Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Whole Country Was a Raiders' Parking Lot After a Win Over the Broncos!

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In an earlier post, I briefly mentioned watching one of Croatia's games in the European Football Championships (that's soccer to our American readers).

It was a huge win against the favored Germans, but unfortunately the weather short circuited our plans to watch the game at one of every bar, restaurant or ice cream shop in town that had the game blaring on TVs set up on packed outdoor terraces!

Luckily, I got one more chance to see Croatia's last pool game against Poland at a restaurant in Rijeka, on the night before I left the country.

Although Croatia had already clinched a spot in the quarterfinals with two straight wins, they had the chance to become the first team to be undefeated in a pool (after Portugal was upset by the host Swiss the prior evening.)

The crowd - in a restaurant hundreds of miles from the game, mind you - looked like a red and white version of the "Black Hole" at an Oakland Raiders' game (for readers unfamiliar with the NFL Raiders, you can just imagine an Obama rally taking place during the bar scene from Star Wars!)

The game didn't really matter, but Croatia won 1-0 on a second half goal, and the restaurant crowd went wild. As we started our walk home, I realized that the entire city was going wild, with flags waving, cars honking, air horns tooting, and from every bar, the sound of delirious singing (of what I later learned was the theme of an apparently very successful advertising campaign by the brewers of Osjusko Pivo!)

I have no doubt that every other municipality in the entire country - from our tiny island town of Veli Losinj to the capital of Zagreb - were joined in a shared moment of uncontrollable mass joy that I can only compare to those increasingly rare occasions when I've walked through the parking lot after a big Raiders' win!

Of course, my comparison fell apart the next day when I picked up a newspaper and saw a preview of Croatia's upcoming quarter-final game against Turkey. I snapped the above image of the story, which my rudimentary Croatian skills told me showed equivalent enthusiasm and passion from both sides of the coming battle, not unlike what I would expect in a similar story about, say, Raider and Bronco fans.

But then I noticed this box associated with the story and realized a key flaw in my point of reference:

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There were approximately 20,000 Croatian fans expected to travel to Austria for the game. Presumably there would be similar numbers of Turkish fans in attendance. As a part of their preview, the paper included a Croatian to Turkish translation of some common phrases that these fans may have reason to share with each other - phrases that make the cut even into my miniscule Croatian vocabulary:

"Good day!"

"How are you?"

"Thank you!"

"I'm sorry!"

Not exactly the phrases I would expect to hear offered to a Broncos fan who ventured into the Black Hole!

Those phrases could have been reduced to pictures of body gestures, and perhaps the phrase "your mother!"

(to be continued)

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