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(E) FOOTBALL CRAZY BY BRIAN GALLAGHER
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  07/8/2004 | Politics | Unrated
(E) FOOTBALL CRAZY BY BRIAN GALLAGHER

 

FOOTBALL CRAZY BY BRIAN GALLAGHER
 

Croatian Herald No 1021 2 July 2004
Viewpoint from London
By Brian Gallagher

Croatia was all over the UK press recently. All due
to the England v Croatia clash. Most of the coveage
was good, some of it bad. Your humble correspondent
even gave his opinions on who would win on television.


As most know the England V Croatia match on 21 June
determined who would go through to the next stage of
the tournament; England won but was promptly knocked
out by Portugal.

Like many countries, England is obsessed by football.
And so, Croat opinions were much in demand by the
media. They turned to the Croatian Students and Young
Professionals Network, the UK’s leading Croatian
organisation of which I am Vice-President, no less.
Marko Krznaric, the President of CSYPN handled much of
the press, handing out quotes like a professional. He
did it very well - a real credit to Croatia.

The day before the match we arranged a lunch in
Spago’s restaurant, Croatian flag on the wall, in
South Kensington. Sky Sports News TV filmed our
debate on the forthcoming match. The Times and The
Independent also stopped by to obtain views.

CSYPN had booked a room at the Cadogan Arm’s in
London’s Chelsea. Much of the press erroneously
thought that it was a Croatian pub! One TV morning
programme wanted to film Croats in the pub at, er,
5.30AM on the day. Quite apart from anything else,
pubs in England are not known to open at such hours.

More realistically, a crew from London Tonight - an
important London news programme - interviewed a group
of us live shortly before the match. I informed all of
London that Croatia would win.

Much of the press were intrigued by the ‘Upstairs
Downstairs’ aspect of things. The Croats were in the
room upstairs, the England fans downstairs. The press
were there during the match. The Croats were cheering,
singing and roaring throughout the game, even when
England were ahead- contrary to one report which said
the Croats went quiet. Amusingly, the press picked up
on the booing when Victoria ‘Posh’ Beckham appeared on
screen. Little could be heard from downstairs,
despite the fact England won. The whole of Chelsea
could hear the Croats.


Most of the press reporting of the fans at the pub was
fair, with BBC Online easily producing the best
report. Press reporting in general was not too bad -
that is for an opposing team. Some allegations about
‘racist’ Croatia fans - echoing similar complaints
previously about Slovaks - did appear in the media.
Some English fans made clear to me this was a bit much
- as if racism has not been present in English
football in the past or indeed now. Other reports,
such as in the News of the World, concentrated on
differences in the Croatian team. Crowatia - geddit?

However, this kind of thing is to be expected against
any team playing England. Just wait until the next
England v Germany game…

Whatever the merits of press coverage, at least it
concentrated on football - you can’t expect the
English media not to support their team. However, the
Independent was an exception. It ran a page,
containing a reasonable article based on the
aforementioned lunch but also “Ten things you always
wanted to know about Croatia”. Amongst these thing,
we were informed about Croatian concentration camps -
but not about wartime Serbian crimes in Croatia.

We were also informed that “former yugoslavians” do
not like Croat player’s chequerboard shirts because
they remind them of Ustasha uniforms. We were not
informed why they had no problem with the chequerboard
when it denoted Croatia during the communist Yugoslav
era. Strange people, these “former yugoslavians”.

This was nasty and hideously inappropriate material,
from a supposedly ‘liberal’ newspaper. This is the
sort of newspaper to look down its nose at anti-German
comments by other papers.

It was interesting to see that most sports/general
reporters were not interested in such drivel, in
contrast those that cover Croatia politically. There
were some erroneously reports that an England fan was
murdered by a Croat - but these were quickly
corrected.

One interesting thing about Euro 2004 is the
nationalism, lets it call it that, of the English and
its media - now transferred to the Tennis. The cross
of St. George is everywhere. This is mostly a
positive phenomenon. Only a few years ago it was
rarely seen. The lesson for Croats is not to take any
nonsense from anyone about their ‘nationalism’ - just
point to the English. Those few Croats who claim
that flying the flag etc is not the done thing in
today’s world are merely displaying their own
ignorance and unworldliness.

All in all, the media coverage of Croatia was good.
The main reason is not that that it was all positive -
it wasn’t of course. No, it was because Croatia was
all over the press as an accepted country in its own
right. It would be unthinkable twenty years ago to
consider such a thing. There are no doubt those who
were grinding their teeth at Croatian symbols so
prominently displayed in the press. They belong to
yesterday - and they know it.

Its become a bit of cliché to say Croatia’s sports men
and women are Croatia’s best ambassador’s. But, as
the Croatian football team - and their tennis players
- have recently showed, it’s as true as ever.


(c) Brian Gallagher
 

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