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Friday, June 13, 2008

Danke Deutschland!

Would there be an independent state of Croatia today without German support?

It’s highly unlikely.

And how do the Croatians repay their patrons? Not only by dumping them unceremoniously out of the World Cup in 1998, but by beating them again- in Euro 2008 yesterday. There’s gratitude for you!

More seriously, the events of the past week, demonstrate for anyone who had any doubts, the level of sporting excellence in the former Yugoslavia.

The delightful Serbian tennis player Ana Ivanovic won the French Open (beating compatriot Jelena Jankovic in the semi-final). (Svetlana at Byzantine blog has a great write-up of Ana’s triumphant return to Belgrade at the weekend which you can read here). It was the second Grand Slam to be won by a Serb this year- following Novak Djokovic’s memorable victory in the Australian Open. What chance of a Serbian double at Wimbledon, due to start the week after next? And what chance a ’former Yugoslavia’ double, with Serbian players winning both titles at Wimbledon, and Croatia landing Euro 2008? As I predicted last week, Croatia are in for a big tournament- their players have great technical ability-(as England found out at Wembley last November) and, in Slaven Bilic (pictured above), they have one of the best young managers in the world.

If Croatia do win Euro 2008, they will be achieve something which Yugoslavian national team never did. Yugoslavia- nicknamed the 'Brazil of Europe' for their ultra-skilful style, came agonisingly close on many occasions, but never won a major international football tournament. But in 1992, they had a fabulous side (built on Red Star Belgrade’s 1991 European Cup winning team) and were strongly fancied to make an impact at that year’s European Championships. But UEFA barred them from taking part due to the wars of secessions then taking place. Denmark, who had finished second to Yugoslavia in their qualifying group, got a late call-up to replace Yugoslavia in the tournament- and duly won it. 1992 should have been Yugoslavia’s year- but due to the west’s- and in particular Germany’s desire to break the country up by supporting secessionists in Slovenia and Croatia- it was not to be. So I suppose you could say, that looking at the bigger picture, Germany’s two defeats at the hands of Croatia are a form of poetic justice. And if you’re German, don’t blame Joachim Low for the defeat, blame your former Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher. Danke Deutschland!


Tommy Schmitz said...

Hello Neil...

I discovered your blog while researching Erich Fromm.

There's a character in my second novel, Tokyo Twins - Book Two, who is a Fromm scholar from Drake University in Des Moines.

So glad you here. I'm going to enjoy reading your powerful stuff.

All the best,

Tommy Schmitz
Des Moines, Iowa

olching said...

I agree to a point. Genscher's Ustasha policy (to send really polemic) was disgusting, but realistically, Croatia was always going emerge as an independent state following the internal breakdown of Yugoslavia. What Genscher et al implicitly contributed towards (in my opinion) were the war crimes committed against Serbs. Had they been more pragmatic towards the disintegrating state of Yugoslavia, they may have prevented the violence in the Krajina, Srebrenica etc. Instead they simply picked a side (a horrible historic alliance) and accentuated the deteriorating relationships.

On the Yugoslav side: Yes, they were probably the best side in Europe in the very early 1990s, but then I couldn't imagine Prosinecki, Suker, and Asanovic playing for Yugoslavia in the summer of 1992. But I agree with you to a point: It was a hasty expulsion of a magnificent team.

But hey, the maverick winners from Denmark were good value.

Neil Clark said...

Hi Tommy,
Many thanks. I'm going to look up your novel.
olching- yes, Denmark were good value, but don't forget that they had finished second to Yugoslavia in the qualifying group. I always remember going into a betting shop with a pal just before the last group games of the '92 finals. There was a screen up with the latest tournament odds and Denmark were the longest priced of all the teams who could still theoretically win-(I think in the 25-1/33-1 region) and I wondered whether they were worth a small wager. Unfortunately I didn't back them!