Few know there’s a city named Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. It’s only after Croatia reached the World Cup soccer final, people take note of it.
Croatia, with a population of just 4.2 million, is the smallest nation to reach the tournament final since Uruguay in 1950. It reached that point by coming from behind in the second half of three consecutive games, all of which required 30 minutes of extra time to settle (two on penalty-kick tiebreakers).
As the jubilant French team was basking in the glory of their second World Cup title at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, the downpour hid tears streaming from the eyes of the fallen Croatians, whose heroic run through soccer’s ultimate testing ground offered hope to every small country with big dreams.
Croatia may have lost the most famous title of international soccer, but their terrific team spirit and incredible never-say-die attitude finally won. The amount of hearts Croatia won in Asia, Africa, Europe, North America and Pacific is amazing.
As I was reading Croatia Week, which is published from Zagerb, I was moved by the comments made by a Croatian.
“We are so used to bad news in Croatia, about the economy, unemployment, people fleeing the country etc. Croats are the people who know their limits, maybe too well. Maybe so well that after years they became self-imposed. This team taught us that we are not prisoners of bad news and that with effort, hard work, practice and knowledge we can beat the odds and go beyond our limits.”
Yes, the soccer team has proved Croatians are not the prisoners of bad news.
“Sometimes we feel so alone. We are a small economy, our bureaucracy repeals foreign businesses. We feel alone even in Croatia, divided by the left and right and pro and against and class and income. It’s true people do manage to gather to oppose something or someone but rarely do we feel united in a positive way. And that’s exactly what happened when all people united in unprecedented happiness and joy,” the Croatian commented.
One person who especially stuck out was the coach, Zlatko Dalić. His incredible sense of measure and sportsmanship, even in most euphoric situations after major wins, always congratulating the opponents, never underestimating the next opponent, putting the team first when it comes to results, is amazing. What an incredible man!
Dalic said: “On our bus there is a slogan: ‘Small Country With Big Dreams’. You have to believe it’s possible. You have to have a dream and ambition, and then maybe it will come true — in football or in life.”
Lesson: The Croatians have taught that being humble, sportsman spirit and never giving up is the ultimate winner.