KANSAS CITY, Kan. — It’s been said nothing brings the world together like the World Cup does.
Tuesday’s World Cup Semifinal match between Croatia and Argentina brought an overflow crowd to St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Kansas City, Kansas.
St. John’s Catholic Club is home to a large Croatian population, and hundreds of them came out to see Tuesday’s match and to cheer on their soccer heroes from Eastern Europe.
Many of them were decked out in the traditional red and white checkerboard design made popular by the Croatian National Soccer Club.
“We wear our checkers for a reason because we wear our pride on our hearts,” Jamie Clark, the club’s president.
Clark, a KCK native, said his mother was 100% Croatian. While watch parties like this one are certainly a party on the pitch, Clark said they’re also a moment to celebrate Croatian heritage.
“If you look around, it’s family. You’ve got people down here — some of us are second generation Croatians. Some of us are immigrants, but we’re all family,” Clark said.
If this seems like soccer dejavu, there’s a reason for it. The Croatian National Team also made it to the World Cup semifinals in 2018, and fans partied it up then as well. The Croatians lost Tuesday’s semifinal match against Lionel Messi and the Argentines 3-0.
Few people understand Croatian pride like Mario Viskovic does. Viskovic, who lives in Wyandotte County, has been a U.S. resident for 22 years. The Bosnian native said he served as a Croatian soldier in the 1990’s, and was taken as a prisoner of war, as Croatia fought for its independence.
“Soccer in Croatia is a huge thing,” Viskovic smiled. “I’m very thankful and lucky that I got here and found a Croatian church and Croatian club and Croatian people around me.”
The same pride rests within KCK’s Rick Mikesic. Even though his favorite international soccer club lost, he said he appreciates the Wyandotte County group. Mikesic believes many Americans still don’t appreciate the enormity of the World Cup. Mikesic said he’s also part of a popular Croatian music group.
“We really love — and we’re proud of being Croatian. We love having this international stage to say we’re so proud of who we are. Win or lose, we’re going to be proud of everything they’ve done,” Mikesic said.
St. John’s Catholic Club plans another watch party for Saturday’s third place game, during which, Croatia will face either France or Morocco. Admission to the watch party is free. Food and drinks are available for purchase.
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