Tip News

September 19, 2018

Croatia World Cup success shifts spotlight from scandal

Croatia World Cup success shifts spotlight from scandal
'Croatia fans celebrate victory against Russia in Zagreb's main square' - By: AFP Denis Lovrovic

Croatia's performance in reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup has reconciled fans with their squad and removed the spotlight from corruption that has plagued football in the Balkan nation in recent years.

For the past few weeks Luka Modric's side have been on everyone's lips in the country of around four million people.

As they prepare to face England on Wednesday, coach Zlatko Dalic and his players are celebrated as national heroes and their names are chanted on the streets throughout Croatia, while they are described as embodying courage, perfection and humility.

But only a month ago the situation was very different.

"Pray to God they lose it all!" read graffiti and banners, dating back from Euro 2016, notably in the coastal town of Split and the surrounding region.

"Each of your defeats makes us happy, Split wishes you the worst!" read a banner on a bridge in Split after a defeat by Brazil in a friendly in June.

Critics say that murky management within the Croatian football federation has led to huge animosity among many football fans and the public towards both the federation and football in general.

The country has been repeatedly punished by FIFA and UEFA over unruly fans known for throwing flares at matches and chanting fascist slogans.

Recently, Modric and Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren were targeted over their links to the former boss of the Dinamo Zagreb club, businessman Zdravko Mamic, who was sentenced in June to six and a half years in prison in a multi-million-euro corruption case.

Mamic, widely seen as the real boss of the Croatian federation, is currently in hiding in Bosnia.

Both Modric and Lovren testified during Mamic's trial, over their transfers from Dinamo Zagreb.

The evidence given by Modric, visibly confused and unable to even remember the year he made his debut for the national squad, infuriated fans who feared it could have led to a reduced sentence for Mamic.

The Real Madrid midfielder was indicted over false testimony, punishable in theory by a jail sentence, while Lovren was also investigated.

- Anger forgotten -

But the fans' anger appeared to be forgotten after Modric's brilliant performances at the World Cup.

Mamic's trial, insufficient and outdated infrastructure at stadiums, poor-quality refereeing, and the fans' revolt against the federation and its president Davor Suker created a negative atmosphere around the squad.

Although the success in Russia has lifted the grim mood, the problems with Croatian football remain.

"The worst thing is that the whole of society's trust in football has been lost," former international Dario Simic told AFP in April.

Suker, once the adored 1998 World Cup Golden Boot winner, is disliked by fans because he was named head of the federation in 2012 due to Mamic's lobbying, and is accused of being his puppet.

Suker was re-elected to a four-year-term. A top official in the federation, Damir Vrbanovic, who was tried along with Mamic and sentenced to three years in jail, retained his position.

"The team's success at the World Cup and all the other issues are not related," prominent sports journalist Robert Matteoni told AFP.

"What is happening now is the consequence of pure football. Now we have great players and a coach who can draw a maximum from them and this is where this result comes from."

- Deep changes needed -

After a dramatic win on penalties against Russia, Croatia will play England on Wednesday in front of 80,000 people in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium for a place in the World Cup final.

They have repeated the success of the 1998 team who reached the semi-finals in Croatia's first World Cup as an independent nation.

Some local media say that once the tournament is over, it could trigger a change for better.

"Maybe football is really coming home. Where it belongs, to Croatia," commented the influential Jutarnji List paper, playing on the chants in England of "It's Coming Home" -- the resurrected theme song from the 1996 European Championships.

"Croatian football has a chance to turn this ugly page ... and start a new history," the paper said.

But it warned that "after showering in the champagne of victory, not only cosmetic but deep changes should be made."

Short link: https://tipnews.com/u/NTY1NzU=

See also:

Related articles

Dudelange insist they can stand up to Europe's elite

Dudelange insist they can stand up to Europe's elite

"Everyone believes we will let in 4 or 5, but I think we will be far from being humiliated," said Clement Couturier, a midfielder with Dudelange who, on Thursday, become the first Luxembourg team to play in the Europa League group stage.The tiny club, who ha

Nadal to miss Asian tournaments due to knee injury

Nadal to miss Asian tournaments due to knee injury

World number one Rafael Nadal has announced his withdrawal from upcoming tournaments in Beijing and Shanghai due to the right knee injury that forced him to retire from the US Open earlier this month.Nadal had to pull out during his semi-final against Juan Mar

Liverpool's band of brothers fire Champions League warning

Liverpool's band of brothers fire Champions League warning

Liverpool turned the page on defeat in May's Champions League final and showed whey they are even stronger candidates to win a sixth European Cup this season as they launched their campaign in style against Paris Saint-Germain.The home side left it late to se

Firmino good enough with one eye, says Liverpool's Mane

Firmino good enough with one eye, says Liverpool's Mane

Sadio Mane said he had urged Liverpool match-winner Roberto Firmino to declare himself fit for the Champions League opener against Paris Saint-Germain, insisting he didn't "need his eye to play".Firmino sustained an abrasion to the cornea in his left eye in

HELLO, PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT TO RATE THIS POST Croatia World Cup success shifts spotlight from scandal

Sending comment Close