Did you know that some players of the traditional sport have suffered the war? Here you will find who we are talking about
A few hours before the final of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Croatia was the star of the media not only for its unexpected arrival at the decisive match but also for the history of previous life experienced by its main referents. Among them are Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, and Mario Mandzukic, who fled the war in the former Yugoslavia and could even play for other nations before destiny showed them as sports heroes.
This time, the cases of the Croatian players were exposed by the environment that surrounded them during the FIFA World Cup, but there are other antecedents such as the Bosnian Edin Dzeko, the Football Battalion in England or the McRae's Battalion in Scotland, which show that there has always been a very thin line between wars in Europe and soccer players.
Edin Dzeko, from suffering to recognition
The current Roma forward did not have it easy as a child, because he had to suffer the war for the independence of Bosnia in 1992. In his native Sarajevo, he was forced to live three years in a small space with several relatives in which was his grandmother's house. It was even known that his mother saved him from being the victim of an explosion for not letting him play soccer with some friends, several of whom died, according to a video published by the newspaper As.
The video states that in 2003, 11 years later, he started a successful career as a soccer player that led him to be champion in England with Manchester City in 2012-2104, as well as top scorer in Italy with the Roma in the 2016-17 campaign.
The Football Battalion in England
In 1916, after two seasons, the local tournament was suspended and many of the players were summoned to the front of the battle. According to the website Caras y Caretas of Uruguay, at that time there was a battalion formed only by soccer players which they called the Football Battalion. At first, only three players were enlisted, but they were followed by 600 fans under the pride of fighting alongside their idols.
However, there was pressure from government entities. For that reason, in March of 1915, 122 players had already joined the aforementioned battalion, which later in the conflict reached the figure of two thousand.
Caras y Caretas quoted some players who joined the war that started with the Battle of the Somme: "Oliver and Bowler (Tottenham), Barnhather, Croydon, Foord and Krug (Chelsea), Pearson, Jonas, Hugall, McFadden, Dalrymplen and Henry Gibson (Clapton Orient), Ratcliff, Ford, Spittle, Houxton and Albert Butler (Arsenal), Wingrove, Durston and Pannifer (Queen's Park Rangers), Roberts (Luton Town) and Tull (Northampton). In command was placed Colonel Grantham, former defense of the Munster."
So did Franklin Buckley and Evelyn Lintott, prominent players of that era. According to the same website, Walter Tull was one of the deceased.
McRae's Battalion in Scotland
Another example that was experienced in the First World War took place in Scotland with the so-called MacRae's Battalion. More than 500 volunteers enlisted, including 16 players from the then leader of the league Hearts of Midlothian Football Club, as well as other clubs such as Hibernian, Raith Rovers, Falkirk and East Fife. Rugby players, amateurs, and athletes of other disciplines were also enlisted, which finally formed 1,350 soldiers in total, according to 20 minutes.
The same publication said that before founding that battalion, a player named Jimmy Speedie, also of Hearts, died in the war before they ran with the same fate Jimmy Todd of Raith Rovers and then in the Battle of the Somme others as Duncan Currie, Ernest Ellis and Henry Wattie, the three members of the Hearts.
The Croats of the modern wars
Luka Modric was chosen as a Golden Ball candidate of Russia 2018 and his career in both Tottenham and Real Madrid have been successful. As the player wrote in an article published in The Player's Tribune that was replicated by the Correo del Orinoco, he was fortunate that his parents never spoke of war again. "The war made me stronger. I do not want to have that in me forever, but I do not want to forget it either, "he said.
Zadar, the hometown of Modric, was one of the most bombarded during the war and there began the mobilization of his family to other Croatian populations. He also had to deal with the execution of his grandfather at the hands of Serbian paramilitaries in 1991 and with just six years old, according to El Mundo of El Salvador.
The case of Ivan Rakitic is less crude, according to El Mundo, because although the figure of the Barcelona did not play with Switzerland in majors, he did play in the lower categories and in the sub17. Rakitic, son of a Croatian father and Bosnian mother, was born in the Swiss country in 1988 four years before the Balkan War. Being a minor in comparison of his compatriots, he did not have much use of reason at the time of events, but his love for that country flourished when life allowed him to return and it was there that he decided on the checkered team.
The same article concludes that Mandzukic was a refugee in Zagreb, after being born in the border area between Bosnia and Croatia. In turn, Lovren and Corluka were born in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Corluka fled to Zagreb, while Lovren fled to Germany with his family.
LatinAmerican Post | Onofre Zambrano
Translated from "Entre la guerra y el fútbol: Estos son los jugadores que han sufrido los conflictos bélicos"