Defensive Football, Croat Style

by Duncan Hollis

The tragic impacts of Yugoslavia’s dissolution linger on, as do efforts at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia to prosecute those accused of committing war crimes in furtherance of so-called ethnic interests, whether Serb, Muslim or Croat. But, the underlying tragedies aside, you’ve got to wonder about the BBC’s story today that Croatia’s football champions, Dinamo Zagreb, will donate their proceeds from a recent sold-out match to an organization raising money in support of Croats facing trial at the ICTY in the Hague. Now, the team did play a peculiar role in the run-up to the Balkan conflict. And, I leave it to those with greater expertise to comment on the more serious political and legal implications of the team’s current support for Croat defendants.

I, however, found myself wondering how else to pair sports with alleged war criminals? For example, would Fidel Castro ask George Steinbrenner for some cash if he ever faced the dock? He might, if you believe the urban legend that Castro once turned down a chance to pitch for the New York Yankees. How about if Christopher Hitchens finally gets his way and Henry Kissinger faces war crimes charges – would the International Olympic Committee pony up some money to help their honour member’s defense? Or, my favorite, imagine if–instead of saying he’s going to Disney World–the next Superbowl MVP replies to the question “You’ve just won the Superbowl, what are you going to do now?” by announcing “I’m going to the Hague to help defend war criminals.”

One Response

  1. I do not share your bewilderment about the story recently published by BBC. Knowing the political reality of Croatian political scence and indeed Croatian football (soccer) scene, it does not come as surprise that foorball club Dinamo made such a financial contribution to defence of alleged Croat war criminal. It is just the way soceital life has functioned in last sixty years in this region.

    You may know that in former Yugoslavia all the major football and basketball clubs were associated with former totalitarian regime headed by Communist party. After the fall of totalitarian regime the clubs did not become independent, but only assocatited with newly formed political parties. Daily politics goes thus hand in hand with sport in Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and indeed Slovenia. Football clubs such as Dinamo and Hajduk are only two examples of such approach to sport. Football club Hajduk from Dalmatia region has been supportive in many ways of Croation “liberation” war since it comes from tradionally right-wing region of Croatia.

    The sport clubs in Croatia can not always function in the same way as they function in the NBA, but they are certainly more passionate and hearly than in money driven professional sport leagues in the United States.

    Jernej Letnar

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