What does America’s greatest sporting event have to do with Croatia? Turns out, a whole lot.
On Feb. 1, 2015, when more than 110 million Americans are expected to tune in to watch the New England Patriots take on the reigning Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, the two head coaches can both trace their roots back to this small European country on the edge of the Mediterranean/Adriatic Sea.
That’s right. Proud Croatians around the United States, Canada and the rest of the globe will be watching some Croatian history unfold in Arizona. Both Bill Belichick, coach of the Patriots, and Pete Carroll, coaching the Seahawks, are fellow Croatian Americans. And that marks the first time in NFL history when both head coaches in the Super Bowl can say they are descendants from this small nation.
For those unfamiliar with Croatia, it is a small central European country born out of the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. Croatia is to the east of Italy on the other side of the beautiful Adriatic Sea. For those with limited geographic knowledge, maybe this will help. King’s Landing in the HBO smash series Game of Thrones is filmed on location in Dubrovnik, Croatia. The real city is known as the Pearl of the Adriatic and is a UNESCO World Heritage Center.
For those who are fans of the cable television series, you may want to favor Pete Carroll in the Super Bowl since his Croatian grandfather hails from Gravosa, the modern-day port area of Dubrovnik.
If you have ever had the pleasure of arriving in Dubrovnik via ferry or cruise ship, you have landed where Pete Carroll’s grandfather (on his mother’s side) Peter Bann was born. It is not ironic that the grandfather of laid back, easy going Californian, Pete Carroll was born on the beautiful Croatian coast. In the intense game of football, Carroll carries that uniquely Dalmatian vibe with him.
Rival NFL coach Bill Belichick is another proud Croatian American whose grandparents (on his father’s side) came to America in the late 1800s. Ivan Bilicic and Mary Barkovic (Bill’s grandparents) both hail from the Karlovac region of Croatia from the village of Draganić. Belichick’s family comes from the central part of Croatia far from the sea. An interesting fact is that Karlovac was built in 1579 by the Austrians as a fortress to defend its southern border. Centuries later, Steve Belichick (father of Bill) was an assistant coach and scout for more than three decades at the United States Naval Academy.
Meanwhile Belichick will not be alone on the sidelines as one of his key defensive players Rob Ninkovich also has deep Croatian roots. Ninkovich is from a large Croatian American family in the Chicago area with many working as ironworkers over the years.
2012 Super Bowl
This marks the second time in three years when Croatian Americans play a significant role in the Super Bowl. In 2012, the Belichick/Ninkovich Patriots battled unsuccessfully against Croatian American David Diehl and his New York Giants teammates. On a side note, that Super Bowl was played in Lucas Oil Stadium, which is named after Anthony Lucas, who was born as Antun Lučić in Split, Croatia. Lucas is credited as being the father of petroleum engineering in the United States.
*****Super Bowl Poll Question*****
In the spirit of Super Bowl competition, the Not-For-Profit, Croatian Scholarship Fund is asking everyone a very simple question on their Facebook page:
Who is the greatest Croatian head coach in the NFL?
You can vote either for Bill Belichick of the Patriots or Pete Carroll of the Seahawks.
The voting will remain open through Super Bowl Sunday.
*****You can find Croatian Scholarship Fund (CSF) poll here*****
For the past 25 years CSF, a 501c3 Not-For-Profit, has been providing financial assistance to financially deserving and extremely talented Croatian university students in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Without this assistance many of these bright young men and women would not be able to obtain a university education. This is all made possible because of individuals, families, and organizations who have generously supported CSF’s mission by donating or sponsoring one or more students.
For more information about CSF, our mission and our students, please visit our website:
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