19 Jul 2018

Ultra-nationalism tarnishes Croatian football success

The success of the Croatian football team at the World Cup was celebrated across the Balkans. At least until the ultra right-wing singer Marko Perković Thompson was invited to sing at official homecoming celebrations in Zagreb. 

Lidija Pisker
Lidija Pisker NewsMavens, Balkans
Ultra-nationalism tarnishes Croatian football success - NewsMavens
Marko Perković u Crikvenici, Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

Upon the return of the Croatian football team Zagreb from Russia earlier this week, singer Marko Perković Thompson was invited by the footballers to sing in front of 500,000 people gathered on the main square.

"Lijepa li si," one of the songs he sang, celebrates "Herceg Bosna." "Herceg Bosna" was the political project by Croatian nationalists aimed at ensuring Croatian dominance in parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which included extermination of Bosnian Muslims during the 1992-1995 war.

The French celebrated their victory by singing Gloria Gaynor's "I will survive," Belgians marked the third place with techno beats, while Croatians brought an ultra nationalist pop rock singer to the celebration stage. They might have world's second best football team, but Croatians scored a terrible own-goal with this move.  

The great performance of Croatian footballers in Russia evoked a mood of unity throughout the politically divided Balkan region and many Bosnians, Serbs, Macedonians and Montenegrins cheered for  their neighbors -- until this happened. 

Disappointment and anger soon replaced the feelings of excitement, not only among neighbouring Balkan countries but among Croatians as well. And now, nobody speaks about football any more, but about politics and how it has gotten us to this point. 

Details from the story:

  • The second place at this year's World Football Cup is Croatia's best performance in an international tournament so far.
  • Many football fans from Balkan countries were cheering for Croatia throughout the Cup. 
  • The leaders of "Herceg Bosna" were sentenced for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in Hague. 
  • The controversial singer has sung for Croatian war crimes defendants in the past. At some of his concerts, Thompson and his fans are chanting the slogan "Za dom spremni" ("Ready for the homeland") of the Croatian World War II fascist Ustaša movement.
  • Several European countries, such as Slovenia and Austria, have banned his concerts. 
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