Chicago Croats grieve World Cup loss, celebrate Croatia’s journey to the final


By Dawood Mustafa

Updated July 16, 2018

Chicago Croats who gathered to watch the World Cup Final Sunday may have been disappointed to lose to France, but they couldn’t stay sad for long.

“The Croatians were really sad and happy at the same time” said Maria Pasic, media representative from Croatian Cultural Center-Chicago, located at 2845 W. Devon.

She said about 500 people were inside the cultural center, with another 1,500 gathered outside.

After a great season and hard game, Croatia accepted their loss, and reveled in the fact that they were the team from the smallest country in the tournament, and made it all the way to the final game.

“Silver is the new gold,” Pasic said.

Chicago Croats ready for World Cup Final

If you hear a loud roar from somewhere in the vicinity of Devon Avenue Sunday, don’t be alarmed. It’ll most likely be the 500 or so delirious Croats watching the World Cup final.

“We are all extremely excited,” said Nada Vasilj, executive director of the Croatian Cultural Center, at 2845 W. Devon. “We cannot wait to win!”

Vasilj was busy Thursday ordering fresh supplies for Sunday’s game. She expects the center’s banquet hall, with a capacity of 500, will be filled.

Croatia, the smallest country in this year’s World Cup, earned a spot in the finals against France by defeating England Wednesday. Vasilj said the victory was an emotional one for fans.

“I told my son last night, I have never seen so many men cry their hearts out, and not in a bad way,” she said. “It’s so dear to us, and means so much to us.”

Indeed, Vasilj herself teared up as she talked about the team, remembering their 1998 semi-final loss to France.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I get so emotional.

Chicago is home to between 150,000 and 200,000 people who claim Croatian heritage, according to Vasilj. Perhaps the most notable is Cardinal Blasé Cupich, who issued a statement Friday expressing his ethnic pride in the team.

Sunday will be Croatia’s first trip to the World Cup Final. They finished third in 1998, losing to France.

Leave a Reply