Sitting in a secluded café within the city of Zagreb sipping on a lovely Cortado, I’m still thinking about the plain madness of what happened last night.
The whole country let alone the city is ecstatic after their historic semi final victory against England (my home country) in 2018’s World Cup to win their place in the final. This has never happened before for them and I was extremely lucky to be in Zagreb with my Croatian friends to be a part of it.
On the most part I do not watch sport of any kind, nothing bores me than watching a match of any kind for five minutes let alone a 90 minute plus football match. However being here with these guys it was too good an experience to miss out on, and I’m glad I did, because it was an amazing time. We wrapped up our meetings early in the day to give us all enough time to get ready, head into the city, grab seats and tables outside in a bar. We got there a full three hours before kick off and already there was a sea of people in the nations colours everywhere you look.
As you know watching people is a favourite pastime of mine. And boy were the views splendid, if you catch my drift. The amazing theme throughout the whole evening and into the early hours of the morning was unity. It was truly magical to see everyone together, united, laughing, joking, happy and peaceful. The table in front of me, for example, joked “fuck England”, smiling at me. “Yes, fuck them, im with you guys!”, I replied smiling. He then asked where I was from, with a pause and open mouth, “… England…”, with everyone burst out with laughter, I fisted the guy like a gangster. Yes, I know, so cool.
Everyone was expecting me to support the country I was born in, feared for my safety and all that jazz. The truth couldn’t be further from the truth. Sorry, but no way am I going to support a country that doesn’t accept me and has growing prejudice of my kind day by day. I’m not saying I’m accepted in Croatia or any other country for that matter, but seriously I just couldn’t see myself supporting them. In reality my support lends itself to the country who has the more attractive female supporters, so was no contest really. Oh my god! In terms of safety, luckily the colour of my skin proved a benefit. Walking around taking pictures of the breathtaking sights of jubilance, numerous people came to take selfies with me, photobombed, hugged, high fives and of course the gangster fists. Remember, so cool. I’m told that this is football. Have I missed out? Well I think I made up for it!
The Irish Pub (of course its an Irish Pub) we were in was heaving, people standing on chairs, sitting on high platforms, at the tables with all eyes focused on the huge screen in front of us. The rain came during the first half, umbrellas came up and pink ponchos draped over some of us. The goals came and the whole city erupted! Firecrackers set off, horns blasted, but nothing beat the vocal cheers and hugs. Strangers hugging strangers, friends embracing with laughter, what a feeling. Vibes man, what vibes!
When the match was secured, it was astonishing how quickly the bar was vacated, it looked like a bomb site. Massive respect to the people actually working that night, I truly knows how that feels. Heading to the main square was epic. The sheer amount of people was just incredible to see. Makes you think how football, especially the world cup has become like a religion and the impact it has on a nation. Eleven players per side kicking around a ball into a net. The streets were blocked, cars honking their horn, flags flying, people standing on top of moving cars singing and dancing, waving as they pass by, anything that could have been banged on was banged. Everyone partying till way past the usual closing time. And you know what, good on them. Everyone was happy and that unity was an experience to not only witness but partake in. Congratulations Croatia you deserve it! Get that cup! Thank you for making me a part of the celebrations, truly a sign of Peace & Love.