Outside of the spectacle in Zagreb, many Croatian towns held welcoming parties for national team footballers yesterday.
Over 50,000 fans welcomed Ivan Perišić, Ante Rebić, Ivan Strinić, Lovre Kalinić, and Filip Bradarić on Tuesday. The players landed at Split Airport and traveled to their beloved city by boat, followed by hundreds of speedboats dressed in Croatian flags and flares.
Once the players arrived to Split, they were driven on an open double-decker bus to the Riva.
And a glimpse of the Riva before they arrived…
On the Riva, the players met thousands of fans where they celebrated not only their World Cup achievement, but also Ivan Strinić’s 31st birthday.
Bradarić, a former Hajduk player who now captains Rijeka, also sent an emotional message to the fans:
“People, please be together, because if we are together, we can change some things at the top. We all know what’s happening in Croatia. I’m from Split and want everyone to be together, to be together for Croatia and to return the national team to Split!!”
Perišić also delighted the crowd by saying he wants to end his career at Hajduk!
The people of Imotski prepared a spectacular celebration for Ante Rebić and Ivan Strinić – and Perišić, Bradarić, and Kalinić decided to come along for the ride after the mayhem in Split. Thousands of fans gathered at the main square by the Tin Ujević statue to welcome their World Cup finalists.
A magnificent celebration was held in Zadar to welcome Croatia captain Luka Modrić, Danijel Subašić, Šime Vrsaljko, and Dominik Livaković.
Like Split, the Zadar players were also followed by nearly 100 boats before they met the Riva and main square for the climax of the celebration in front of more thant 30,000 fans.
Photo by Zvonko Kucelin
“I hope that all of Croatia will continue to run as it has in the past month. This is the most beautiful thing we could expect. Now I’m going on vacation and currently, I have no plans, just a vacation,” Modrić said and started to sing ‘Zadar is the best, Zadar is famous, no one in Europe is equal to it’.
Dejan Lovren was welcomed by more than two thousand fans in Karlovac where he shared autographs, sang several songs, and offered free food and drink.
“I know where I come from and will never forget it. Karlovac is the first town to accept me, where I felt at home and felt it in my heart. And all of this is unreal, you people are wonderful, my heart is full and you have touched me,” said Lovren.
Lovren also got a bit political.
“When we saw through the media that this fellowship was created in Croatia, we realized that the country was burning. We must not forget this and we must learn something from it as a society. That great things can be done through work and honesty. Our political society needs to understand the message from this. If we, who have no major influence on society alone, have given Croatia such power and communion, then they must do so. Because here, every man is worth it. And the people here, and those who died in war for us,” added Lovren.
Mateo Kovačić was welcomed in Sesvete last night with a celebration at his local parish.
“The feeling is phenomenal. People have welcomed us as world champions and we feel it right now. I hope there will be a second time. We knew it would be crazy when we win, but this … This I’ll remember for the rest of my life. This is my parish and thanks to everyone who has given us such a welcome,” Kovačić said.
Domagoj Vida was welcome in Donji Miholjac, where we arrived wearing a traditional Slavonian folk costume.
“Thank you all for the welcome. It was easier for me to play the final than to stand here before you,” Vida said.
Vedrana Ćorluka was welcomed in Rabac, where his girlfriend Franka Batelić is from.
“I feel great. This is phenomenal, and it is just now getting to my head what we have done and how happy we’ve made people. This is far from anything I ever expected. I am in shock and without words. It is as if I was born here,” Ćorluka said.
After yesterday’s spectacle in Zagreb’s main square, Ćorluka was also welcomed in Sloboština in the evening.
Coach Zlatko Dalić was welcomed in Varaždin by thousands of fans.
“I’ll remember this all my life – this is my city, my Varaždin. So much emotion and love, so much communion, it’s a really wonderful picture. Thank you to Varaždin,” said Dalić.
Dalić was joined by Varaždin mayor Ivan Čehok, Zaprešić Boys, Tony Cetinski, Klapa Kampanel, Prljavo kazalište, Mejaši, Dobre vibracije and Marko Perković Thompson.