The 2006 World Cup was a significant moment in the history of Australian multiculturalism, particularly in terms of how it affected the Australian-Croatian community.

This time get the ball, not my shins, mate! Pic: Craig Greenhill

As Australia and Croatia lined up in the last group stage match, never before had the question been put so viscerally: are you going to barrack for Australia or Croatia?

Of course questions of identity and choice of home are complex. Lifestyle, relative affluence, human freedoms, and family are all factors. But still, the passions of sport emanate from the heart and have a fair bit to do with identity as well.

If there was any confusion in the hearts and minds of the Croatian-Australian community going into the match, the players on both sides appeared to resolve the issue by playing out a draw. Australia advanced to the knockout stage of the competition and names like Viduka, and Horvath were being celebrated, not simply by the Croatian community, but by the entire Australian community. In this moment “wogball” died and “football” arrived. At the same time the result did not ask anyone to choose one country above the other.

Mixed feelings usually accompany drawn matches in any sport, yet on this day, for the Croation-Australian community, the reaction was joyous.

The Croatian Diaspora in Australia is estimated to be 120,000. They make an enormous contribution to Australian society. They also have a hugely positive impact on our foreign relations.

In 1991, as Croatia left the former Yugoslavia and sought to declare its independence, the Croatian Diaspora played a critical role around the world in encouraging their new countries to recognise the homeland. In the case of Australia, we were the first non-European country to recognise Croatia.

Last week I had the honour to lead the first ever Australian government level visit to Croatia. And the role Australia played in the recognition of Croatia was not lost on the current Croatian government.

Today, the Diaspora is the bedrock of our bilateral relationship with Croatia. As Croatian-Australians seek to live and move more easily between Croatia and Australia they provide and agenda of interactions between the two governments. A reciprocal pensions agreement has been negotiated. A reciprocal health agreement is in the pipeline.

But the real contribution that the Diaspora has made is by introducing to each other two countries who in the community of nations have much in common.

Next year Croatia will become a member of the European Union (EU). To have met all the requirements of accession to the EU in just twenty years since independence is a remarkable achievement. Add to this NATO membership in 2009, and Croatia is a country firmly in the category of close ally.

Croatia is making an important contribution to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan, as well as to nine UN-led missions and two EU-led missions. Like Australia it is combining its military engagement in Afghanistan with a development assistance agenda. And just like Australia a strong focus of that development assistance is in improving the health and education of women.

The international reflexes of Croatia and Australia are very much the same.

While being of the ‘Old World’ in many ways, Croatia is a young country like Australia, willing to take a fresh look at world affairs and contemplate new ideas.

As two middle powers located in strategic and complementary parts of the world there is much that we can do together.

The Croatian Diaspora is just one Diaspora in Australia that has a wonderful impact on our foreign affairs. These are impacts we must value and use more.

An exchange of gifts is an almost universal feature in the relations between two countries.
Its principal sponsor is the Geelong Croatian Community, the fact of which is emblazoned on their jersey along with the Croatian national crest. While the club plays in the Victorian State League second tier it nevertheless has the honour of having produced four Socceroos: Steve Horvath, Josip Skoko, Matthew Spiranovic and Francis Awaritefe. Horvath and Skoko played in that World Cup match back in 2006. In the Croatian squad for the same game was Joey Didaluca, himself a product of North Geelong, and a capped Croatian player.

The red and white North Geelong jersey is a symbol of the unique bond between Croatia and Australia.  One such jersey now rests proudly in the office of the Croatian Deputy Prime Minister.

For all the work that was done in our bilateral meetings, it was the story of North Geelong that mattered most. It was a reminder that because of the Diaspora, Croatia and Australia are not just good friends – we are family.

The benefit of that in our international relations is immeasurable.

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    • Traxster says:

      11:17am | 29/07/12

      We all come from somewhere else originally, even The Aboriginals, ...........
      That’s interesting… where did the Aboriginals come from and how long does one have to be here before one can say they are ‘from here ’ ?.........

    • Lance says:

      08:00am | 29/07/12

      Huge soccer (football) fan, and having been spoilt by two great years for Brisbane and having enjoyed 2 sold out home grand finals, I just can’t wait for the season to start. Though unlike the fans of many other codes I still enjoy my NRL and Rugby Union and don’t feel the need to rubbish other codes. There is nothing quite like being in a soccer crowd, it is just different from any other sporting atmosphere.  All countries play soccer, and the more people who come here from other countries the more the sport will grow here!

    • WA Redneck says:

      04:41pm | 28/07/12

      Not a big soccer fan but that was a truly awesome sporting contest, both sides trying their absolute best.  It had suspense, controversy and a draw a pretty fitting result.

      My mother was born in Croatia but I was born here.  I think its a pretty fair comment that the older Croatians havent integrated terribly well but I dont think thats accurate with the baby boomer or gen X generations.  But apart from language and food I dont think the two cultures are that much different anyway… Croatia is very much a Christian (Catholic) country, they work 9-5, love sport, fishing and beer.  The young people wear the same fashion labels we like, they all have iphones, use facebook etc. They probably have a way to go on some social issues such as racism, but then you could pretty easily say that about Australia too.  And family is probably a bit higher priority than here, more like italians in that regard.

      Funny their should be a punch article on Croatia…I just cooked some sauerkraut for lunch!

      Dovidjenja, kako ste!

    • Ricardo Jones says:

      04:22pm | 28/07/12

      Those commenting only on the football vs soccer part of the article clearly didn’t read past the first paragraph. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

      The article delves further then a simple argument on soccer vs football. This article is more representative of immigration, Croatia’s entry to the EU and our relationship to Croatia. But all some can see is the word football. Simpletons.

      It’s a good article on the Croatian-Australian relationship, for those who are interested in reading past the headline.

    • vox says:

      01:25pm | 28/07/12

      Soccer is the real deal. The only ‘football’. It is played, not for money, but for reasons of loyalty. The fan base is the best behaved sporting audience in the world, and the rules are consistent and sensible.
      After a long, painful, but exciting game has resulted in a draw, (sometimes or maybe often), they have a shootout. Then we have a winner.
      Those who say, “Why not just have a shootout?”, miss the point. That would not allow us to witness the grace, the poetry, the very elan with which we are entertained every match day.
      Sir Robert Helpmann, our greatest ever dancer once described this same game as “Ballet with balls”. I rest my case.

    • Cry in my Gin says:

      04:06pm | 28/07/12

      Thanks for the laugh Vox. I almost swallowed my “diaspora”.

    • Jezza says:

      12:55pm | 28/07/12

      Yes, we understand that soccer is the most popular game in the world, but here in Australia, AFL is the only national code and is the one true football game.  Soccer doesn’t even come close.

    • N S Welshman says:

      08:46pm | 29/07/12

      PW, AFL stands for AUSTRALIAN FOOTBALL League.
      This is it’s legal name. AUSTRALIAN FOOTBALL is the correct name. The code has around for over 100 years and it may be older than Association Football - soccer. Manbrook which AUSTRALIAN FOOTBALL got some ideas from has been for thousands of years. Rugby FOOTBALL is the oldest FOOTBALL code. No matter how much soccer fans wish it was not so Australia has its own FOOTBALL code.

    • PW says:

      03:48pm | 29/07/12

      “Of the top 10 watched sporting events over the past few decades in Australia soccer was the top 3, and in all rounded out 5 of the top 10. “

      Are you talking live crowds, or TV? What were these games? This statement sounds like shite to me, I’m sorry.

      I’m sure if Australia had a world class soccer team people would be interested. But apart from the world cup every 4 years when we make it, in the main they are not.

    • Lance says:

      08:09am | 29/07/12

      Aussie Rules hardly gets much of a mention up here in QLD, it’s pretty much all Rugby up here and in NSW.  Sure it is probably the most popular Australian sport, but there is really no way a player can graduate to another level above club level because it doesn’t exist anywhere else. I think the charm with soccer is that while it’s support isn’t that of AFL, it does have a ton of support here especially at the international level!  Of the top 10 watched sporting events over the past few decades in Australia soccer was the top 3, and in all rounded out 5 of the top 10.

    • Al B says:

      04:40pm | 28/07/12

      Afl fans, gotta love em…cant see north of the murray

    • PW says:

      04:32pm | 28/07/12

      A couple of things need to be said here-

      1. AFL is not even a football code. It is the initials of the body that runs the elite competition in Australia of a football code. The game is in fact called Australian Rules Football.
      2. Australian Rules Football is far from being “the only national code”. It is very popular in approximately half of Australia by population (the half that does not include NSW and Queensland) but in the other half has no grassroots whatsoever,
      3. As`the AFL will eventually realise at its immense financial cost, you can send teams of elite level players to areas where your sport has no grassroots, but this does not make it a national sport. Rugby League has the same problem in Melbourne, however the Storm exists only to sell pay TV subscriptions in Victoria.
      4. There is no national football code. There are two codes equally popular in their own half of the country. One gets considerably better crowds than the other, whereas TV ratings are very close to level.

    • jase says:

      04:14pm | 28/07/12

      AFL, a bunch of bogans chasing a ball around… Can you not see why we are the only country in the world to play it?

    • Cry in my Gin says:

      03:50pm | 28/07/12

      AFL doesn’t have many things that soccer has.
      The hooligans, riots and murders.
      Darts being hurled into opposing fans ranks as a joke. (How funny to see a random persons eye taken out. Such masters of whimsy these soccer people)
      Fences at the G or any other stadium to stop pitch invasion.
      Flares being let off in the stands.
      Fans being forcibly kept seperate to avoid trouble.
      People wearing different coloured scarves enjoying a drink and conversation after a match instead of being gang bashed.
      Teams formed on the basis of ethnicity, religion and political affiliation.
      Police in riot gear.

      Come on Jezza, how can AFL hold a candle to these things.

    • JoniM says:

      11:31am | 28/07/12

      Sorry Richard!
      The day “wogball” died and football arrived was the year before in Sydney at the penalty shootout in the final qualifier against Uruguay for the 2006 World Cup spot ! Australia’s greatest ever moment in world sport !
      It was Mark Swartzer ( goal keeper with 2 saves ) and John Aloisi (striker and winning penalty goal) who won this for Australia. The players with German and Italian descendant backgrounds triumphed contibuted most to that moment ! The Croation descendant , Mark Viduka missed his penalty shot , placing even more pressure on Aloisi to get Australia through ! That was the night that changed the game to ” football” in Australia !
      As for the rest of the article…..what was the point !
      We are a great multicultural country attractive to everyone around the world. The key for success as a nation is that those coming here from other countries need to adopt Australia as its new country and leave behind the ills of their former homeland that they sought to move away from.
      Not sure that the Croats have been the best exponents of that to this point !

    • Craig says:

      08:15am | 29/07/12

      Adopting Australia as your new country is one thing, integrating into Australian culture is another.  In my opinion this is never going to happen as long as we promote ourselves as multicultural. Multiculturalism by defintion means no single identifiable culture but instead many individual ones encouraging people to continue on the traditions of their homeland. As much as the elitists hate to admit it, Australia for the most part of last century had a distinctive identifiable culture based on our Anglo-Celtic heritage and this is what has made us attractive to migrants from around the world.  This is not to say that there haven’t been positive contributions from other cultures but by promoting ourselves as multicultural we are killing off the Australian identity.

    • chuck says:

      09:39am | 28/07/12

      Nice people and nice food - Croatia. I’d love to go and have a look. As for football - the team that has the most number of its players fall over in 2 halves is obviously the winner!

    • marley says:

      09:38am | 28/07/12

      I am struck by the repeated use of the term “diaspora”  in this article. That is a word referring to mass migrations of people from their ancestral homelands, which is fair enough, but it also has connotations of a displaced people who still retain emotional and often political links to that homeland. Frankly, I think that after the first generation, new migrants should be Australian, not members of a Croatian (or any other) diaspora.

      It’s fine to hold on to cultural and linguistic traditions.  It’s another thing to regard yourself as being displaced, particularly if you’re third generation.  And by the way, that goes as much for Australians who still think of themselves as Irish or English, and maintain historical grudges after six generations in this country.  None of this is conducive to building a cohesive Australia.

    • JoniM says:

      11:39am | 28/07/12

      You gotta love the latest buzz words !
      I have “diaspora” right up there with “cohort” now !

    • Maryjane says:

      11:08am | 28/07/12

      Me too.  I had to stop reading halfway through the article because it was so irritiating.

    • Joe says:

      09:28am | 28/07/12

      The Croatians certainly made contributions to Australian society when they conducted terrorist attacks against Yugoslav diplomats in Sydney and Melbourne in the 1970s - really bad contributions.

      Not that the Serbians are any better, mind you.

    • NS Welshman says:

      08:57am | 28/07/12

      OK I get it! Soccer is now called Football.

    • N S Welshman says:

      08:14pm | 29/07/12

      Al B, how can that be? If they knew there were other football games it makes no sense to called soccer football.  It would be confusing, but then again most soccer fans are bit confused.

    • Al B says:

      11:36am | 29/07/12

      Sorry folks, the rest of the world has heaps of choice in sport ...they choose football. Hey they even have both rugbies, i guess they are starved of AFL…if only they had it theyd come flocking like seagulls after a hot chip, i am sure lol.

    • I hate pies says:

      06:32pm | 28/07/12

      Enjoy playing someone elses game Al, we’ll keep ours.

    • N S Welshman says:

      06:08pm | 28/07/12

      Al B, Yes, and the rest of the world starved for choice. Sadly for them they got the boring one!

    • Al B says:

      04:37pm | 28/07/12

      Enjoy your niche of the world, we’ll enjoy ours…

    • Mum of a soccer player says:

      03:43pm | 28/07/12

      Yeah, soccer is ‘Football’ *rolls eyes* because some group of people told us so.
      As if we didn’t already have three codes of ‘Football’ in this country.
      Aren’t Aussies allowed to have their own cultural ideosyncracies and keep the original name for the game?
      The cultural steamrolling kinda gave me the irrits at the time, and still does!

    • I hate pies says:

      01:07pm | 28/07/12

      ...or the rest of Australia, where it’s called SOCCER; the reason being that we have our own codes of FOOTBALL, just like the yanks

    • Al B says:

      11:57am | 28/07/12

      Step out of nsw bro its called that the world over smile
      Well lets not include victoria!

    • AllanJ says:

      08:41am | 28/07/12

      Soccer is for cream-puffs.

    • George says:

      04:25pm | 28/07/12

      League is for meatheads.
      AFL is for tall meatheads.
      Union is for snotty overprivileged private school boys.
      Cricket is for bogan douchebags.

    • Al B says:

      11:55am | 28/07/12

      Ronny maybe we’re just trying to balance out comments from folks such as yourself

    • Ricardo Jones says:

      11:50am | 28/07/12

      @ronnyjohnny. I don’t care what you call it. I don’t care if you don’t like it. It’s a free world enjoy what you want and loathe what you want.

      I just wouldn’t go so far as to call kids enjoying a sport as fat, weak and mummies boys. It’s angry adults like you who ruin enjoyment for kids.

      BTW, everybody brags about how their favourite sporting code is the best. Rugby League fans, AFL fans, cricket fans, it doesn’t matter, they all do it. I can’t stand it either, so some people like a different sport to you, what’s it matter?

      It wouldn’t make me attack children with abuse though.

    • ronny jonny says:

      11:09am | 28/07/12

      It’s the soccer people who are constantly trying to impress by telling anyone who’ll listen how tough the game is and how it’s the world game and how it’s so skillful and how it’ll take over from other codes… blah blah blah, sick of it. Oops, did I say soccer, sorry, sorry, it’s football isn’t it?

    • Ricardo Jones says:

      10:45am | 28/07/12

      Yes, really tough blokes show their tough by commenting on internet articles. Heroes.

    • ronny jonny says:

      10:07am | 28/07/12

      and weaklings, fat kids, asthmatics, girls and mummies boys

    • KimL says:

      07:22am | 28/07/12

      My Husbands mother was Croatian, his father was Serbian, they fled here after WW2. My husband is as Aussie as they come, he was born here. He is barracking for Australia. We all come from somewhere else originally, even The Aboriginals, but Australia is our home, our loyalty ( my husbands and mine) is to the country we reside in and who gives us shelter and to the country we love

    • simonfromLakemba says:

      09:30am | 28/07/12

      i’m half Croatian half Serbian i wake up every morning and want to kill myself.


      07:16am | 28/07/12

      Hi Richard,

      Does that actually mean that it has taken a while for every one to come to terms and true appreciation for “the game of football” which is enjoyed by hundreds of millions of people around the world especially in places like Europe, Middle East and South America, just to name a few.  So all those millions of people are wrong and a handful of people in Australia are right? And should they also call Australian Football “wog ball” or something else?

      This is all thanks to some very determined and courageous migrants living in Australia?  How about all the other nationalities living in Australia, who are also very passionate about football?  Does this article have a point at all? This particular article reminded me of an advertising very much like the ones on CNN for the sole purpose of “travel Croatia”, no offence intended. 

      About joining the EU?  No country should be in a hurry to do so with all the troubles looming in the EU Zone. So said my friends living in Denmark, Norway and Switzerland.  Especially for countries such as Spain and Portugal reaching all time new highs when it comes to unemployment levels and more hard times ahead economically, I can only presume. 

      There are also countless other nations doing their bid and working tirelessly for the UN peace keeping forces as well as NATO’s security and rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan.  At the end of the day it is very much a combined effort on all sides which matter.  A bit like all different nationalities making their bid to make Australia very unique, indeed!  Kind regards to your editors.

    • BenC says:

      11:58pm | 29/07/12

      I love your question about the point or otherwise of this article.  Rather cynically, I suggest you look away from the undoubted attractions of Croatian tourism and instead to the location of a very healthy segment of the Croatian ‘Diaspora’ in Richard Marle’s seat of Corio.

      The welcome Richard receives as he swans or swaggers around the various bastions of the Croatian community in Geelong will no doubt be much warmer thanks to this little effort. One can imagine the Croatian Community Leaders being sent the link to this article by his electorate staff as we speak!!

      I think though he does, almost by accident, reflect on the nature and the success of the Australian version of multiculturalism. I went to school at Bell Post Hill Primary School in the early 1980’s and I will always remember the large number of ‘Yugoslav’ kids attending at that time. Kids who always described themselves as Croatian or Serbian (never Yugoslav) in the playground and whose parents never met each others eyes when picking their kids up.

      Hilariously, with the perspective of an appalling number of subsequent years, I remember we had a ‘multicultural day’ where all the ‘aussie’ kids like myself had to ask our mum’s what Australian cuisine was so that we could bring it to school alongside the lasagnas etc for everyone to share. The response was hardly inspiring, but back then I would never have predicted that it would be uber cool to be Italian or Croatian etc etc.

    • Tony of Poorakistan says:

      06:45am | 28/07/12

      I’m against these reciprocal pension agreements and I’d like to see the figures of those that come out here long enough to get citizenship and then wander back home on an Australian pension. 
      Are the Aussie taxpayers ahead? Behind? Breaking even?

    • Peter says:

      09:42am | 28/07/12

      Thousands of people do this, all nationalities. If you leave Australia or more than 3 months then no more until you are liveing and spending it here. Otherwise it is just forign aid.

    • Nathan says:

      06:14am | 28/07/12

      That was the day i lost all respect for Viduka for choosing not sing the Australian national anthem, apart from that it was a draw on paper only. I personally enjoy the contributions of both the Serb and Croatian community at events like the Australian Open. If you wanted to identify a section of the community that has integrated well into Australia Croatians would not be even close to the top of the list.

    • M says:

      07:07am | 30/07/12

      Our national anthem is gay anyway.

    • Babylon in Canberra says:

      12:21am | 29/07/12

      I didnt feel much brotherly love when they clashed with the Serbs at the Australian Open. Televised world wide, both groups made us look like savages to the international community.

      The idea of emigrating to Australia for everyone is for a new start.

      No one should bring the sh17 from home with them.

      Bang out of order.

    • Ricardo Jones says:

      10:52am | 28/07/12

      Viduka didn’t sing the anthem when we played against Brazil or Japan at the same world cup. Believe it or not some athletes choose not to sing the anthem out of embarrassment or simply because their focus is on something else i.e. the game.

      Viduka could have represented Croatia, just like Simunic did, however he chose to represent Australia, he even took on the responsibility and honour of captaining the team. Hardly disrespectful behaviour.

      By the way their where several Anglo-Australians in the same team that didn’t sing the anthem. I notice you didn’t mention them. Is it only a problem when ‘wogs’ don’t sing the anthem?

    • Bertrand says:

      10:47am | 28/07/12

      Way to judge 120,000 Australians based on the actions of a couple of dozen.


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