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(E) Defeat fails to deflate Croatians
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  06/22/2004 | Sports | Unrated
(E) Defeat fails to deflate Croatians

Defeat fails to deflate Croatians

By Tom Geoghegan
BBC News Online in Chelsea

At the final whistle, the 120 Croatia fans leapt up
and celebrated as if they had won the match.

Crammed into the top room in The Cadogan Arms,
Chelsea, they launched into what one bystander
explained was a favourite national song.

Jubilation greeted the goals
She said: "It roughly means 'Tonight is our party and
we're going to drink and dance'."

They had cheered on their team with a fierce intensity
that never threatened to change to bitterness when
England's 4-2 victory was confirmed.

Underlining this positive attitude, Anita Stulic, 27,
said: "Of course we're going to celebrate. I wish
Croatia had won but I'm going to party anyway. It was
a great game."

Maia Palecek said: "We won in our hearts. We had a
great day and that's the most important thing. It's
only a game. I don't feel sorry for the players, they
get paid more than surgeons who save lives."

No hard feelings - Marina and boyfriend Geoff
She said it was her first Croatian gathering since
moving to London 12 years ago and she had loved it.

The room was arranged by the president of the Croatia
Students and Young Professionals Network, Marko
Krznaric, who asked the pub to show Croatia's Euro
2004 games, as it did in the World Cup.

Arriving at the pub before the match, it looked like a
haven for England fans, with St George's flags
fluttering and hundreds of England supporters at the
bar preparing for the big game.

Upstairs, the red and white colours remained but it
was chequered - except for one England shirt.

One Welsh

Geoff Noden, 27, was accompanying his Croatian
girlfriend Marina Pusic, 26, and they brought a flag
each for their country.

She joked: "I know he won't behave himself so I told
him he had to go downstairs."

Ma daj, sudac, jesi slijep? (Come on ref, are you
A koji Wayne? (Wayne who?)
Ne mozete proci Igora Tudora (You'll never beat Igor
Sjecate li se Ivanisevica i Henmana? (Remember
Ivanisevic and Henman?)
The crowd, which was mostly female, was drawn from
Croatian nationals and descendants, plus one Welshman.

The cheers which followed the national anthem were
replaced by boos when Posh Spice loomed into view on
the big screen.

But minutes into the match, Niko Kovac's goal sent the
fans into delirium - as one girl remarked: "I'm in

Reality set in before half-time with two England
goals, but optimism prevailed.

For some it was too much to bear
Iva Stanishic, 27, said: "Croatia will win 3-2. Goran
Ivanisevic won and we have to win too, it's our day.
England has the Queen and the pound so you have to
give us this."

For Croatians, sport is a source of immense national
pride, especially for a nation which declared its
independence in 1991.

Tommy Slavich, 33, explained: "Its about national
pride for a relatively young country.

"Football has put us on the map more than anything
else. It show people we're here and we exist."

We lost, but let's party anyway
The tension remained throughout the second half, when
every Croatian save, kick and intervention was greeted
with a roar.

And the party showed no sign of flagging at the final
whistle. Geoff consoled Marina with a hug and she said
she'd cheer on England from now on.

Others climbed on the tables and continued the

"Look on the bright side, there's always the tennis,"
said one.


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