Inscribed on the inside of Croatian soccer jerseys is the phrase “uvijek vjerni,” or, “always faithful,” or “always believe,” depending on the translation.
That’s why Calgarian Maria Barković still held hope her team could bounce back from a 2-1 deficit at halftime in the 2018 FIFA World Cup final versus powerhouse France. She and more than 500 others packed Calgary’s Croatian-Canadian Cultural Centre in the city’s northeast for the FIFA World Cup final.
But, despite the 4-2 finals loss, Barković said this year’s run has brought the already tight-knit community of between 5,000 and 6,000 closer together.
“The feelings that we all hold today are – we’re all speechless,” she said.
“This is a euphoric moment and a moment of cohesion for the whole Croatian community here in Calgary.”
CELEBRATION AFTER CROATIA’S 2nd GOAL
Flags hung from the ceiling of the large viewing area where four big screens were set up. Tables were draped with white cloths, most adorned with cans of one of Croatia’s most popular beers – Karlovačko.
Many had some form of team decoration: Jerseys, scarves, hats – all with the red and white checkerboard pattern that’s represented Croatia since the Middle Ages.
Ivan Vukelić, president of the Croatian-Canadian Cultural Centre said this World Cup match united Croatians all over the city, the country and the world.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s Calgary or anywhere in the world, we’re very, very proud of the players,” he said.
Vukelić said the outcome didn’t matter. While a win was clearly on the mind of Croatians jammed into the centre, he said they’d be happy and enjoy the party regardless.
“Croatia showed that it may be a small country, but it has a big heart,” he said.