Diary of a Croatian fan at Euro 2008, final part

by Mystical Mike

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

Friday 20th June

As there is a delay in my writing of these blogs by a couple of days it’s now Saturday and I’m sat on an Easyjet flight back to England. I really don’t feel like writing much as I’m so depressed over Friday nights events, so, if you don’t mind readers we’ll skip Thursday and move straight to Friday. Nothing much happened on Thursday anyway, bar the Germans knocking out Ronaldo and co which in itself was nice!

So, straight to Friday, the day of the big game! The anticipation in the potting sheds is palpable. Surely we’ll beat the Turks who have been lucky to get this far. Atterby and I are confident, but it’s Zitko who seems to have woken up with a case of the squirms. “I’ve got a bad feeling about today” he says. We soon realise the problem. Turks are currently ruining Zitko’s life by squatting in one of his many flats abroad, and he seems to think they could ruin his night tonight. A couple of red bulls and a bowl of Frosties later however and he’s bouncing off the walls of the shed right as rain and ready to defend Vienna!

Our hotel of choice is at Vienna airport. Our thought process is that we’re all going to be smashed tonight and would rather crawl out of the room, down to a big breakfast and only have to walk 2 minutes to the airport – we all need to be back in London for the weekend in case you’re wondering. I pop inside to check where we can park whilst we unload. There is a bit of a queue but I think nothing of it until I get back outside to find both Zitko and Atterby leaping around like a pair of pre-pubescent school girls who’ve just met Busted.

“You’ll never guess who we’ve just met” they screech at a pitch only barely suitable for the human ear and sending several passing dogs totally mental.
“Alan Hansen, Alan Hansen, Alan Hansen”

Initially I dont believe them until they produce the photographic evidence. There they are the pair of smiling wa**kers each with their own photo with Alan Hansen. Great, one of my favorite ever footballers and I’ve missed out on meeting him by a matter of seconds. Apparently Martin O’Neill and Gary Lineker were there as well but scarpered as soon as our intrepid duo headed towards them cameras waving wildly in hand.


We arrange to collect our tickets at the Stephensplatz, and the site that greets us as we arrive is totally unexpected. There must be 25,000 Croats crowded into the square, although its difficult to tell due to the amount of multi-coloured smoke filling the air. The sound of fire-crackers and air bombs going provide a further back drop to what is an amazing atmosphere (check out the website for tons of video footage). People are leaning off balconies leading the crowd in chanting, footballs keep flying into the air, and the chorus from Srce Vatreno seems to be a particular favorite. It would be fair to say that this lot are bang up for it and it’s still about 3 hours until kick off.

Our major concern now is where in the ground our tickets are. Yet once we’ve arrived at the Ernst Happel we know almost within minutes that we’ve got nothing to worry about. Zitko’s over the moon as he realises that we’re going to be right slap bang in the middle of the Croatian end, right behind one of the goals. To be honest, we could have bought tickets virtually anywhere and not been in with the Turks. There’s hardly any to be seen, with just a sea of red and white shirts everywhere.
The rest as they say is history. You know what happened. Suffice to say the atmosphere was utterly awesome, and from where we sat it wasn’t a bad game at all. Croatia were stifled somewhat by Terim’s spoiling tactics, but clearly had enough chances to win it. If the score had been 3-0 at Full Time I don’t think anyone could have had any complaints. The final two minutes were crazy. Our end erupted as Croatia scored, an outburst of joy and emotion unlike most things I’ve experienced, we all then realise it’s living legend Ivan Klasnic that’s scored the goal and shout even more, fully expecting the final whistle to go any minute. But the ball’s suddenly bouncing around the Croatian penalty area (why hasn’t the referee blown his whistle yet?) before crashing into the goal past Stipe Pletikosa.

Surely that’s not right? I can almost feel my jaw hit the floor as the small pocket of Turkish fans celebrate wildly, being heard at our end for the first time. Collective shock. A full 3 minutes pass before anyone starts cheering again, and even then it’s only a half-hearted shout of “Stipe, Stipe, Stipe”. But we know it’s lost. The players are visibly devastated, Bilic looks heartbroken. There’s a sense of inevitability when the penalties are awarded to the “Turkish end”, and a fog that’s never lifted right from the moment the man of the match Luka Modric spoons his penalty wide.

Down and out

Croatia are out. Only five minutes before we were looking at a semi-final against the beatable Germans. The next 20 minutes are spent dazed, sitting on the seat wondering what just happened. Niko Kovac looks close to tears as he applauds the fans before throwing his shirt into a desperate crowd. It’s his final game for the national team and he must hurt more than most for how this game ended. We all go through the typical stages of loss – shock, denial, frustration, anger, grief then sadness as we come to terms with the situation. There’ll be no celebrating tonight, merely a long trip back to the hotel before we board our planes tomorrow.

There are Turkish fans in a few spots, but mainly they seem to be doing the car beepy horn thing and hanging out of their windows which really starts to grate on an already bolshy Zitko’s nerves. I’ve not heard so many insults in so many languages for quite a long time. Outside a pizza parlour he nearly lands one on the nose of a drunken Turk who fancies a bit of post game banter. Not good timing mate, not good timing. We respectfully move on.

It’s a terrible way for Croatia’s journey to end. Back at the hotel, Zitko writes his England/Croatia piece whilst simmering with anger, Atterby gets the single room and goes to sleep moaning about his feet, and I console myself in the arms of my lovely Canadian, who’s just as upset as we are. There’s time merely to claim a small victory for Croatia by banning a gloating Turk who’s found his way to our forum to dish out a few insults and delete his posts from existence.

Speaking to our friends at the media centre the following day, we understand that Slaven was still devastated, but took a lot of time to do photos and autographs with all the media. He was a real gentleman apparently. Our friends at the hotel said the players looked shattered, gutted, and still in a state of depressed shock when they arrived back after the game and left for Zagreb the following day. Bilic hit the nail on the head. It will take a LONG time to get over this one. Let’s hope he stays on at least to see Croatia into 1st or 2nd place in the World Cup Qualifying group and gets the chance to eradicate that 122nd minute Turkish goal from our psyche with some better memories in South Africa.

The following days…..
The dust has settled somewhat and we now look forward to the semi finals. We’ve come back to the UK and decided to remain here rather than go back out for the semis and finals. So we’ll watch the Germans get to the final (probably) and hopefully the exciting Russians past the sexy Spanish.

It’s been a great tournament, and Croatia have much to be proud of. The BACF team has had an awesome time. We’ve made new friends in Austria, Canada, Croatia and England. We’ve had highlights in Zagreb, Vienna, and of course the potting sheds.

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading our travails, and look forward to boring the pants off you in 2010!

Andrija Tadic reports for UK Football Finder from the leading Croatian football website become a croatia fan.

Become a Crotia fan

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  • http://aloadofcobblers.blogspot.com Danny Brothers

    Great stuff…very much enjoyed reading your updates from the tournament and it’s made me a lot less bitter towards Croatia now! They would have fully deserved a place in the semis and going on last night would surely have beaten the Germans.

    It’ll be a tough task for England in the World Cup qualifiers as we meet Croatia again along with a tricky Ukraine test so we’re in for a tough task again in qualifying.

  • http://www.ukfootballfinder.co.uk Darren

    true say, I’ve totally enjoyed your blog, it’s been an insight, the comedy value added to the read too. I actually feel that Croatia and England are closer now due to the fact we felt your pain and you now know what it’s like to be a England fan now.

    I can see us struggling big time, our group is very tough


    Very similar to our last group

  • http://www.becomeacroatiafan.com Andrija Tadic

    Cheers guys… glad you enjoyed the blogs. As for the comedy value, watching two grown men argue over moisturiser is more tragic than comedic I would say!

    Just sorry we couldn’t have made it past the Turks and lined up a semi-final clash against the Germans. What made it even worse was watching them last night, they were awful…. damn you Olic and your 1in5 (ish) international record….

    Reality is though that we’re out and I’m back to the day job, which frankly is even more dull and boring now than it was before….

    Never mind though, WC 2012 qualification starts soon and we’re already making plans to report from South Africa, so if you need WC blogs, and there’s no one else to help, and if you can find us, you should call the ‘BACF team’ 🙂

  • Brian Smith

    Look forward to your World Cup blog Andrija, it’s been emotional and a total rollercoaster ride, England weren’t there but your blog gave me an insight of what it would have been like.

    Thanks again and see you in Zagreb!

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