We Croatians are a unique kind of people , with a population of 4 million people and something more in diaspora.
Whenever we see the red n white checkered shirt, especially in a foreign country, we are automatically drawn to one another like magnets.
I thought I would share this story…
On Thursday night I set out to Zagreb after watching our Vatreni defeat England in the semi final and setup a showdown with France 🇫🇷 in the final.
On the plane I was the only passenger proudly wearing the Croatian jersey.
When I got off the plane in Dubai the first Croatian wearing the Hrvatski dres was this little kid with his dad, ex Knight’s player Paul Magdic
We were both headed for Zagreb hoping to get a ticket to the World Cup Final in Moscow, then the homecoming in Zagreb. We chatted for a bit then went our separate ways as I needed to get my boarding ticket.
When it was time for checking in, another 20 or so Cro’s, some wearing the checkers, others incognito. We came from all over the country, Canberra, Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.
Even though we didn’t all know each other, we greeted each other like brothers with handshakes kisses and hugs – I don’t think there is another country in the world where strangers can become family in a matter of minutes.
One of the guys, Josip Bastac and his brother told me they finished up at Punchbowl 8.30am blind drunk and decided to book a flight leaving Sydney that afternoon.
On the plane I went to my seat and I was sitting next to Paul’s 8yo son, after a while I introduced myself he said his name was Leon, I told him my 17 month old son was also Leonardo.
After our son was born I thought the next World Cup I go to would be with him, but making it to a World Cup Final is once in a lifetime, twice if you are lucky!
On the flight back from Zagreb again I landed in Dubai. Going thru security, while taking my belt off I met a guy with his son headed to Sydney.
Our flights were 15 mins apart and gates right next to each other so we sat and had a chat. He’s from Zadar, going to Sydney for the first time to visit his relatives.
After chatting for almost 2 hours I introduced myself and when he said his name was Leonardo Matkovic I did the sign of the cross and almost fell off my seat. I told him my son was named Leonardo too.
I couldn’t believe the first person I spoke to when I landed in Dubai heading to Zagreb and then back againfrom Zagreb in Dubai were both Leo.
So even though my son Leo wasn’t physically with me, he was in spirit looking after his daddy 👶🏻
Richie Barbaric, Perth