. Our infrastructure is wholly unsuitable, and we have not done anything for the last 30 years. Rain falls on the spectators; the pitch turns into meadows. In such a league we cannot work, with such a league we cannot survive in the long run.”

What attitude will you take towards Zdravko Mamić and the legacy?

“I have already said that football is not about an individual, and the problem is the system. Football must be more important than personal interests. I will go into these elections with that mood. It would not be good to repeat 2010 and the elections that have caused a lot of damage to the reputation of HNS. It should be given to candidates who present their program in peace.”

What are your key points of the program, apart from the trust?

“We want to return 300 million HRK to the clubs in five years. HNS must live for your kids, for the clubs! We will return their revenues from HNS through infrastructure. In the last five years, HNS had revenues of 700 million HRK and missed out on earning at least 200 million HRK, according to my calculations, due to the bad climate. From that money, 300 million HRK should have been returned to Croatian football infrastructure. HNS now only publishes shortened balances, and that’s not good – the Federations needs to be opened. Also, reorganizing the entire judiciary organization, this is an important aspect of trust. We will introduce ethical norms and social responsibility; we need clean people in football if we want our audience to believe in us.”

How are you planning to improve the infrastructure?

“We are planning to make the most of the funds available through international football organizations and the European Union funds. The key infrastructure must be built or renewed evenly throughout the country to achieve two important goals – the development of football and the increase of interest in first league competitions. We have 120,000 registered footballers, and we have to provide them with adequate infrastructure and stop thinking about the megalomaniac. I have been warning for years that our fields are one of the biggest problems for us. For a good part of the year, the first league’s fields are almost unusable, sometimes even dangerous to our health – and you can only imagine what the situation is in the lower leagues. Nobody is interested in playing football in the mud, and it isn’t interesting for the spectators and the sponsors.”

Your thoughts on the Croatian national team?

“HNS leaders have removed three coaches, which means there is no plan or strategy. This team has already had to do a lot but lacked an atmosphere and a clear goal. Younger teams are far below this level. Croatia survives on individual quality. Coach Dalić can help my team a lot in returning the atmosphere and focusing on the real problems in football.”

How do you plan on returning the support for the Croatian national team? Will the team play in all parts of Croatia, not just in Zagreb?

“Under my leadership, Croatia will play in all of our cities, and I will do everything to be welcomed everywhere. I said that we should begin building mutual trust right away, and this is a good start. The team will now play in the newly formed Nations League so there will be a lot of strong home matches for all of our football centers to host.”

What can this Croatian team do in the World Cup in Russia?

“The quality is there, but it was there in the past world and European championships, and we were unsuccessful. For greater success, we need to bring back the positive atmosphere and the charge we had earlier. My generation would never be third in the world if we did not feel the support of all of Croatia.”

A final message to Croats and Croatian footballers?

“There will be a smile again soon on the faces of our fans, and also the players. We will be one again and return the confidence to Croatian football together.”

Excerpts are taken from and


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