The victories of the little Croatian man

Turki Aldakhil

Published: Updated:

“Best player of the tournament” is not the last of the titles of the little shepherd. Croatia whose team has not been beaten in any match that Luka Modric scored in is waiting for him with open arms and, perhaps, a jail sentence of five years!

Modric, whose features resemble those of a man who just landed from the mountain, with his sunken eyes and silent lips, controls the rhythm of the game and the field with the calmness of a man who’s accustomed to victory even after 90 minutes are over. He has the patience of a ploughman and the forbearance of a shepherd who knows the way back home no matter how long the road is.

The man who’s won everything possible, the skinny man who advanced before his national team to take the best player award in the most important tournament in the world, went up to the stage in cold blood, bent legs and a short stature that boasted the bruises that brought his team this far.

The world today sees Modric embracing the best player award but the world’s rules do not understand the details of difficult beginnings and do not know about the early beginning of the shepherd in the cold Croatian mountains

Turki Aldakhil

A team of massacre survivors

Croatia, which made it to the World Cup through the small European window as it was the last to qualify, has now risen to be the last to leave. Croatia, whose team is made up of massacre survivors, was only defeated by the team of handsome immigrants: France. The stories of the French immigrants are well-known thanks to Zidane and others who arrived from faraway French colonies or through dilapidated sailing boats.

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However, the Croatian team is the team of those who survived a massacre. Modric deserves to be the team’s captain, not because he used to play for Real Madrid and Tottenham. The man who played with the Bosnian team once said: “Someone who can play in the Bosnian league can play anywhere.” And it wasn’t his sad features that remind us of the war massacres in his country during the 1990s.

It is because he is a skinny man who met several coaches’ rejections rejection with continuous training and determination that is not the kind to rejoice with simply winning second place after France. What he’s achieved in his short life – he was born on September 9, 1985 – gives him the right to always dream of the best.

Modric grazed sheep in his small town. You can find a video of that if you just type in an online search ‘Modric’s childhood’. The video is part of a documentary by a director who is obsessed with wolves. Fate took him to Modric’s hometown to document for us Modric’s walk that has not changed.

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Modric was dressed in a heavy coat given the cold weather and he was chasing his small sheep and protecting them from the wolves, similar to the wolves who are now greedy for his talent. “You must give a little to keep the rest,” that is what shepherds teach their sons about the laws of the wilderness.

Fraud accusations

Meanwhile, Zagreb’s former Dinamo Director Zdravko Mamic is charged with fraud and corruption. Modric is a victim in the eyes of his fans and is accused of possible perjury by the judiciary. Croatia’s golden boy, Modric, is accused of signing a long-term agreement with the man whom he described as a “cash machine” before he backed down on his testimony.

Middlemen were necessary for him to reach Tottenham and move to the strongest league. His life became better and he went to play with Real Madrid. The world today sees him embracing the best player award but the world’s rules do not understand the details of difficult beginnings and do not know about the early beginning of the shepherd in the cold Croatian mountains.

He learnt how to weave attacks from his loving mother, the textile worker. You cannot make it to the finish line before you put effort in weaving the details, which are insignificant if the whole weaved map isn’t complete. His father was a skillful military mechanic who fixed the Croatian army’s vehicles, and Modric may have inherited this great physical strength, which is not visible to the eyes, from him.

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Everyone knows that when he moved to Real Madrid, he achieved all the possible titles. However, only one man believed in him, and saw the beauty of football between the feet of this short young boy. It was Tomislav Basic, head of the youth academy at NK Zadar. He adopted Modric’s talent until Dinamo Zagreb, the most famous team in Croatia, signed a deal with the little man in 2001.

Modric would later meet Mamic in Zagreb, the head of the club who supported him well in exchange of signing a deal to get a percentage of any contract he later signs. Modric wasn’t the only one to attain all this, but the amounts of money which will be paid to him later will be the largest, perhaps among all Croatian footballers from his generation. In 2015, Modric confessed that he transferred several millions of dollars to his former boss, but in 2017 he retracted this testimony and said he does not know anything about it. He was then ridiculed as a result in Croatia.

Modric the legend

But let’s go back to football. Modric said: “Nothing changes if we play well. We will always be a dangerous team.” This is his conviction in the field. Those who watched the matches of the Croatian team, which was never beaten in the World Cup, will realize that this team is a group of ordinary, but very serious men!

Croatia has not only won second in the World Cup but it stole the limelight with the discipline of its ordinary players and the fighting spirits of men who want to overcome a difficult past, beginning with a harsh childhood in the socialist Croatia and up until the Russians’ resentment of the sentence “Glory to Croatia.”

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The reality of these players who were defeated by the elegance of the sons of France’s back alley’s did not make Modric forget his childhood as a refugee who once escaped war. On World Refugee Day, Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) invited a group of celebrities who were refugees when they were younger to form one team and celebrate World Refugee Day.

The small grazer was the first to arrive in loyalty to his grandfather Luka whom he carries his name, and who was killed with six others before the family fled their home which the victors later burnt so the grazer does not return to the mountains.

Will little Luka be a national hero in Croatia or will he be the second most hated man there after the World Cup has ended?

I do not know, for wolves do not only exist on the tops of mountains, laughing at the little shepherd’s victories.

This article is also available in Arabic.


Turki Aldakhil is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. He began his career as a print journalist, covering politics and culture for the Saudi newspapers Okaz, Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan. He then moved to pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and pan-Arab news magazine Al-Majalla. Turki later became a radio correspondent for the French-owned pan-Arab Radio Monte Carlo and MBC FM. He proceeded to Elaph, an online news magazine and Alarabiya.net, the news channel’s online platform. Over a ten-year period, Dakhil’s weekly Al Arabiya talk show “Edaat” (Spotlights) provided an opportunity for proponents of Arab and Islamic social reform to make their case to a mass audience. Turki also owns Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre and Madarek Publishing House in Dubai. He has received several awards and honors, including the America Abroad Media annual award for his role in supporting civil society, human rights and advancing women’s roles in Gulf societies. He tweets @TurkiAldakhil.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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