That was the message of one citizen of the United States of America, a friend of my aunt who lives in Miami. He pointed out the essence of the football storm caused by the 'Vatreni' in Russia. From being the grey area of Europe, the Balkans were was suddenly in the spotlight thanks to the Croatian players. So indeed, people all over former Yugoslavia should be proud.A past of war
It has been more than 25 years yet the scars of civil war still exist. Yugoslavia’s space is still shaken. Strong ethnic disagreement, as it seems, will rule this soil for many years. Political influence is so strong that even the sports industry is affected.But the past couple of days has seen some of the most popular athletes from the Balkans give us hope and maybe the solution in overcoming the weighty presence of mixing sport success with a horrible period of history.Miami meeting
Let us go back to March in Miami. During FIFA's international break when national teams were already preparing for the World Cup in Russia, Croatia trained and played in Florida.
While there, some of the Croatian football stars met one of the world’s tennis powerhouses, Novak Djoković who was taking part in the Miami Open.Luka Modrić, Ivan Rakitić, Ivan Perišić and Mateo Kovačić were delighted at the opportunity to speak to and take a photo with alegend of the sport. Novak was equally thrilled.
A great understanding, smiles, and mutual respect were the highlights of that meeting between Croatia's football players and the Serbian tennis star.They are from the same generation. The one that observed the horror in Yugoslavia during the 90s with the eyes of a child. But nowadays they act as brothers.Mutual support
This summer in Russia, Croatia's football team performed beyond expectations and the country is filled with indescribable joy. Modrić and his teammates went further than any other team from the Balkans in the history of the most popular sport in the region and on the continent.
After the meeting with Croatia's players, Djokovic, Serbia's best athlete, published the photo they took in Miami, sending them best wishes for the World Cup. After Serbia finished its own participation in the World Cup, Djokovic, asked who he would be supporting, replied with "Croatia".
But in his own country a big part of the public declared Djokovic a traitor. The man who has brought the biggest sporting victories to the Serbian people.
During a press conference in the base of Croatia national team prior to the World Cup final, Ivan Rakitić also expressed support for Djokovic ahead of the Serb’s Wimbledon final clash against Kevin Anderson. A journalist from Brazil compared Rakitić and Djoković’s attitude towards each other to a gluten-free food.
. What was more important in her question is the fact that she told to the Barcelona midfielder about the reaction of the Serbian public towards Djokovic’s gesture of publishing their photo from Miami.
Rakitić responded: “Big respect to Nole, and I am taking down my hat for him. Honestly I am cheering for him on Wimbledon. He’s not just a great tennis player, he is more than that, Djoković is a very good person, an overwhelming man. We need to forget the bad relations among Serbians and Croatians. There should be only the positive point of view. We follow his matches, and if he wins the Wimbledon, we will celebrate with him. I hope that all together we could have one glorious Sunday.”
Croatia captain, Luka Modrić, who emerged as the winner of the Golden Ball at the FIFA World Cup also gave his opinion on the topic.“We were watching him against Nadal. It is a pity that we could not be with him during the semi-final continuation of Wimbledon because we needed to practice and put the final touches for our big game (against France on Sunday). But anyway we are all giving big support to him wherever he plays. And we knew that he sent us impulse which means a lot to us. An unforgettable day
Sunday, 15th July 2018 was one of the greatest days in the history of the Balkans. But it did not take place on a battlefield this time, just a field covered in grass.
One was in Moscow where Croatia tried to climb atop the footballing world for the first time, to prove that the goddess of trophies deserves a place in Zagreb. Croatia may not have won the trophy on Sunday as they were beaten 4-2 by France at the Luzhniki Stadium in Russia, but this golden generation of players will reign for a long time in the hearts of fans everywhere.
The second place was in London, on the courts of the All England Club, where Novak Djoković defeated South African Kevin Anderson to win his first Grand Slam title in more than two years and most importantly announce his comeback following fitness issues that had seen him drop out of the world's top 20 earlier this year for the first time since 2006.
It was a good time to be from the Balkans, in a long time.
BELGRADE, July 17, 2018 - “Even though you are from Bosnia, Croatia was part of former Yugoslavia, so congrats. I was rooting for Croatia the whole World Cup. I knew they were the better team in each game I predicted. There is the rich history that comes from Yugoslavian soccer that many people don’t know.”