Croatians give heroes’ welcome to Modric & Co.
Zagreb: Tens of thousands of Croatians gave a heroes’ welcome to their team in Zagreb on Monday after the squad returned from Russia following their World Cup final defeat.
A crowd estimated at more than 100,000 thronged the capital’s main square to see the players, led by captain and World Cup Golden Ball winner Luka Modric, parade through the streets on an open-top bus. Cheering fans, many waving flags and wearing the famous red and white shirt of Croatia, held up banners celebrating the runners-up after their gallant 4-2 defeat by France.
“This is how Croatia is loved,” read one banner. Another said: “We are few, but we believed and that is enough.”
Many even skipped work to celebrate the team reaching their first ever World Cup final.
“I closed my office to welcome our heroes. I put a sign up reading ‘Today, July 16, 2018’, office closed due to our Vatreni (the Fiery Ones in Croatian),” doctor Sanja Klajic said.
Earlier noisy fans awaited their side’s appearance by singing a popular song “Play on my Croatia, when I see you my heart is on fire!” while watching the plane carrying the team progress to the capital on a giant TV screen.
When the plane, accompanied by military jets and emblazoned with the logo “Bravo Vatreni” flew overhead the crowd cheered and chanted “Hands up, hands up!”.
After watching their football team lose 4-2 to France in the World Cup final in Moscow on Sunday, some Croatians wept with sadness while others felt pride that their tiny nation had gone so far in the tournament.
One young woman used a red-and-white Croatian flag to wipe tears from her eyes as a female friend, also crying, put her arm around her.
Croatia, with a population of only 4.2 million people, were not among the favourites at the start of the tournament. Their progress to the final gripped the imagination of the Balkan nation and members of the Croatian diaspora living in countries from Germany to Australia.“For a nation of four million people it’s a miracle to come to the World Cup final,” said Aleksander Ceferin, the head of European soccer’s governing body Uefa.
PM Andrej Plenkovic appealed to employers to let staff leave work early to join the celebration.