Bozidar Matosin jokes that for the Croatian community, football is more important than life and death.
“You can see by the fanatical support from Croatians all around the world, not just at this World Cup, but at every game, local games and what have you,” he said.
“The public’s expectation of Croatian stars and football team is extremely high, but it’s also pretty introspective as well. We understand that we’re a small nation and punching well above our weight.
“As far as Croatian sporting heritage, everyone loves their football.”
France and Croatia will go head-to-head in the FIFA World Cup final in the decider that few, if any pundits had predicted.
Croatia, a nation with a population of just over four million has qualified for its first ever World Cup final, and will carry the underdogs tag in the match-up in Moscow.
Windang resident Mr Matosin, 43, a first generation Croatian-Australian, is a former official, player and Life Member of the South Coast United Soccer Club.
The club was founded in 1984 by the Illawarra region’s Croatian community, and plays in the Illawarra Premier League.
In the early hours of Monday morning, players, officials and supporters from the club, as well as other members of the Croatian-Australian community will gather at Figtree’s Croatian Catholic Centre to watch the Cup final.
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“There’s a lot of excitement around the club about it,” Mr Matosin said.
“It’s definitely an across the generations thing; I think the chances of this coming around again in our generations is fairly slim.
“The original Croatian team back in ‘98, they exceeded expectations by making the semi-finals and coming third.”
As for the key to Croatia winning the World Cup, he said, “it just comes down to heart; that’s what has got us this far”.
“You always need raw talent, but you need that little extra to make it to the end and take out the final,” he told the Mercury.
Sixteen-year-old Zhan Begic will be among the enthusiastic crowd watching at the Figtree venue, and said the Croatian side boasted a strong all-round squad.
He was excited to watch the game, believing the encounter could go to extra time or penalties.
“The last time we had a good squad was ‘98 probably,” he said.
“We can defend as well as having good midfield attack.”
Mr Matosin said the South Coast United Soccer Club is “not an exclusive Croatian club”, although their supporter base is predominantly Croatian-based.
The club’s history includes Socceroos skipper Mile Jedinak having a brief stint there.