TORONTO – Canadians of Croatian descent are eagerly anticipating the World Cup final that will see Croatia go up against France, saying the game will mark a moment of immense pride for fans of the team.
The match on Sunday will be the first time Croatia plays in the tournament’s final, and comes after it beat out England earlier this week.
“Soccer for Croatians is like hockey for Canadians,” said Ivan Kulis, who works at the Toronto Croatia Academy and goes back to Croatia often. “For a small country like Croatia, with 4.2 million people, (the final) means much more than a soccer game.”
A win in the final would mark an immense victory for the country that broke away from Yugoslavia to become an independent state in 1991 – a year after its national soccer team started playing. Croatia, the fourth-smallest of the 32 World Cup teams ahead of Panama, Uruguay and Iceland, has a chance to be the least-populous nation to win since Uruguay took the title in 1950, when it was a nation of just over 2 million.
Soccer is one of the pillars that unite Croatians who live in Canada, especially in the Greater Toronto Area, he said. “We are a very tight-knitted community and soccer brings people together,” he said.
According to the latest Statistics Canada census, around 5,000 people whose mother tongue is Croatian live in Toronto and just a little under 5,000 more live in Mississauga, Ont.
“A lot of people in the GTA will be celebrating in the park behind the Croatian Martyrs church in Mississauga and they will watch the game on a screen,” says Skoko. “I’ll be at the park for the party afterwards, for whatever happens.”
WAKE UP TORONTO AND BE CROATIAN FOR A DAY! Matty, I understand if you can't but hopefully JL takes after his mother more!