by Balkan Insider publisher Ari Mittleman:

“This past month, we joined countless others across Washington watching the World Cup beamed live from Russia. Having worked and lived in Croatia and Russia, the Cinderella story of the checker shirted Vatreni captured our attention. Indeed, in the few World Cups that Croatia has competed in they have won as many matches as the United States has over 68 years.

The victories on the field over the last month are as noteworthy as what has happened off the field of late. Even before Nordstream and NATO have dominated Washington’s attention, these geopolitical developments on the shores of the Adriatic deserve examination.

On June 25th, Croatia celebrated its 27th birthday and on July 1st the fifth anniversary as the newest EU member. The nation, with a population roughly that of Kentucky, was forged from the bloody dissolution of Yugoslavia.  From 1991 to 1995, the war claimed 100,000 lives across ethnic groups and displaced countless individuals. Every player can point to family stories from their childhood years marked by the conflict.

The world has watched as Croatia’s President, Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic, has enthusiastically cheered her team on and even presented President Donald Trump with a jersey in Brussels. Her nationalist pride rivals Croatia’s founding President, Franjo Tudjman. He often mused that ‘football victories shape a nation’s identity as much as wars do.’” (full article at NGW)