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(E) Swiss Captain Stephane Chapuisat - Heart for Croatia
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  06/11/2004 | Sports | Unrated
(E) Swiss Captain Stephane Chapuisat - Heart for Croatia


Swiss Captain Stephane Chapuisat – Heart forCroatia


It was summer of 1991 and things were bleak in Croatia. The
signs of war were everywhere, homeland “Domovina” was under
attack, and people were scared. I received a call from a
couple of Croats in New York City’s Astoria-Queens area who
invited me to a meeting at Iva’s Beauty s Salon. “Vedran,
we want to raise money for the children of Croatia’s
defenders “Branitelji”. We’ll do all the work, we just want
you to head the organization,” they said. I looked around
and saw people of same ideals, convictions and national
aspirations as I and couldn’t refuse. So we got organized,
set up the by-laws and named the fund “Heart for Croatia –
Srce za Hrvatsku”. Over the next 4 years we raised over $
85,000, helped 500 Croatian children (orphans whose fathers
died defending Croatia), found sponsors for additional 100
children (sponsors probably gave over $ 100,000) and sent
money to many regions of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina
with an all-volunteer force. We took no expenses, 100% of
monies collected were distributed, and many hours on
Sundays at Sts. Cyril & Methodius Croatian Catholic Church
in Manhattan were spent collecting funds, selling t-shirts
and showing pictures of orphans to prospective sponsors.
Our strategy meetings were held at the Croatian Radio Club
NY “Voice of Free Croatia – Glas Slobodne Hrvatske” studio
building. We had 2 successful banquets that were supported
by Croats who emigrated from all regions of Croatia and
Bosnia-Herzegovina. Several contributions came from Croats
throughout the USA. Even more important Americans gave us
money; our neighbors, friends, coworkers, customers and
registered USA charities. One occurrence will always stay
with me. It was Sunday afternoon and my turn to be at the
table. As the crowd thinned out a father in his thirties
approached me holding his five or six-year-old son by hand
appearing very embarrassed. He hands me a five dollars and
says, “That’s all I have”. I almost chocked, tapping him on
the hand saying “It’s OK”. I still see him nowadays but he
probably forgot. I know of similar stories, men not having
enough for their mortgage or rent but giving money for
homeland. We received hundreds of thank you letters from
Croatia’s children that were so moving and I often wonder
how are those children doing today. I had the privileged to
work with some of the greatest Croats volunteers of “Heart
for Croatia – Srce za Hrvatsku”; folks whose names are not
known, who did not receive awards or plaques and are not
invited to fancy dinners or ceremonies. They must be
remembered. That’s why I’m still in the office; it’s 10:30
pm on a hot Wednesday night. There were hundreds of other
fundraises and organizations during Croatia’s war of
Independence “Domovinski Rat” active in the USA and
throughout the world. Yet there is one person that I want
to be especially remembered and recognized.

He is Stephane Chapuisat, and he’ll be 35 this June 28th.
Stephane is a Captain of Swiss National Soccer (Football)
Team. He played 101games for Switzerland, third on the all time list.
This Sunday, June 12, 2004 Switzerland plays Croatia in
Leiria, Portugal in a European Championship Tournament. In
February of 1994 I received a letter from Europay
International and MasterCard, Waterloo Belgium. It stated,
…”Your charity Heart for Croatia – Srce za Hrvatsku was
nominated by the winning Swiss footballing Master, Stephane
Chapuisat to receive $ 1500 contribution. MasterCard is an
official sponsor of World Cup USA 1994 and is delighted to
be able to make a $ 1500 contribution as a result of a PR
program, “Masters of the World Cup”. We were all delighted
and instantaneously became Stephane’s fans. He encouraged
us to continue fundraising after our daytime jobs and on
weekends. We still wonder: Who is he? Does he have Croatian
friends? Did he ever visit Croatia? Maybe Croatian
sportswriters in Portugal can find out more!

When a stranger helps you it’s even more meaningful. As I
write this I feel a sense of attachment to Chapuisat and
hope he gets applause from all Croats as he is introduced
on Sunday.

Vedran Joseph Nazor, Heart for Croatia – President
New York City June 9, 2004

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