July 15th, 2018. The world has stopped. Dubrovnik is covered in flags, painted in white and red colors, the whole of Croatia is awake, waiting for a miracle. And no matter what happens later, we all know a miracle will happen.
So, you all know the story. Croatia played against France in the World Cup Final, and, after a breathless game of football, the referee blew the final whistle signalling France’s 4-2 victory over Croatia. The luck wasn’t on our side that day, and although our eleven boys left their hearts on that field, Croatia lost. The World Cup is now over, France won the gold, and you all know the rest of the story. Except for one small detail. Actually, two:
Instead of eleven boys, there were 4 million people playing that match.
And Croatia didn’t lose.
Truth be told, Croatia lost that football match and won second place and the silver medal. Which is, for a small country such as we are, a massive accomplishment. But if you ask me and the rest of the Croatian people all over the country, we are the champions. Now the whole world knows about Croatia, because we made that day a national holiday. Not just that our Vatreni made us, Croatians, united, but they succeeded in bringing the whole world population together. I will never forget what one of my friends said a minute before the game started:
“If France wins this Cup, France will celebrate. If Croatia wins, the whole world will be celebrating”.
Although we didn’t formally win the game, we were celebrating because we had plenty of reasons. We have the world’s second best football team, for a start. And we have shown that we know, better than anyone in this world, what is love, friendship, unity and pride. On that day life in Dubrovnik stopped for a few hours. The streets were full of people singing, screaming, dancing, celebrating a victory that only we can understand. I have never seen so many faces covered in tears of happiness. On the July 15th, 2018, we received a gift from heaven and we welcomed it the best way we knew.
The atmosphere we are feeling these days cannot be bought for all the money in the world. And I am pretty sure Croatia will be celebrating long after all the celebratory lights of France are turned off. And the day after the match, no matter the heat and hours of waiting, 500,000 people made it to Zagreb, capital of Croatia, to welcome our Vatreni as the heroes they are. They made new history. And in the end, we can be grateful to them because they gave us a reason, once again, for being proud to be Croat.